Using modern pneumatic tools, a roofer named Francisco plies an ancient craft in Ecuador.
It’s not thatch or grass, it’s toquilla palm leaves (Carludovica palmata) peeled into thin strands. That is plastic sheeting below the toquilla strands, which acts as a drainage plane.
A lot like peeling off string cheese, these soft, flexible, durable fibers cover more than roofs.
Stripped into finer and finer threads, toquilla filaments are also used to weave Panama hats, which actually come from Ecuador.
The roofs go up in a day and last about five years.
— Fernando Pagés Ruiz is ProTradeCraft's Latin America Editor. He is currently building a business in Ecuador and a house in Mexico. Formerly, he was a builder in the Great Plains and mountain states. He is author of Building an Affordable House and Affordable Remodel (Taunton Press).