• Biggarsberg Thatchers
  • Biggarsberg Thatchers
  • Biggarsberg Thatchers
  • Biggarsberg Thatchers
  • Biggarsberg Thatchers
  • Biggarsberg Thatchers
  • Biggarsberg Thatchers
  • Biggarsberg Thatchers
  • Biggarsberg Thatchers
  • Biggarsberg Thatchers
  • Biggarsberg Thatchers
  • Biggarsberg Thatchers
  • Biggarsberg Thatchers
  • Biggarsberg Thatchers
  • Biggarsberg Thatchers
  • Biggarsberg Thatchers

Our unique ability to visualise your dream, and apply our expertise to every detail, ensures that Biggarsberg Thatchers remain one of the countries leading Thatching companies.

John SMITH - Director - Biggarsberg Thatchers

About US

John Smith of Biggarsberg Thatchers has had a firm hand in the thatching industry since the mid-eighties, by supplying the industry with thatch grass harvested from his family farm in Biggarsberg, Northern KZN. A decade later, he started his own thatching business.

Biggarsberg Thatchers has grown from strength to strength, and this is due to John’s eye to detail, their high standard of workmanship, highest quality thatch grass, best quality poles, and a very importantly, constant site supervision. They pride themselves in doing exceptional work.

At the start of Biggarsberg Thatchers in 1996, John and his son, Shaun carried out most of the pole construction themselves, with the help of temporary labour, and two good quality thatchers were employed. Today, Biggarsberg Thatchers employ approximately 100 labourers, consisting of fully in-house trained pole carpenters and highly in-house trained quality thatchers. The company has an ongoing skills transfer programme in place.

Biggarsberg Thatcher’s have won numerous local awards over the years, the National Design awards for ‘Most Aesthetic Design’ ‘Best structural design’ to the most recent award, ‘Best Thatchroof in the World’ which saw 72 entries from eight countries. This award was presented at the International Thatcher’s Society Conference, which was held in Cape Town in February 2014. The conference was attended by approximately 105 Thatchers, from 7 international countries and 26 South African Thatchers. (click to view our awards.)

Biggarsberg Thatchers have carried out numerous contracts throughout the country and even as far as Portugal. Didima Hutted Camp, Ncome Museum, Lions Valley Lodge, Lalanati Guest House, Thandana Wedding Venue and Phezula Game Estate, Eagle Rock Estate, to name but a few. (click to view our projects.)

Biggarsberg Thatchers was the first thatching company in the country to be certified by SATAS (South African Technical Auditing Services) for compliance to the national standards.

Biggarsberg Thatchers creates work during thatch harvesting season for up to 900 ladies from the Tugela Valley area. By doing their own harvesting, an ample supply of stringently quality controlled thatch grass is assured.

This supply of readily available thatch grass ensures that we are able to honour and complete any large contracts.

John, Shaun and those at Biggarsberg Thatchers clearly make a formidable team that don’t only deliver exceptional service and quality, but a friendly, passionate, tailor-made approach to thatching.

So, if you have a dream, big or small, that requires thatching, we at Biggarsberg Thatchers are the team to help you achieve that dream. (click to contact us.)

I have no hesitation in recommending
Biggarsberg Thatchers for any project.




John studied agriculture at the Weston Agricultural College where his interest in woodworking and construction saw him receiving the Woodworking award in his Matric year.

John went on to work in the Agricultural Industry for many years. He spent approximately 20 years of his career as the manager of a piggery in the Kamberg area. Upon closure of the piggery, John took his love and intrigue of thatched roofs, which he had had since his youth, together with his instinctive knowledge and ‘feel’ for building and distinct flair for thatch roof design to start up Biggarsberg Thatchers.

John is proud to say that the profession of good thatching is not something that comes from formal education, but from passion and years of dedication and experience.

Being the past national chairperson for the Thatcher’s Association of South Africa (TASA), John is passionate about not only the thatching that he and his company are involved with, but in the thatching industry as a whole. John has compiled and written a Thatch Training Manual, which he has made available to all thatcher’s who are members of the Thatcher’s Association of South Africa.

John is a committee member on the SABS standards team regarding all matters related to the thatching industry and is thus always up to date and informed of the latest requirements and regulations of the board.

