How to care for you thatch roof..

• Good thatch will not require frequent maintenance.

• Establish early on what condition the thatch is in - then appropriate work (if necessary) can be programmed.

• Do not assume that because materials are slipping or that the roof looks a mess that it needs rethatching.

• Do not assume that because the roof looks neat (with a well executed ridge pattern) that it is in prime condition.

• A thatch which looks thick is not necessarily a good thatch.

• A thatch which looks thin is not necessarily a bad thatch.

• The life of a thatch can be extended significantly by a timely and appropriate repair.

• Do not move around on your thatch unnecessarily. Do not allow others to do so.

• Do not let non-thatchers fit netting, flashings etc. without advice from an experienced thatcher.

TV aerial erectors etc. should be required to keep off the thatch as much as possible.

DO NOT allow standing on the ridges or the use of ridges as working platforms.

The performance of thatch depends on many factors, such as roof shape and design, pitch of roof, position - geographically and topographically - the quality of material and the expertise of the thatcher.

Determining how all of these interact is complex. Therefore, an understanding of likely performance is beyond all but the most experienced. Even then unusual eventualities can make roofs under perform or perform beyond the expected lifespan.

Average figures quoted from statistics are of little use as the permutations for averaging the above criteria would lead to a very untypical roof type. As stated judgements on performance and likely performance should be made in individual circumstances. For instance depending on circumstances it is possible for Long Straw to out last Water Reed.


Consult with the thatcher who is to undertake the thatching work, or with some person who has the appropriate thatching experience, knowledge of other building and roofing forms.

Life of thatch can be extended significantly by appropriate repair.

• Water penetration into thatch is limited.

• Thatch does not (when working properly) absorb large amounts of water, (hence there should be no large increase to roof weight due to water retention).

• Any water striking the apex of the roof is transferred down the roof surface from stem to stem until it drops from the eave. Water penetration, when it occurs is minimal and is usually due to capillary action.

• Thatch is not by its nature prone to wind damage. Experience gained in the1987 winds in the South East showed thatch in a good light compared to some other roofing materials.

• Long Straw thatching should always be securely netted to avoid bird penetration as is sometimes the case with Combed Wheat and some Water Reeds. Take advice from your thatcher.

• The presence of moss is not necessarily detrimental to the thatch. It can in some circumstances appear unsightly. If required it is always desirable for a thatcher to remove the moss by the best means he considers.

Northamptonshire has some thatching techniques peculiar to this area. In some cases the first layer of thatch is the same date as the timbers and even the building date of the property. The roof was held in place by cob (clay and dung) and requires the expertise of a crafts man used to these methods, the removal of such materials may well contravene conservation regulations.


• The incidence of Fire in thatch is often overstated. When fire in thatched properties occurs it is often started by means associated with fires starting in all kinds of housing. Therefore, all the normal and sensible precautions to avoid household fires should be taken.

Take advice from your local Fire Authority.

• Fire precautions for thatch are given in " The Care & Repair of Thatched Roofs " published by The SPAB* and the COUNTRYSIDE AGENCY. It is recommended you purchase this leaflet, available from either of the publishing bodies.

• Do not build, rebuild or design chimneys which pass close to or through thatch without appropriate expert advice.

• Do not pass metal and other heat conducting flues through thatch.

• Keep chimneys in good condition. Repoint or line as necessary.

• Do not hold barbecues, bonfires or firework parties close to the house. Try to influence neighbours to be sensible with garden fires.

• Keep an appropriate length of non kink hose at hand and if possible attached to a tap.

• Ensure any person working in or on the house is aware of the dangers which unthinking use of naked flame can bring.

• Do not allow use of blow lamps in the roof space.

• Do not allow flame stripping of paint around eaves on thatched windows.

• Plumbing joints can be made with compression fittings.

• Run electric wire in conduit.

• Television/radio aerials should be mounted if possible, so that they do not overhang the roof. The cable kept clear of the roof surface and not taken through the roof space/attic.

• Any rethatch or major ridge job should have all material taken from around the chimney so that it can be checked and repaired if needed.

• As the temperature changes in a thatch roof space do not vary as much as other roof coverings despite makers recommendations smoke alarms should be considered, low voltage mains powered linked alarms are available. Most thatch fires start in the roof space and due to the thickness may not be apparent for many hours.

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