During peace the people lived along the banks of the streams in the puna lands as near as possible to their cultivations. Individual families had their own groups of houses, which varied in number according to their social importance. Some of the higher chiefs, such as Mautara, kept up an establishment of warriors in attendance. In no district were the dwellings grouped together to form villages.
When war was present or expected, the people deserted their houses and slept at night in secret hiding places in the upper valleys or caves of the makatea to evade surprise attacks. The roofs of the houses fell into disrepair. The thatching of the small houses ('are ei 'au) on the various maraes during the peace celebrations was the signal that the people could repair the roofs of their own houses. Once the gods were sheltered, the people could make house shelter for themselves, which would have been unseemly before they were provided for the gods.
The Mangaians were regarded as experts in decorating the principal rafters of the larger houses with various patterns worked with sennit braid.