John’s total commitment to offering and insisting on only the highest quality end product, is passed on to all his managers and staff throughout the business thus ensuring client satisfaction and continued client support and recommendations.


Wife and partner in the company, June has been involved in the harvesting process since 1988 and has been an integral part of the business since its inception as Biggarsberg Thatchers in 1996. June ensures that the quality of the grass which is harvested off their farm, neighbouring farms and various areas within a 100km radius is kept to the highest standard of quality.

Apart from being involved in the thatching business June runs a B&B and self-catering accommodation business on their farm. The latest project which she has undertaken is 'Thatcher's Barn Theatre' a converted shed in which shows and dances are held in order to raise funds for various charities.


Jannie, who for 27 years as a train driver for SpoorNet one day decided that he needed a ‘real change’ so, along with his wife Ena they joined the Biggarsberg Thatchers team in 2007. Jannie’s extremely conscientious approach to his work ethic soon had him firmly entrenched within the company. Under John’s guidance, Jannie soon became most proficient in the understanding of the technical aspects of thatching.

Jannie is a most jovial, efficient and staff motivational site manager, who holds the name and reputation of Biggarsberg Thatchers utmost in his mind at all times. His constant presence and surveillance on a site ensures total customer satisfaction in all aspects.


Shaun, son and partner in the company, manages their Hillcrest Branch. Shaun along with his wife and young family moved from the farm to Hillcrest specifically to run and oversee the Phezulu Game Estate project. With the name and good reputation of Biggarsberg Thatchers becoming known throughout KZN, Shaun has found himself travelling far and wide running the sites in areas in the Midlands and northern and southern coastal regions including Kokstad and surrounding areas.

Shaun spent many weeks in Portugal, again travelling from North to South, thatching lapas and entertainment areas. He is responsible for the pole construction design of all the roofs constructed by Biggarsberg Thatchers. Shaun is also responsible for the site management of all his projects.


Ena, who had previously been employed in the corporate sector, joined the Biggarsberg Thatchers team and took over the administration duties within the company. Not content with just ‘being in the office’ Ena soon got involved in the harvesting side of things and more than proved her worth in the thatch quality control, and organizing and distribution of the ‘Harvesting Ladies’ from Tugela Valley.

Ena, along with hubby Jannie can very often be found on site doing a ‘ jolly good job of ‘snagging’. She is also often involved in the final ‘housekeeping’ of a site, ensuring, once again, that the client is as satisfied as possible.

Biggarsberg Thatchers, a firm that is very competent
in the thatching trade.

mike arnott - kzn wildlife


A long and mutually respectful relationship has existed between Biggarsberg Thatchers and the owners of La La Nathi Guest House. It all started in March 2000, when June catered for the wedding of the client’s daughter. June casually mentioned that should they ever need maintenance done on their thatch roof, or consider any new additions, Biggarsberg Thatchers would be happy to submit a quotation. A few months later, the interested, but still rather reserved client called John to enquire about thatch chalets which he was planning on building. John suggested that they spend the day together visiting various sites which had been completed. Well, that was that! Chalets, a conference centre, bar, dining area, wedding venue, rondavels, a health spa and, most recently completed, the ever so beautiful chapel. All stand testament to the utter satisfaction of yet another very happy client.

LA LA NAThi guest house

Lions Valley Lodge was a particularly challenging location, as the roads were still under construction and therefore extremely rough and rocky. As a result, John took along his tractor to access the site and had to purchase a crane to get the 129 bulky bush tree columns to the site. Interesting challenges didn’t stop there, when a passing hailstorm was relentless enough to virtually write off one of his site vehicles and a family of lions took refuge in the building for the night and posed a problem to workers the following morning. To add to this, a heard of buffalo charged right through one of the buildings and laid waste to all the doors. The project has become a benchmark for the quality of work for which Biggarsberg Thatchers is known.

lions valley lodge

The roofs at Phezulu Game Estate have all been specifically, architecturally designed to follow and flow with the natural beauty of the surrounding hills. Biggarsberg Thatchers were chosen as the preferred thatching company and have to date thatched approximately 40 beautiful family homes, with many more still to be built. Biggarsberg Thatchers have used their distinct ability, creativity, excellent workmanship and materials of the highest quality, to interpret, meet and create the visions of the architects and the dreams of the homeowners.

