This guide details the pros and cons of thatched roofs, and what you may need to consider regarding your home insurance policy before installing one on your home.
Thatched roofs are getting renewed attention in the UK, thanks in part to their eco-friendly credentials. Thatch is not exactly a new material, having been around for about 10,000 years. In fact, most of the thatched houses in England are on old listed buildings, but many people are starting to appreciate their aesthetic qualities and question the validity of the disadvantages which have discouraged their use.
Are Thatched Roofs a Fire Risk?
Statistically, thatched roofs are no more likely to catch fire than a normal roof. However, due to the materials used, if a thatched roof were to catch fire it is more likely to spread rapidly and catastrophically.
There are fire retardant sprays for thatch roofs and chimney heat alarms (since most fires start via the chimney) to keep this risk down.
Will my Home Insurance Cover a Thatched Roof?
Not all home insurance providers will cover a thatched roof, so you will want to check the details of your home insurance policy carefully. If you do not have a home insurance policy currently, make sure your provider would cover any damage to your roof.
You may be able to find home insurance with a specialist thatched roofing provider.
That’s not to say that thatched roofs are without disadvantages, but it’s important to weigh the pros against to cons so you can make an informed decision before you say yay or nay to thatch.
Pros of Thatched Roofs
There are an estimated 35,000 thatched properties in England, of which 24,000 are listed. Modern thatched homes are therefore still a novelty and guaranteed to be a talking point.
Thatch is incredibly durable with some thatching material able to last up to 65 years. Water reed is the most durable material, with a lifespan of 55 to 65 years. Combed wheat reed has a lifespan of 20 to 40 years. Long straw has a life span 15 to 25 years.
Thatch is naturally insulating, so it will keep your house cool in summer and warm in winter – saving you money on your heating and cooling bills.
As a sustainable resource, thatch is environmentally-friendly. Harvesting methods are also eco-friendly.
Flexibility: Thatch can be shaped into soft, aesthetically pleasing forms, which is a nice difference to the hard lines of other roofing materials. Combining thatch with other materials also creates a nice contrast and can result in interesting designs.
Thatch is light and doesn’t need the heavy support structures that other roofing materials need. This lowers costs.
Cons of Thatched Roofs
Installing thatch is labour intensive – and can take up to four weeks – so it’s not the cheapest to install.
You will need to inspect your roof, or have it inspected professionally once a year to ensure that it’s on good shape.
The ridge cap may need regular maintenance and even repair as it is prone to wear and tear. Leaks are the most common problem, which can cause more serious damage to other sections of the roof.
You will need to take a number of safety precautions to prevent fires and pest infestation. For example: You will need to cut down overhanging branches so that the thatch doesn’t hold onto moisture, you need to install a lightning rod to disperse lightning strikes, you will need a spark resistor for your chimney, and you may have to use special treatments to deter pests.
Remember that one of the most telling factors in the success of thatching is the quality of the thatcher. Get a quote from at least three thatchers and find out as much as you can about them – reviews, endorsements, etc. The web is a great help in this regard.