Wallpaper Monday

Icelandic sodhouse

Trying to get back on my old schedule here…

The photographer doesn’t say exactly where this is, just that it was taken in Iceland in August 2014 to showcase a traditional sod roof. A quick check on Wikipedia reveals that sod roofs were common on rural Scandinavian log houses until the late 19th century.

A sod roof or turf roof is a traditional Scandinavian type of green roof covered with sod on top of several layers of birch bark on gently sloping wooden roof boards…The load of approximately 250 kg per m² of a sod roof is an advantage because it helps to compress the logs and make the walls more draught-proof.

…Sod is also a reasonably efficient insulator in a cold climate. The birch bark underneath ensures that the roof will be waterproof.

The term ‘sod roof’ is somewhat misleading, as the active, water-tight element of the roof is birch bark. The main purpose of the sod is to hold the birch bark in place. The roof might just as well have been called a “birch bark roof”, but its grassy outward appearance is the reason for its name in Scandinavian languages: Norwegian and Swedish torvtak, Icelandic torfþak.

But this house is a modern frame construction with siding, so it’s interesting to see the old sod roof paired with it. I wonder how well it insulates compared to synthetic insulation? And whether that insulation factor increases with snow?

(Click the image to sod all.)

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About Fletcher DeLancey

Socialist heathen and Mac-using author of the Chronicles of Alsea, who enjoys pondering science, politics, well-honed satire (though sarcastic humor can work, too) and all things geeky.
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8 Responses to Wallpaper Monday

  1. Power Wench says:

    Love those roofs! Several years ago we were in Oslo in late fall, and I spent a day wandering around the Norsk Folkemuseum, where there are many old structures with sod roofs. There were a couple of workers up on one old house rebuilding the roof, and I stopped to watch and ask a bit about methods. They told me such a roof would last about 50 years in that climate before the birch bark failed enough to start leaking. One detail that fascinated me were the beautiful details made of curled bark to finish the roof edges.

  2. Lisa Shaw says:

    Do you suppose that might be why, when some people refer to their original home, they say “the old sod”? 😉

  3. Cathy White says:

    Oh, how long have you waited to use that expression in a perfectly nice way lol. I occasionally watch a program called Grand Designs and a surprising number go for a Eco grass roof. I’m off outside into the gloom on fox patrol. Having had nearly 2months fox free, I interrupted one after my hens yesterday and chased him off, but he will be back 😦

  4. Lida says:

    I have not seen this house during our travels around Iceland…and my resident Icelandic engineer, Mia, says she does not think the roof will provide better insulation than a modern roof. I have seen lots of the old turf houses with these grass roofs, and often people are watering them with hosepipes, and they have flowers growing on them!

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