Phezulu Game Estate

Eagle Rock Estate is an ‘eco-estate’ situated in the St.Helier area of KZN and consists of approximately 30 sites, all with thatch roof homes, the majority of which, have been thatched by Biggarsberg Thatchers. Eagle Rock Estate, stands as testament, once again to Biggarsberg Thatcher’s ability to bring about the visions of the architects and the dreams and desires of the homeowners.
Biggarsberg Thatchers have interpreted the architects designs, along with ideas and input from the homeowners to create the perfect ‘bush lodge’ ambience and appeal which fits in perfectly with the surrounding conservancy area of Giba Gorge Enviromental Precinct.

Eagle Rock

I have no hesitation in recommending them to anyone else. I rate them highly for any project both big and small.

Brian Armour - Ingeli Forest Lodge







We would not hesitate to employ them as subcontractors in the future.

Wally Lage - Grinaker-LTA


We have experienced and competent thatching and timber construction teams who operate under management's supervision on all contracts. John's personal interest lies within the intricacies and creativity of the structural design, and ensuring that our clients are totally satisfied with all aspects of the finished structure.




Our trademark is your guarantee of professionalism, quality and craftsmanship.

We stand firmly behind every blade.

The whole structure and the thatchwork is excellent!

Hans Gerken - Sitilo Game Farm

I am exceptionally proud of the work Biggarsberg Thatchers have done for me and guests and friends alike admire it.

Rob Spilsbury - La La Nathi Country Guest House


Biggarsberg Thatchers - Standard practice for thatch roofs.

GUMPOLES - Timber Structure

Gum poles will be used from trees of the Genus Eucalyptus grown in South Africa and treated with a preservative solution of copper-chromium-arsenate (CCA) compounds which complies with SABS 457 and applied in accordance with the SABS to Hazard Class H4.
All gum pole structures to buildings 6m and wider will be subject to engineers approval. This will form part of the fee paid by client to the Engineer.
All free standing structures i.e. Lappas will require Engineers approval and certificates.
The diameters specified shall be the size measured at the thin end of the gum pole.
Pole ends will be nailed with anti-split plates.


A minimum pitch of 45° (but preferably 50°) will be maintained throughout. However, on rare occasions 40° will be allowed over dormer windows only.


16mm galvanized thread bar will be used for all major connections.
12mm galvanized thread bar will be used for all rafter connections.
All joints will be drilled and fixed with galvanized threaded bar and no nails will be used for this purpose.
Cross-tonguing joints shall be used on all gum poles which are unobtainable in the lengths required.

UPRIGHTS - Size of poles for free standing structures

Buildings up to 5.0 meters wide will have 175/200 diameter posts fixed with 16mm thread bar.
Buildings between 5.1 and 6.0 meters wide will have 200/225 diameter posts fixed with 16mm thread bar.
Buildings between 6.1 and 10.0 meters wide will have 225/250 diameter posts fixed with 16mm thread bar.
Buildings over 10.1 meters wide will have 250/275 diameter posts fixed with 20mm thread bar.
All uprights will be spaced at no more than 3.5 meters apart unless a lattice beam system is used (Subject to engineers detail).

RING BEAMS - Size of poles for free standing structures

Buildings up tp 6.0 meters wide will have a 150/175 diameter ring beam.
Buildings between 6.1 and 9.0 meters wide will have a 175/200 diameter ring beam.
Buildings over 9.1 meters wide will have a 200/225 diameter ring beam.

RAFTERS - Size of poles for all structures

A double ridge pole system will be used.
All buildings up to and including 8m will have 100/125 diameter rafters, spaced at 900 centers or less.
Buildings 8.1 to 12.0 wide will have 125/150 diameter rafters, spaced at 900 centers or less.
All rafters will be secured to walls using a double strand of 4mm wire.
No hoop irons will be used.

TIE BEAMS - Size of poles for all structures

Tie beams will be spaced at no more than 2.7 meters apart.
Tie beams will be used for buildings 10 meters wide or less.
Queen posts will added to King posts for buildings 10.1 meters and wider in addition to tie beams.

LATHS - Size of poles for all structures

The thickness of all laths at their thin ends will range between 25mm and 38mm and will be nailed to rafters at minimium 250mm and maximium 270mm centres using 4” nails.
Only the first row at the eaves and the last row at the ridge will be at ±150mm centres.


