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Do's and Don'ts of owning a Thatched Property

10 Do's and Don'ts:

  • Do remember that re-thatching a listed property or property in a conservation area in a different style or thatching material will usually require listed building consent. If the present thatch on a property is discovered or suspected of being altered without seeking the required consent it is important to ensure the local planning authority is happy with the change. Otherwise the local authority can insist on reinstatement of the original material or a criminal prosecution of those parties involved.

  • Do not automatically assume that you will be able to obtain grant aid to re-thatch your thatched property. Many, but by no means all, district councils run historic building grant schemes, but the amount of money they are able, or willing, to offer differs widely. In general if your local authority does offer grants they are likely to link any such aid to strict rules concerning both the style and material used to thatch your property. Remember, the condition of thatch should be one of the considerations you bear in mind when considering how much to pay for a property e.g. if the property requires re-thatching this should be reflected in the asking price or the price you are prepared to pay. Sadly, with a strong housing market and the high popularity of thatched properties such a price reduction may not be achievable.

  • Do consider common sense fire precautions when living in a thatched property. Although thatched property fires attract considerable attention, particularly from the local press, they are not as frequent as commonly perceived, or publicity leads one to suspect. U.K. Fire Brigades statistics show 1 in 360 "conventional" houses are devastated by fire every year, but only 1 in 750 thatched buildings (Source: Thatching Advisory Service). Simple precautions to reduce the chances of fire include ensuring the pointing of your chimney stack is good order to prevent hot gases seeping into the thatch and causing localised areas of heat which could lead to combustion. The use of the most appropriate type of fuel in an open grate or stove to help reduce combustible wood tar being deposited on the inside of the chimney and all wiring in the roof space being laid in truncking to help avoid any damage which may result in an electrical fire. Any use of fire retardents or fire protection barriers to roof slopes in the case of a total re-thatch need to be careful considered because although they may slow the spread of fire they may lead to reduced ventilation which in turn may cause more rapid degradation of the thatching material used on your roof. It is generally recognised that flue liners reduce the risk of fire to thatch and should be fitted where appropriate to those flues being used. In roof spaces plumbing with capillary (soldered joints) should be avoided because of the risk of fire due to the use of a burner to melt the solder. Plumbing should instead use compression joints.

  • Don't assume that because the roof frame of your thatched property appears to be flimsy it requires major repair or replacement. It is common for thatched properties to have simple roof structures that comprise of no more than rafter frames plus purlins and have performed satisfactorily for many years. Too many thatched roofs are stripped and re-covered completely due to the basic roof structure being condemnded by inappropriately qualified and experienced professionals. Simple repair and strengthening can often ensure the retention of the existing roof structure, thereby avoiding the need for a total re-thatch and its financial implications.

  • Don't assume that insurance of a thatched property is necessarily expensive. If you choose to approach an insurer with no background or experience of thatch the premiums quoted are likely to be excessive. Fortunately there are number of specialist insurers who specialise in thatched properties and provide competitive premiums based upon real risks rather than inaccurate assumptions. See the insurance pages on this website for information about specialist insurance.

  • Do bear in mind that to acquire the title 'Master' requires no specific assessment of the ability of the thatcher and does not imply any particular skill level. Anyone in the thatch industry can call themselves a 'Master Thatcher' as it merely indicates the thatcher is an independent craftsman.

  • Do always get more than one quotation for any thatching work which is required and bear in mind that the best thatchers can sometimes be booked months or even years in advance. Owners of long straw roofs can have their thatch maintained through strategic repairs until the thatcher is ready to undertake the job. Indeed, some thatchers have general maintenance schemes whereby they annually inspect your thatch and repair areas if required. Spotting particular areas of concern early on can help prolong the life of your thatched roof for many years and save you thousands of pounds.

  • Do get your architect or surveyor to discuss any plans for extending your thatched property with your thatcher to ensure any roofing alterations which you intend to have thatched are suitable for thatching. Keep designs simple and consider the use of alternative materials in areas of excessive wear e.g. porches under a main eaves roof or low pitched dormer window.

  • Do obtain an independent survey of the condition of the thatch on the property you intend to purchase from an individual who does not have a vested interest in any potential financial outlay as a result of the survey.

  • Do take great care when taking advice on the longevity of thatch. There are commonly quoted probable life expectancies for the three principle thatching materials: Water reed 50 - 80 years, Combed Wheat Reed 30 - 40 years and long straw 15 - 25 years. But, of course, there are exceptions to these rules with some cases of water reed roofs lasting only 15 years and long straw roofs lasting 50 years plus. The quality of the thatcher, their experience in using the material, the quality of the material as well as the pitch of the roof and geographical or meteorological factors e.g. wind all play a major role. The key is to choose the right thatcher, who in turn will ensure the correct thatch materials are used to meet the demands of the location and design of the property within the constraints of listed building or conservation area requirements.

Disclaimer

Although we have taken great care to ensure that our information and advice is correct, we cannot accept any responsibility for any loss or damage incurred arising from the use of the information published on our web site. Before committing yourself to any expenditure, you are advised to check any details and costs beforehand.

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