February 22


The Thatched Roof Guide: Rediscovering the Historic Craft Experience Making a Global Resurgence

Thatched roof guide – the historic craft making a comeback

Thatched roofs have been used for centuries as a durable and sustainable roofing material. The main advantage of thatched roofs is their ability to provide excellent insulation, keeping the interior of a building warm in winter and cool in summer. Additionally, thatched roofs have a unique aesthetic appeal that adds character to any structure. While thatched roofs were once a common sight in rural areas, they became rare in the last few decades. However, there has been a recent resurgence of interest in this historic craft.

Thatching is the craft of creating a roof from dried plant materials, such as straw or reeds. These materials are layered onto the roof surface to form a thick, water-resistant covering. Thatching is a labor-intensive process that requires skill and expertise. The thatched material is typically combed and laid in strips, using fixings such as hazel or willow spars. The thicknesses of the thatch and the height of the roof depend on several factors, including the climate, the local building regulations, and the customer’s preferences.

Thatched roofs can be susceptible to damage from excessive moisture, fires, and pests. However, with proper care and regular maintenance, a thatched roof can have a long lifespan. Regular maintenance includes inspecting the roof for any signs of damage, repairing any loose or damaged thatch, and keeping the surface clear of debris. It is also important to have the chimney and flues regularly swept to reduce the risk of fires.

If you are considering a thatched roof for your home or building, it is advisable to seek advice from an experienced thatcher. They can provide guidance on the best materials, fixings, and techniques to use for your specific project. Thatched roofs require specialized knowledge and skills, so it is important to work with a professional who has experience in this field.

By subscribing to our newsletter, you can receive the latest updates and advice on thatched roofs straight to your inbox. Our experts share insights on the best practices for maintaining and repairing thatched roofs, as well as tips on how to prevent common issues. Whether you are a homeowner, a builder, or simply an enthusiast of historic crafts, our newsletter can provide valuable information for all.

Thatched roofs are not only a historic craft but also a sustainable and attractive roofing option. With their unique aesthetic appeal and excellent insulation properties, thatched roofs are making a comeback in both rural and urban areas. Whether you are looking to restore a historic building or create a new structure with traditional charm, a thatched roof might be the perfect choice for you.

Types of thatched roof

Types of thatched roof

Thatched roofs come in different forms, depending on the region and the type of material used. Here are some common types:

  1. Combed wheat reed thatch: This is the most traditional type of thatched roof and can last for up to 70 years. It is made using wheat reeds that are combed to remove the excess seed head and leaves. The reeds are then fixed to the roof in layers.
  2. Long straw thatch: Long straw thatched roofs typically have a lifespan of around 20-25 years. The straw used in these roofs is longer and thicker compared to wheat reed thatch. It provides good insulation and a unique appearance.
  3. Water reed thatch: Water reed thatched roofs can last for up to 50 years. The reeds used in this type of thatch are taken from freshwater areas and are thicker than wheat reed. They are fixed to the roof in layers, with the top layer facing downwards to shed water.
  4. Combed wheat straw thatch: Similar to combed wheat reed thatch, this type of roof is made using wheat straw that is combed to remove the excess material. It is often used in regions where reeds are not readily available.

While these are the main types of thatched roof, there are variations and combinations that can be used depending on the specific requirements and local traditions.

It’s important to note that thatched roofs require regular maintenance and repair to ensure their longevity. Excessive water, fires, and wood-burning stoves can pose a risk to thatched roofs. It is recommended to seek professional advice and follow safety guidelines when using fireplaces or wood-burning stoves with a thatched roof.

Thatched roofs are a historic craft that is making a comeback due to their aesthetic appeal and environmental benefits. Subscribe to our newsletter to stay up-to-date with the latest news and trends in thatched roof craftsmanship.

How do you repair a thatched roof

If you own a thatched roof, there is always a risk of it getting damaged or worn out over time. In order to maintain and prolong the life of your roof, regular repairs are necessary. Thatched roofs are made of natural materials, such as straw or reeds, which require special care and attention.

Localized repairs

Repairing a thatched roof often involves fixing specific areas that have been damaged or worn. This is usually done by using similar materials to the ones that were originally used for the roof. However, it is much rare to find the exact same materials, so thatchers typically use the closest possible match.