Only guaranteed frost cured, fully grown thatch grass of the Hyperrhenia Hirta species which has been cleared of all leaf and sheath residue and which is free of mould will be used.
The thatching grass will be beige/yellow in colour and shall have a maximum body moisture of 10% to 15% by mass.
Only straight pieces that have been cut above the first notch will be used.
The grass will be 800mm to 1500mm in length, with the ends ranging from 2mm to 3.5mm diameter.
We will ensure that all seed ends of back thatch (sprei laag) are covered thus ensuring the uniformity of the colour.
All grass stems will be concealed by laths.
We take special care in storing and stacking thatch grass on site, by placing the bundles off the ground and under cover.
Roofs will be thatched to a thickness of between 175mm and 200mm which is measured at right angles to the roof.
All roof valleys will be fitted with galvanized valley liners, or aluminium in coastal areas.
Stitching will be done using a double strand of sisal tar twine with a maximum stitch width of 110mm.


Thatch at the roof apex will be bent over the ridge of the roof and fixed to the opposite side of the existing gum pole laths.
A cement mixture of 4:1 i.e. 2 wheelbarrows to 50kg bag will be used.
250 Micron plastic will be used as an underlay to the concrete and cut to cover the last stitch of twine only. A minimum space of 100mm will be created at the end of the capping to ensure that the cement mix binds with the underlying thatch.
25mm x 0.9mm netting wire to extend over entire width of capping.
50mm thick cement capping to extend over the last layer of thatch ensuring that the butt ends are secured by the capping (this ensures that birds are unable to pull the thatch from under the ridge). Capping to be floated to a smooth even finish.
Expansion joints at no more than 3 meters apart.


One needs to understand the technical detail of a thatch roof before you merely let a unqualified Thatcher comb a roof. Every combing process unless properly done, reduces the cover over the sway in other words the functional thickness of a roof and thus lifespan. For functional thickness (see photo 1 below).
The correct procedure is to inspect the general length of the thatch or reed. If found long enough, the next step is to pull down the thatch layers (see photo 2 below).
The binding twine then needs to be tightened on the underside of the roof (see photo 2). Only then can the combing process begin.
It is advisable that this process is well supervised as a uninformed and inexperienced Thatcher will take the shortcut and ultimately destroy the roof.


Twenty four (24) months guarantee on defective workmanship and materials.

We chose Biggarsberg Thatchers through numerous references.

Name Surname - project



How long will a newly thatched roof last?

This depends upon many factors, eg:
– The pitch of the roof should be no less than 45 degrees.
– The humidity in the area.
– It depends on the original quality of the materials and workmanship.
– Shadowing from large overhanging trees.
– Proper maintenance by qualified persons. Combing by unqualified persons can drastically reduce the lifespan of a roof.
If all of the conditions are ideal the average lifespan of a thatched roof would be between 20-25 years.

How often does a roof need to be maintained?

Maintenance is once again dependent upon various factors, eg:
– Hot and dry conditions, approximately every 10 years.
– Humid areas and conditions, approximately every 5-7 years.
– After heavy hail storms the roof should be inspected to determine if maintenance or repairs are necessary. Depending on the severity and extent of the damage this can be claimed from your insurance company.

What fire prevention methods are there for thatched roofs?

– Drenching systems.
– Fire blankets.
– Smoke detectors.

Can a normal tiled roof be replaced with a thatch roof?

Yes. A normal tiled roof can be replaced by a thatch roof. Certain and definite requirements and changes to the roof structure woud be necessary and would have to be discussed with Biggarsberg Thatchers.

Are the insurance costs of having a thatched roof much higher than a regular tiled roof?

The cost of insurance is higher on a thatched roof but not by an exorbitant amount.
Insurance companies will take into account the number and type of preventative measures which have been put in place. Eg:
- Concrete ceilings over kitchens.
- Drencher systems installed.
- Fire blankets installed.
- Early warning systems. eg: smoke detectors.
- Hose reels/fire extinguishers installed in strategic areas around the building.
- Proximity to the closest fire station.

What are the benefits of a thatched roof?

- Asthetically appealling.
- Natural instulation and therefore saving on electricity bill for both heating and cooling.
- Sustainable materials.

Biggarsberg Thatchers have built various structures and buildings for us and I have always found the quality of the workmanship to be excellent.

Brian Armour - Ingeli Forest Lodge