Bajareque Cabin Build – Part 2

The Roof

The rafters and ridge beam come from a local tree called tzajokché (pr. Tza-hock-chay), which needs chemical protection from bugs but is otherwise ideal due its long length, straightness and low density. It’s also local and quickly renewed if the harvest is well managed. Another popular tree for this is lema’, which is even lighter but more prone to insect attack.

Here’s the wall frame and most of the rafters up:

The roof stringers are the same material as the wall straps: Mexican weeping bamboo. However, we treated these ones in a solution of boric acid and borax to keep bugs and mould out. The bamboos in the wall don’t need any chemical protection because they’re encased in mud, which keeps out both insects and moisture – even killing what bugs might have gotten in during the build! I’ve seen 50-year-old houses demolished and the bamboos were as good as new.

So next comes the palm thatch from the coast, about 40 cents per leaf – this truck can carry about 2,500 of them:

And a human can carry about 25 of them! I consider myself tougher than most but I couldn’t carry more than 20. This guy, a 50-year-old father of six, carried more this day than any of the younger guys, many of whom carry building materials as their full-time job. I have utmost respect for their strength, stamina and resilience.

Next comes the thatching, a job best done in cloudy weather as it keeps the palm leaves fresher.

Each palm leaf is tied on using the outer edges of the leaf itself. A top thatcher can attach about 500 leaves a day with a couple of helpers to prep the leaves:

Looking out from under the eaves:

Lunch break – tortillas, chile, beans (yum!) and a 3-litre bottle of Guatemalan cola (yuck!):

And it’s done:

It’ll gradually turn grey over the next month, and it’ll weigh around half what it does at this point too – we had to put in extra bracing to help the rafters cope with the wet weight.

Next comes the walls – in part 3…


4 Responses

  1. Beautiful job. I’m following your blog with great interest as we’re planning our permaculture/construction project in Venezuela. You mention needing chemical protection against insect attack for your wood – can you explain what chemical(s) you used and how you applied them? Also, did you treat the bamboo you used for the bajareque walls? We’re planning on using a fair amount of bamboo and we’re researching ways of treating it to avoid termite problems. Thanks for sharing your work!

    • Hi Zafra,
      We’re using Penta, which is banned in the US because it was so popular that it began to contaminate the groundwater in some areas. I use it strictly on out of the ground applications and as little as possible. I hope its ecological impact like this is less than that of the maintenance and materials used in building a replacement roof in 8 years’ time. We also have Comejenol here, by Henkel, which is a little stronger, but it’s five times the price of Penta, which sells here for $5 a gallon.

      A useful mix is 1 part penta, 1 part mineral spirits, 1 part linseed oil. A couple of licks of this stops mould and woodworm on vulnerable wood. Heat the raw linseed oil beforehand (on its own, without penta or mineral spirits!) to the point where you see whiffs of vapour forming, like a faint smoke, then let it cool – otherwise it’s worse than useless.

      I usually try to use woods that don’t need treatment. Cypress is popular here, and so are several local hard woods. Then you can use just heated linseed oil. 100% natural!

      Borax and boric acid solution for bamboo, just be careful not to lose any into the soil as they take it up and then boron concentrates in the fruits, which is poisonous to us and other beasties. Too much can even kill the tree… Ground borax is a great flea treatment too, and boric acid can be painted on mouldy wood to stop and prevent it.

      Good luck with your project, all the food you’re growing looks delicious!

  2. My goodness I just read where you address my very question, at least about the bamboo. Oops! Sorry! But I think the one about the wood treatment is still valid. 🙂

Leave a Reply