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.
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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