Greenville thatched roof gets the Netherlands treatment

By Kelli Ameling • Last Updated 9:50 am on Thursday, August 16, 2012

Fred Hekstra of Byron Center, left, and his nephew, Ep Hekstra of the Netherlands, fix the thatched roof at Flat River Family Dentistry in Greenville on Wednesday. — Daily News/Kelli Ameling

GREENVILLE — To give his office a unique look, a local business man hired natives of the Netherlands to thatch his roof.

Dr. Kirkwood Faber of Flat River Family Dentistry in Greenville first thatched his roof in the 1980s after he expanded his office.

“It’s really a work of art,” Faber said.

He called a business owner in Holland, Mich., who had their roof thatched and asked how to get it done. Faber was told about Fred Hekstra who had moved to Michigan from the Netherlands in the 1950s.

Working with his family, Hekstra made a thatched roof for Faber out of reed. However, over the years, squirrels have damaged some of the roof and Faber had to call Hekstra to fix it.

“Bees began to nest inside (the reed) and the squirrels have been coming to eat larva,” Faber said.

Faber wanted to fix the roof last year, however, Hekstra’s family was unable to make it to the United States during that time.

On Wednesday, Hekstra worked alongside his nephew, Ep Hekstra, fixing the damage done by the squirrels.

Ep Hekstra is a Netherlands resident who is in Michigan visiting family.

Ep Hekstra of the Netherlands helps patch a thatched roof at Flat River Family Dentistry in Greenville. He patted the board against the reed to push it tightly together Wednesday morning. — Daily News/Kelli Ameling

Fred Hekstra said his family have been thatching roofs for as long as he could remember, having each generation of the family take on the job. When he moved to America, he became a roofer and a builder.

“Thatching lasts twice as long as a shingled roof,” Fred Hekstra said.

He explained thatching is a big business in the Netherlands, as many of those roofs are placed on expensive and luxury houses.

Ep Hekstra said he gets reed from all over the world because there is not enough of it in the Netherlands. Artificial reed is also used on some of the houses if the owner chooses.

“The artificial reed keeps its color,” Fred Hekstra said. “The real reed turns black.”

The reed is typically cut during the winter months to give it a nicer look. The reed is sewed into the wire on the roof and set right for the water to run off.

“I wanted to give the office a real Danish look,” Faber said. “It has been a fun experience for me.”

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