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Everything you need to know before buying a thatched roof property

If you’re dreaming of moving to a countryside idyll, you will probably have a thatched roof bungalow in mind.

The quintessential design feature of a chocolate box cottage, it’s estimated that in the UK, there are around sixty thousand thatched roof properties. As well as offering instant kerb appeal, thatched roof homes can be more environmentally friendly and add value when you come to sell.

Before buying a thatched roof property, it’s important to do your homework. In this guide to thatched roof homes, you’ll find everything you need to know.

Looking for a thatched roof property? Contact your local branch.

What is a thatched roof?

Thatching is a traditional roofing technique that involves using plant materials such as straw, reeds, or wheat to create a waterproof covering for buildings.

Each type of thatched roof has its own distinct appearance and characteristics, and the choice of material often depends on local availability, climate, and regional traditions.

Types of thatched roofs

Long straw roofs

These roofs have a shaggy appearance because the straw used is not cropped or cut to a uniform length. The eaves of long straw roofs are stitched with hazel, which refers to the practice of securing the thatch to the roof structure using hazel rods.

Water reed roofs

Unlike long straw roofs, the reeds used for thatching are cropped or cut to a uniform length. The eaves of water reed roofs typically overhang the walls less than those of straw roofs, which gives a more uniform appearance.

Combed wheat reed

This mimics the appearance of water reed but is made from straw. The straw is laid on the roof in a manner like water reed, but the ends of the stalks are cut at an angle to create a neater, more uniform look.

What to consider when buying a thatched roof property?

1. Is the property listed?

Thatched roof properties tend to be period homes and so will require the same level of attention. They may even be listed, as is the case with 75% of thatches in the UK, which would mean any changes should always be maintained on a like for like basis.

As beautiful as they may be, the level of upkeep mean that period homes aren’t for everyone. To decide whether buying a period property is for you, read our guide to period properties

2. Insurance

Contrary to popular belief, the cost of insurance for a thatched cottage is only slightly higher than for a property with a tiled roof and can be covered by standard homeowner's insurance policies. Most types of damage, including leaks, are typically covered.

That said, some insurers may want to see proof of regular maintenance to your roof. If you have a working inglenook fireplace or woodburner, you may need to show that you have had the chimney swept at least twice a year by a qualified chimney sweep.

Top tip: Check that your insurer has a cost price clause in their policy, which covers the actual market value of the materials needed to repair or replace your thatched roof.

3. Fire safety

Keeping your home safe from fires is especially important with thatched roof properties. However, fire retardants – such as thatch batts, aluminium barrier foil and fire-retardant spray – can slow down the spread of fire. It’s important to check whether your roof has these in place.

Most fires in thatched homes tend to happen because of faulty insulation or accidents from wood burning stoves. In fact, any wood burning stoves should be declared when seeking building insurance for thatched roof homes.

4. Don't rely solely on appearance

A neatly arranged ridge pattern does not necessarily indicate the roof's overall condition.

Sellers may invest in a new ridge to enhance the visual appeal of an old roof that has already exceeded its expected lifespan.

If you are considering purchasing a thatched property and have doubts about its roof's condition, seek professional advice to assess its longevity and any potential issues.

How long do thatched roofs last?

A thatched roof made of straw or water reed will last for up to 30 years. However, when the fastenings become exposed and are vulnerable to water penetration, your roof will need to be rethatched.

How much does it cost to re-thatch a roof?

Buying a property with a thatched roof isn’t the cheapest option. The cost for rethatching can go into the tens of thousands, but this cost can go up and down depending on the complexity of the job.

How to care for a thatched property?

To keep your thatched roof in the best condition, you should make regular checks, especially during the winter months. Regular maintenance, timely repairs, and professional assessments will increase the lifespan of your roof, saving you money in the long run.

Here are some more ideas to keep your thatched roof in tip-top condition:

Find a certified thatcher

Thatching is a skilled and highly sought after service so you should be prepared to wait for any repair work to be carried out.

Top tip: Look for regional or national associations dedicated to thatching or traditional building techniques. These organisations may be able to refer you to certified thatchers in your area.

Keep your thatch dry

A damp thatched roof can promote the growth of moss and algae, which brings more moisture, making the problem worse.

To stop this from happening, allow the roof to dry thoroughly by removing any trees or plants that may obstruct sunlight or prevent wind from reaching it.

Protect it against damage

Take precautions to prevent damage from other tradespeople. Make sure that ladders are carefully positioned to avoid putting excessive weight or pressure on the thatch.

It’s also important to prevent anyone from walking on the thatched area as divots or indentations can hasten the wear and tear of the material. Pay particular attention to the ridge, as any damage to the fixings can have a significant impact on the overall lifespan of the roof.

For help with finding your next home, contact your local branch.

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