The truth is, most homeowners don’t know much about the thatch lapas sitting in their garden. Within lapa construction, the thatched roof is obviously the most important aspect. It keeps you dry, it provides a nice shade from the sunlight, and it’s great for social events. Building a lapa is not as straightforward as you might think, though. For example, did you know that to build a lapa properly, you need a roof slope of 45˚ or more?
This steep slope is necessary to allow water to run off the roof without penetrating into the thatch. Thatch lapas built with a lower pitch will decay quickly. To add to this, the thatch will absorb more water, increasing weight on the support structure!
There is a lot that goes into lapa construction, which we will cover here.
Thickness of the Thatch
Many lapas fall short of requirements when it comes to thatch thickness. When building a lapa, the thatch should be at least 175mm thick. Also be sure to keep in mind that the thickness should not exceed 250mm.
When you build a lapa, the thatch should also be “well compacted”. This refers to the density of the grass used in the thatch. If it’s difficult to pull out an individual grass stalk, the thatch is probably well compacted.
Structural Issues When Building a Lapa
There are important considerations for lapa construction. For example, the rafter poles should not have a diameter of less than 100mm at the thinnest end. Additionally, the rafters should not be further than 900mm apart. As well as this, support poles should be no longer than 3.5m apart.
Support poles in thatch lapas refer to the wooden pillars that hold up the structure. It’s recommended that you use treated poles when building a lapa. These will protect against weather, insect, and moisture damage over time.
Lightning Conductors for Thatch Lapas
Lightning conductors are highly recommended when you build a lapa. South Africa has some very stormy weather throughout the year. For this, you should install lightning conductors to match recommendations set out in SABS 03:1985.
It’s also highly recommended to use the services of qualified contractors for installation. If one isn’t included in your lapa plan, we urge you to do so. Most insurance companies insist on lightning conductors, as well.
If you Build a Lapa, Do it Legally!
If your lapa constructon is not shown on approved municipal drawings, it may be an illegal design. Check your drawings to be sure of their legality. Insurance won’t cover your lapa or its content if your lapa doesn’t follow regulations!
If you plan on building a lapa, it must follow the SANS 10407:2015 Edition 2 specification. This specification refers to thatch roof constructions. Also follow SANS 10400 (National Building Regulations with special reference to part L).
If you plan to build a lapa, a registered professional engineer must approve and design the plan. Formal approval must be clearly visible on the design drawings.
Take Note of Your Boundary Walls
Thatch lapas often lie close to, or against, boundary walls. South African building regulations do not permit this when the thatch roof area is greater than 20m². These structures can only stand 4.5m away from the boundary. This is to prevent a possible fire from spreading to your neighbour’s property.
Thatched lapas with a roof area of less than 20m² may lie up to 1m of the boundary. But, this requires that the lapa is a non-habitable structure. Non-habitable means that you don’t entertain or live in it. Additionally, a lapa construction like this may not attach to any other structure.
Who Inspects Your Lapa?
After you have finished building a lapa, it requires inspection. A competent person must certify that the construction complies with SANS 10407. This person will confirm that the lapa’s construction is suitable. They will also check to ensure that the workmanship is of a professional standard.
If successful, you will receive A19 certification of compliance for the thatch lapa. This confirms that the lapa complies with all necessary standards and regulations. Without this approval, the municipality will not sign off on the structure. The inspector will also issue a Completion Certificate from the municipality. This occurs upon meeting all the requirements.
Note: You may not buy or sell any property without a Completion Certificate.
So, when buying a home, make sure that you receive the approved plans for the property. This includes the approval for the lapa, as well! If you build a lapa, you are responsible for the process of getting it approved.
For extra assurance, you should get a person from TASA to erect your lapa. TASA ( Thatchers Association of South Africa) members will follow all requirements for a thatched lapa.