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Buying a Thatched property
Although thatched properties possess an irresistible atmosphere of warmth and welcome, common misconceptions can often deter first-time buyers.
If fixings are exposed all over the roof, it indicates that the thatch is either nearing, or has reached the end of its life.
If gullies are appearing (vertical deep patches of rot), these will require the attention of an experienced thatcher.
Dark wet patches on the eaves close to the wall indicate the thatch is leaking.
If the roof is covered in heavy moss, it could mean that the thatch is unable to breath and is therefore unable to dry out properly.
As the final protective covering along the top of the roof, the purpose of the ridge is twofold: to conceal the last fixing rod and to provide an attractive finish to the roof.
Although a high quality ridge will only need replacing every 12-15 years, a poor quality ridge may only last 5-7 years. Sometimes, however, the ridge may look shabby, whilst still serving its purpose of keeping water out.
A new thatch should last between 15-35 years, depending on the type and quality of materials used.
Maintenance on a typical three to four bedroomed home will usually include replacing the ridge every 10 to 15 years.
Towards the end of its life, a thatched roof will require patching; however, regular inspection and maintenance of the thatch can prevent problems such as vermin damage or rot from shortening the lifespan of the roof.
Life beneath thatch
If you succumb to the lure of a thatched property, you and your family will be well rewarded. Unfortunately, old wives' tales and common misconceptions sometimes deter first-time thatch owners, so make sure you know the facts first:
Due to its unique insulating properties, your thatched home will keep you warm in winter and cool in summer.
Living beneath a thatched roof doesn't mean you cannot enjoy the warmth of a real fire. As with many things, it is simply a matter of exercising common sense.
Statistically, homes with thatched roofs are no more likely to catch fire than those with conventional roofs.
When you take on a listed property that is thatched, you meet additional limitations on what you may or may not do:
Most external or internal repairs or alterations to listed buildings require listed building consent and you should talk to your local Building Conservation Officer before employing a thatcher to carry-out work on the roof.
The Realities of Thatched Property Ownership
There are three main types of thatch used in the UK
- Water Reed
- Combed Wheat Reed
- Long Straw
What type of thatch is used depends partly on the area of the country (in East Anglia Long Straw is most prevalent) and it's important to bear in mind that when replacing or repairing a roof, the same materials must be used. The key to preventing major roof damage is, of course, prompt action, so it's critically important that all owners keep a close eye on things, especially the netting and ridging along the top.
Early preventive maintenance will maintain the quality and extend the life of the thatch and is much less expensive than total replacement.
Contrary to popular belief, thatched properties are less prone to catching fire than other houses. Recent fire brigade figures show that whereas 1 in 360 'standard' homes are destroyed by fire, the figure falls to 1 in 750 for thatched properties. Whilst this is undoubtedly due at least in part to the extra care that owners of such properties take to protect their homes from going up in flames, it's also a comforting thought for anybody looking to invest in one.
More good news for thatched property owners is that grants are sometimes available for their upkeep and repair. The amounts vary from region to region so it's worth checking with the local council to see what's available.
If you're planning on buying a thatched property, the best advice is to get a thorough survey done on the roof before you buy. This will give a better understanding of how much is likely to be required in years to come. Bear in mind that really good thatchers are often booked up for years in advance, so plan ahead. Owning a thatched roof can be a demanding, but also highly rewarding.
Thatches are extremely good thermally and add an enormous amount of character to a home. For those looking for period charm, there are few better choices.