Advice from professionals

If you are not experienced in thatching, it is advisable to seek professional advice before attempting any repairs. Thatching associations and local thatchers can provide the latest information and guidance on how to properly repair your roof. They can also help you identify any potential issues or weak spots that may need attention.

Chimneys and flues

When repairing a thatched roof, special attention should be given to chimneys and flues. These areas are particularly prone to damage and may require more frequent maintenance. Repairing them involves carefully removing the thatch around the affected area, fixing any structural issues, and then re-thatching the surrounding areas.

Removing excessive thatch

Over time, thatched roofs accumulate a layer of dead material on the surface. This excess thatch needs to be regularly removed in order to prevent water retention and potential damage to the roof structure. To remove the excessive thatch, the roof is carefully combed using a specialized tool known as a thatching comb.

Repairing wood-burning stoves

Repairing wood-burning stoves

If you have a wood-burning stove or any other type of heating appliance, it is important to ensure that the flue is properly insulated and that the thatch is at a safe distance from the heat source. Any repairs or maintenance related to these appliances should be carried out by a qualified professional to prevent fire risks.

Inspecting the roof regularly

To catch any potential issues early on, it is recommended to inspect your thatched roof at least once a year. Look for signs of wear and tear, such as sagging or bald patches, and address them promptly. Regular maintenance and repairs can significantly extend the life of your roof.

By following these guidelines and seeking professional advice when necessary, you can ensure that your thatched roof remains in good condition for many years to come.

How long does a thatch roof last?

A thatch roof is a traditional roofing method that has been in use for many years. Despite its historic charm, one of the most common questions people have about thatch roofs is how long they last. The lifespan of a thatch roof can vary depending on several factors, including the material used, the thickness of the thatch, and the local climate.

Thatched roofs have been known to last anywhere from 20 to 70 years, with some even lasting over 100 years. However, it is important to note that regular maintenance and repairs are necessary to maximize the lifespan of a thatch roof.


The main material used for thatching roofs is straw, often made from wheat reeds. These straw bundles are combed to remove any excess debris and then carefully fixed onto the roof’s surface. Other materials, such as water reed, rush, or heather, may also be used depending on the location and availability.


Regular maintenance is essential for preserving the life of a thatch roof. The chimney, ridges, and fixings are areas that require frequent attention. Thatch roofs should be inspected at least once a year to identify any potential issues, such as loose or damaged thatch.

Excessive water can be a risk to a thatch roof, so it is important to make sure that there are no leaks or localized areas where water can collect. Fixing any leaks and removing any excessive water will help to prevent the growth of moss or algae, which can deteriorate thatch.



If repairs are needed, it is best to consult a professional thatcher who has experience working with thatch roofs. They can assess the damage and provide advice on the best course of action. In some cases, only a small strip of thatch may need to be replaced, while in others, a more extensive repair may be necessary.

Thatch roof repairs can be quite localized, depending on the extent of the damage. The remaining thatch can often be salvaged and incorporated into the repaired area, reducing waste and cost.

It is worth mentioning that while thatch roofs are generally fire-resistant, fires can occur if precautions are not taken. However, this is rare and can often be avoided by following safety guidelines, such as ensuring proper distance between the thatch and wood-burning flues.

In conclusion, the lifespan of a thatch roof can vary, but with proper maintenance and repairs, a thatch roof can last for many years and add a touch of historic beauty to your home.

How to rethatch a roof

How to rethatch a roof

Rethatching a roof is a process that involves replacing the old thatched materials with new ones to ensure the longevity of the roof. Thatched roofs have been used for centuries and continue to provide a unique and traditional look to many homes.

