Thinking of buying a thatched home?

Useful information and tips to consider ahead of buying a thatched property

Here is some useful information from the Thatch Advice Centre covering important points if you are considering buying a thatched property – namely the building, maintenance, insurance and fire safety.

The thatched building

It is important to understand the building, its construction, design and the thatching material on the roof. The lifespan of the roof and maintenance requirements can vary depending on the thatching material used, the main three being:-

– Water reed
– Combed wheat reed (Devon reed)
– Long straw

The look of thatch can vary depending on regional variation, e.g. steep roofs in water reed and rolled longstraw gables in East Anglia or rounded cosy cottages in Devon reed in the West Country. The ridge section (capping) can be flush with the main roof or raised with an ornamental pattern. Longstraw roofs often have a lattice work pattern in hazel wood pinned above the eave.

In addition, many thatched properties are listed.  A listed thatched roof must be maintained ‘like for like’ e.g. in the same material with the same style. Any changes will require listed building consent.

It is suggested that the building is surveyed before you call in a specialist to inspect the thatch as a problem with the building may make checking the roof unnecessary.

Thatch maintenance

Thatched roofs require regular maintenance. Based on a well thatched roof, the ridge section needs replacing every 10 to 12 years. The main roof, depending on the material used, can last from 20 to 35 years. Roof design, aspect of building, quality of thatching materials and application all play their part in the lifespan of a thatched roof.

A shabby looking thatched roof does not mean that it is not still functional to keep out the weather. Many people are put off by moss on the roof or a ridge which is showing signs of wear when it is perfectly serviceable. Alternatively, leaving a roof which needs maintenance can be detrimental to the building fabric. Often, therefore, a purchaser prefers the idea of a recently re-thatched property with no immediate maintenance requirement.

There is no overall governing body for thatchers. It is recommended to get more than one quotation for any works. Also, get references, check insurance and compare specifications carefully before you make a decision.

Insurance for thatched properties

Thatched properties are often unique and therefore specialist insurance is generally preferable and more cost effective. It is worth phoning around to get the best cover for each individual thatched property. Insurers ask many relevant questions such as:-

– Is the property listed?
– When was the thatch last inspected/maintained?
– Has the chimney integrity been checked?
– Is the chimney swept?
– Are the electrics inspected?
– Is the property detached or terraced?
– Is the property going to be tenanted or a holiday home?

Thatch and fire safety

Thatch is not more likely to catch fire but when it does, it is notorious for being hard to extinguish. Taking fire safety measures to reduce the main proven risks (chimney fires and ejected embers) is therefore sensible for peace of mind, insurance cover and potential premium reductions. The Thatch Advice Centre’s ‘Thatch Fire Safety’ leaflet is a useful document.

Insurance requirements and building regulations often cover many issues on thatch fire safety, including electric inspections, fire resisting barriers, fire retardant spray, chimneys, woodburners and alarms all of which help contribute to fire prevention measures.

Understand and enjoy thatched properties

Understanding a thatched property means you can make an informed decision on your purchase.

Not only is thatch sustainable and a good natural insulator, it makes a wonderful home and often a good investment. Those buying a listed thatch property also become a keeper of our wonderful thatch heritage and the envy of many.

The Thatch Advice Centre is a free online resource covering ‘all things thatch’, backed up by specialist thatch associates.

Content provided by is for information purposes only. Independent and professional advice should be taken before buying, selling, letting or renting property, or buying financial products.

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