Bali’s Traditional Roofing: The Alang-Alang Thatch Roof

Bali is known for its stunning architecture, and one of the most iconic features of traditional Balinese buildings is the alang-alang thatch roof. This type of roofing has been used for centuries and remains popular today for its unique aesthetic and practical benefits. In this article, we’ll take an in-depth look at Bali’s traditional roofing and explore why the alang-alang thatch roof is so important to Balinese architecture.

The alang-alang thatch roof is made from the leaves of the alang-alang grass, which grows in abundance in Bali. The grass is harvested and then woven into long strips, which are then laid over a wooden frame to create a roof. The thatch is thick and durable, able to withstand Bali’s humid climate and heavy rainfall.

A Perfect Blend of Form and Function

One of the most distinctive features of the alang-alang thatch roof is its layered design. The thatch is laid in overlapping rows, creating a pattern that resembles fish scales. This pattern not only looks beautiful but also serves a functional purpose. The overlapping layers create a waterproof barrier that prevents rainwater from seeping through the roof and into the building.

In addition to its practical benefits, the alang-alang thatch roof is an important symbol of Balinese culture and identity. For the Balinese people, the thatched roof represents the connection between humans and nature. The use of natural materials like alang-alang grass is seen as a way to honor and respect the environment.

The Role of Alang-Alang Thatch Roofing

The traditional Balinese house, or rumah adat, is a prime example of how the alang-alang thatch roof is used in Balinese building projects. These houses are built around a central courtyard and typically have multiple thatched roofs, with each roof covering a different section of the house. The largest and most important room in the house, the Bale Dangin, is usually located at the front of the house and has a high-pitched roof that extends over the courtyard.

Another type of building that often features an alang-alang thatch roof is the Balinese temple or pura. These temples are an integral part of Balinese culture and can be found throughout the island. The roofs of the temples are often decorated with intricate carvings and painted in bright colors, adding to their beauty and cultural significance.

Despite its popularity, the alang-alang thatch roof is not without its challenges. One of the main issues with this type of roofing is its susceptibility to fire. Thatched roofs are highly flammable and can quickly spread a fire if one starts. To prevent this, many modern buildings in Bali now use a synthetic thatch made from materials like PVC or polyester. While these materials are less flammable than traditional thatch, they lack the natural beauty and cultural significance of the alang-alang thatch roof.

Another challenge is the maintenance of the thatched roof. The alang-alang grass needs to be replaced periodically, usually every 5 to 10 years, depending on the quality of the thatch and the weather conditions in the area. This can be a labor-intensive process, as the old thatch needs to be removed and the new thatch woven in its place.

In recent years, the use of alang-alang thatch roofs has become increasingly popular in the Western world, particularly in the field of eco-friendly architecture. Many architects and builders are drawn to the natural beauty and sustainability of the thatched roof and are incorporating it into their designs.


In conclusion, the alang-alang thatch roof is a quintessential feature of Balinese architecture that has stood the test of time. Its intricate design and eco-friendly construction have made it a popular choice for homes, resorts, and other structures throughout Bali. While modern materials and construction techniques are becoming more prevalent, the alang-alang thatch roof remains a symbol of traditional Balinese culture and a testament to the ingenuity of local builders. As the world continues to face the challenges of climate change, the alang-alang thatch roof serves as an inspiring example of sustainable design that prioritizes both beauty and functionality. Its legacy will undoubtedly continue to inspire architects, designers, and homeowners for generations to come.

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