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Buying a Thatched Home

Buying a Thatched Home

If you are thinking of purchasing a thatched home you may understandably be concerned about the risk of fire. In fact, according to the National Farmers Union (NFU), your thatched home is no more likely to catch fire than a house with a conventional roof structure, provided you understand what you are dealing with.

Types of Thatch

Traditionally, a thatched roof consists of one of three types of material – combed wheat reed, long straw or water reed. The various types of thatch have different life spans, whilst the ridge is typically the first part of a thatch roof to require repair. A ridge will generally last for between  8 -12 years ; long straw and combed wheat roofs can be expected to last for 15 – 20 years and 20 – 30 years respectively, whilst water reed is more durable and can last for in excess of 30 years. Other factors, such as elevation, location and exposure to the elements can influence the longevity of a thatched roof.

Caring For Your Thatched Home

A thatched roof can be a thing of beauty and a source of pride for a home owner but they do require careful attention and maintenance.

Take the opportunity to regularly stand back and scrutinise your roof: it is usually obvious if aspects of a thatched roof are in poor condition. If you think repairs are required then call a professional thatcher.

  • If patches of rot, or ‘gullies’ are appearing then they will also need the attention of a professional thatcher.
  • If fixings are exposed it means the thatch is nearing the end of its life, or has reached the end. Wear in the chimneystack area can mean that heat is escaping, and can increase fire risk.
  • Wet, dark patches on the eaves can mean the thatch is leaking or it may mean that the thatch cannot ‘breathe’ properly, which is required in order to dry out.
  • If any contractors require access to your roof then ensure that any equipment they use will not damage your thatch. If they are using any form of heat source ensure they have appropriate precautions and insurance in place.

General Safety Advice

  • Fit smoke alarms in clearly audible locations about the house and check them on a regular basis. Certain alarms are mains powered and linked to one another.
  • Install smoke alarms in the roof void.
  • Install a loft hatch if there is not already one in situ. Good access to a roof void can make it easier for the Fire Service to tackle a fire.
  • If contractors are carrying out any work in your roof, ensure they do not employ blowtorches  or other tools that could generate sparks.
  • Do not hold a bonfire within 100 metres of your home.
  • Keep a variety of accessible fire extinguishers for dealing with different types of small fires in your home and ensure they are checked regularly.

Using an Open Fire, Wood-burning or Multi-Fuel Stove

  • There are a number of simple rules one can follow to enjoy the pleasure and warmth of an open fire or stove.
  • Try to ensure that all chimney stacks are at least 1.8 metres above the thatch ridgeline. This will allow any sparks to escape and die out before they settle.
  • Commission a professional chimney sweep to regularly clean all of your working fire places before lighting your first fire of the season. The sweep should be a member of The National Association of Chimney Sweeps, The Guild of Master Chimney Sweeps, The Institute of Chimney Sweeps or The Association of Professional and Independent Chimney Sweeps.
  • Use hardwoods that have been seasoned for at least 2 years if you have a wood burning stove.
  • A flue thermometer can check the temperature at the point where gases leave your stove, which will help to check that the flue is not too hot where it passes through the thatch.
  • Make sure all open fires and stoves are completely out before you go to bed or leave your home untended for any length of time.
  • Do not burn wet or unseasoned wood as this can leave flammable tar deposits in the flue. Paper should not be burnt in a stove with the doors open.


Tom Fuller
Written by

Tom Fuller


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