There is nothing that paints a picture of traditional British country life more than thatched properties adorning a High street. But in recent years, Thatch has tended to take its place amongst the likes of Manchester United, opera and modern art – you either love it or you hate it.
If you’re in the latter category, it may be that your concerns are based on some common misconceptions. With a sensible approach to purchase and maintenance, though, there’s no reason why you can’t enjoy living under a thatch roof.
Peter Bray, Spencer Bray’s Managing Director, has owned a thatch property for the last twenty years and offers this quick five point guide to being happy with thatch.
First, find a good thatcher. They will probably be designated ‘Master Thatcher’ via one of the different associations which exist today but there’s nothing to beat local reputation. So, check out some work that your thatcher has carried out (you can tell more from older work rather than roofs that are just completed, which usually look fine).
Second, have a realistic view of life expectancy. Most new thatch roofs will last 15 – 35 years but many factors affect timescales. Before you need to re-thatch the covering in total, you will certainly need to carry out routine repairs and re-place the ridge (typically, these last anything from 5 to 12 years). Before you buy, these costs can be pretty accurately set out for you by your thatcher, so that you can budget properly.
Third, don’t underestimate the benefits of thatch.
•The aesthetic appeal of thatch and its soft exterior makes for a home that will attract many admirers (and future buyers).
•Apart from their charm, thatch roofs are great insulators. This means that you can enjoy cool living in summer and warmth in winter.
•Insurance is readily available and may not be as expensive as you think. Check out specialist as well as mainstream insurers.
Fourth, where appropriate, make sure that netting is securely in place over thatch. It protects against animals entering your roofspace, which can result in damage to wiring as well as to the thatch covering.
Fifth, risk of fire is an obvious concern but one which is minimised by some sensible precautions. Wood and multi-fuel burners burn with hotter gases than original open fires and make it all the more important to ensure that your thatch is well protected. This will include safeguards such as –
•Chimneys should ideally be lined and must be swept regularly.
•Thermometers are available to monitor flue and surrounding thatch temperatures. Some sound alarms allowing you to ‘turn down’ the heat of burners or fires. (You may find that fitting approved devices helps reduce insurance premiums).
•There is considerable debate about use of ‘spark arresters’ on chimneys. If you do have them, they must be clean or can pose risk. Better to ensure that chimneys are sufficiently high above the roof surface to allow sparks to cool before settling on the thatch.
•Have all the recommended extinguishing equipment installed and take care when making any fire in the garden.
So, if in the past you’ve crossed thatched properties off your wish list, you may want to use this guide to put any concerns you have in perspective. You may find that your view changes when you take a second look!