The Icelandic turf houses were made to bring superior insulation for the settlers due to the difficult climate that Iceland has. These houses were built from flat stones as its large foundation and wooden frames to support the load of the turf. Iceland during the early times were fully forested with Birch trees and Oak trees, but the early settlers used them for framing buildings such as halls and houses thus ending the population of trees. If someone told you he got lost in the forest and don’t know where to go and that someone is in Iceland, tell him to just stand up because trees in Iceland are no higher than shoulder to hips in height. Although there are groups of volunteers that are now trying to rebuild the forest as they are starting to plant trees. Maybe in the future centuries to come, these sacrificial works will be rewarded as Icelanders are looking forward to a country green with trees and bushes.


The turf houses that were built centuries ago are still in good shape despite of the climate changes that happens every now and then in the country. So we can say that these turf houses are really built to last. They are well constructed with materials that are simply nature’s gift to the Icelanders. Though some are reconstructing and trying to save some turf houses that are still standing, but the lack of materials deter them to do so. It’s a good thing that Iceland is full of brain architects and engineers that are really trying their best to save the ancient architectures.

How Have The Icelandic Turf Houses Built?


Commonly it is made out of flat stones and wood. The flat stones were settled in a large foundation as it would be a sturdy support for the entire building. Then the wood frames were built to be filled and fitted with turf in blocks and more often with layers and layers of turf or they would have it in herringbone style to give it a little decorative approach. The only wood that will be seen would be the doorway which is often constructed in a decorative fashion. Then commonly the doorway will lead to a hall where there would be a great fireplace to warm up the building. In the later construction of turf houses, the builders then added toilets which were communal. The floor of the turf houses was either covered with stones, or clay, or wood, or just simply flattened out dirt, this really depends on the purpose of the constructed building. Grasses are on the roofs to add up insulation for the houses.

The Changes Made Throughout the Centuries Past


The original turf houses were built in a Viking style. These are the type with long but proportionately narrowed, one room building. They were solely made with timber and turf. In 14th century, the Viking style Longhouses were left out and the Icelanders built interconnected buildings. They were small structures that are connected to form rooms in the building. Then in the 18th century, the new trend came in; the burstabær, with its wooden ends or gaflar. Some are made out of stones, brick clay, or flat rocks. These are the ones who survived even until the 20th century. Slowly it was reconstructed and some were even replaced with the urban building style. It is developed as they cover the wooden houses with corrugated iron. Later on the houses were built upon to survive earthquakes with reinforced concrete buildings.


The main attraction of the open museums all around Iceland nowadays, is the Icelandic turf houses.