Renovating Our Traditional Roundhouse

A while back, I wrote a post about Making Mud Blocks, and I mentioned that Lamin had removed the roof of an old hut. The hut was old, and the termites had wreaked their usual havoc with the roof, munching through the palm sticks that formed the framework for the roof, and the palm leaves that covered it. The roof had to go so we could knock down the walls of the hut and re-use the material for new mud blocks.

But I may have glossed over exactly how much work was involved in removing the roof and refurbishing the hut. So here’s how it was done…


Lamin, ably assisted by his ‘apprentice’ son Dodou, climbed up onto the roof ready to remove all the old sticks and leaves.


The old palm leaves were removed and thrown down from the top of the hut and taken to be burned. This part always gives me the creeps, because all kinds of creepy-crawlies live in those leaves, including those with eight legs! And the thought of one of those wriggling down my neck while I was walking with a leaf on my head doesn’t bear thinking about! But no-one here has a problem with spiders, so they seem very happy simply to swing a leaf on their head and walk off with it!

One of our neighbour’s children transported them to the fire with great enthusiasm!



The traditional way of constructing a palm leaf roof is to tie the sticks together to make a frame – but rather than using string, palm fronds are used instead. So Lamin had to go round with his machete and cut through all the palm leaf ties.


It’s not that easy negotiating your way around a narrow mud block wall!


When all the ties had been cut, Lamin then balanced precariously to pull out the sticks from the roof frame (I did manage to take photos but I really didn’t want to lose him off the back of the roundhouse).


Once the old roof had been completely removed, Sambou our builder came and used the mud blocks Lamin had made previously to add another two courses to the wall. The ceiling was a bit low in the roundhouse, and Lamin was bothered our taller guest might end up bumping their heads!


We had to leave the mud blocks for several days to dry, so meanwhile Lamin and his nephew Abou cut some palm leaves and left them out to dry. Lamin also arranged for another neighbour to come and take down a palm tree that was blocking the light around the well. This was cut into long poles to form the framework for the roof.


Once the mud blocks had set properly, Sambou came back and plastered inside and out for a smooth finish.


Once everything was ready, Lamin and Sambou built the roof frame from our sticks, and then Lamin and another neighbour put the palm leaves on the roof.


Of course, the interior still needed sorting out. The walls needed painting, and we also put up a corrugate ceiling (using some recycled corrugate sheets we had).


I managed to coax our vintage treadle sewing machine to work (helped by by Dodou) and we made a door curtain, window curtains and a tablecloth.

So now our roundhouse is looking beautiful, and it’s already been used by several visitors.

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4 thoughts on “Renovating Our Traditional Roundhouse

    1. Thank you! The roof will need replacing in two years’ time, but then we may decide to use corrugate sheets instead. It’s not so traditional, but deforestation is a huge issue around us now, so it’s actually better for the forest to leave the trees and use corrugate sheets instead.

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