Here are some of the most frequently asked questions relating to thatching.
Which type of thatch should I choose?
If you live in a listed building you may have to replace like for like. Some local councils look favourably upon the reinstatement of the traditional material such as long straw. If your building isn’t listed I will be happy to advise on the benefits of each type. Have a look at my section on reed and straw for a summary of the differences.
How long will the thatch last?
This will vary greatly according to location, skill of thatcher, quality of materials etc. However, as a rough guide a ridge will last 18 to 25 years, long straw roof between 35 and 50 years, and reed 50 to 70 years.
What are the benefits of thatch?
Thatch has many benefits, both aesthetic and practical. Thatch is a good insulator, in particular long straw, which performs as well as most modern synthetic products. A thatched roof will not only keep you warm in winter time, but cool in summer as well. It provides excellent sound insulation too, no small consideration for those living close to busy roads or airport flight paths.
Being an entirely natural material, it has no carbon footprint as well as blending beautifully into the landscape. The character of the material allows moisture to escape naturally, allowing the whole house to breathe, a very important factor in older houses constructed of wattle and daub, timber and lime render.
With its local variations and styles, thatch is part of our cultural heritage. Very much part of the classic English rural scene, the sight of a newly thatched roof catching the evening sunlight is truly beautiful.
What are the fire risks?
Many people are put off thatch by fear of fire. This is not well founded, for statistics bear out the fact that thatched properties are less likely to be involved in fires, mainly due to the extra care and precautions taken by the owners. Of course, when a thatch does catch fire it is both serious and spectacular, and usually makes headline news in the local press.
The fires start for a variety of reasons, including electrical faults, ill-tended bonfires, arson or fireworks, but by far the biggest cause is woodburners. Either through faulty flue liners, burning inappropriate materials or poor chimney condition, many of these fires can be prevented. If you do use a woodburner, only burn seasoned wood and have a top quality twin lined flue fitted.
As a matter of course, I always inspect the brick and mortar work of any chimneys, and carry out repairs if needed.
Is thatch vulnerable to winds?
The way a thatched roof is constructed, with each successive course of reed or straw attached to the rafters, and then held down again by the following courses, means thatch is one of the most wind resistant roof types available. With tiles or slates, only one has to become displaced for the wind to cause damage to the whole roof – this simply does not happen to thatch. In addition, the wire netting that is primarily for the exclusion of birds and other creatures also acts to hold the thatch down even tighter. So even on the windiest night, the thatch owner can sleep soundly in their bed.
When can I start?
The more notice that you can give, the better. As with most good quality thatchers, I do have a waiting list, but I will always come and provide advice and an estimate within a week of you getting in touch, provided that it is mutually agreeable.
In the case of an emergency, such as a serious leak, I will endeavour to carry out a repair as soon as possible which will keep your roof safe, and you dry, until such a time that I can come to re-thatch the roof, if needed. I will always provide an expected start date for my work to begin, and keep you updated on the progress throughout the job.