If you have a thatched roof and it is in need of repair, there are several steps you can take to rethatch it. Here is a step-by-step guide:

  1. Assess the condition of your roof: Before starting the rethatching process, carefully inspect your roof to determine the extent of the damage. Look for signs of wear, such as worn-out ridges, holes, or thinning of the thatch layer.
  2. Strip the old thatch: Use a thatching comb or specialized tool to strip the old thatch material from the roof’s surface. Be careful while doing this to avoid damaging the underlying roof structure.
  3. Repair any structural issues: If there are any structural issues with your roof, such as wood rot or damage to the supporting beams, it is important to fix them before proceeding with the rethatching process. Consult a professional if necessary.
  4. Select your thatching material: The choice of thatching material is important for the overall lifespan of your roof. Traditionally, wheat straw has been used for thatching, but there are now other materials available, including water reed and combed wheat reed.
  5. Prepare the new thatch: Soak the new thatch materials in water for a few hours to make them more pliable and easier to work with.
  6. Start thatching: Begin thatching the roof from the bottom up, using thatching rods or fixings to secure the new thatch in place. Overlap the rows of thatch to ensure a tight and waterproof surface.
  7. Pay attention to chimneys and flues: Extra care should be taken when thatching around chimneys and flues. Ensure that there is enough space for the smoke and gases to escape properly.
  8. Finish with ridge work: The ridge of the roof is the highest point and requires special attention. Use thicker and heavier thatch materials to create a durable and decorative ridge.
  9. Regular maintenance: After rethatching your roof, it is important to regularly maintain it. Remove any excess thatch and keep the roof clear of debris. Regular brushing and occasional application of fire retardants can also help prolong the life of your thatched roof.

While rethatching a roof might be a rare occurrence for most homeowners, with the right materials and advice, it can be a manageable DIY project. However, due to the height and nature of the work involved, it is always recommended to consult with a professional thatcher or roofing contractor to ensure safety and the best results.

Problems with thatched roofs

Problems with thatched roofs

Thatched roofs, while beautiful and historic, can present several problems that owners need to be aware of. Here are some of the most common issues:

1. Fire risk

Thatch is a highly flammable material, and if not properly maintained or protected, roofs can be at risk of catching fire. Wood-burning stoves and chimneys pose a particular threat, as sparks can easily ignite the thatch.

2. Water leaks

Over time, thatch can become less waterproof, especially in areas with excessive rain. This can result in water leaks and damage to the underlying structure of the roof. Regular maintenance is crucial to ensure water resistance.

3. Surface wear and tear

The surface of a thatched roof may deteriorate over the years due to exposure to weather conditions. Winds, sun, and rain can cause the straw to become brittle and break. Routine maintenance and repairs are necessary to keep the surface in good condition.

4. Pest infestation

Thatched roofs can sometimes attract pests such as birds, rodents, and insects. These pests may create nests or burrow into the thatch, causing damage. Regular inspections and appropriate pest control measures are recommended to prevent infestations.

5. Ridge problems

The ridges of thatched roofs are vulnerable areas where water can seep in if not properly maintained. Over time, the ridge material may deteriorate, leading to leaks. Regular inspections and repairs are necessary to keep the roof ridge in good condition.

6. Fire safety requirements

In some areas, there may be specific fire safety requirements for thatched roofs due to their flammable nature. This can include the need for a certain thickness of thatch or the installation of fire-resistant building materials around chimneys and flues.

7. Cost of repairs

Thatched roofs require regular maintenance and occasional repairs, which can be costly. The materials used for thatching and labor costs can add up, so owners should budget for these expenses.

To ensure the longevity and safety of a thatched roof, it is important to follow expert advice and guidelines for maintenance and repairs. Regular inspections and addressing any issues promptly can help extend the life of the roof.

Are thatched roofs a fire risk

Thatched roofs have long been associated with a romantic and historic charm, but are they a fire risk?

Rarely, thatched roofs might catch fire. There are, however, precautions that can be taken to minimize the risk. Thatched roofs are often made from natural materials such as straw or reeds, which can be highly flammable.

Thatched roofs are most commonly used on older buildings, where their historic aesthetic is desired. These buildings often have wood-burning stoves or open fireplaces, which can increase the risk of fire. The use of proper fixings and materials is important to reduce this risk.

In recent years, thatched roofs have been made using more fire-resistant materials, such as ridges made from fire retardant composite or metal. The use of these materials can greatly reduce the risk of fire.

One of the main risks with thatched roofs is excessive heat from chimneys and flues. Proper insulation and regular maintenance can help in reducing this risk.

The thicknesses of thatched roofs can also have an impact on their fire risk. Thicker thatch offers more protection against fire than thinner thatch.

If you have a thatched roof, it is important to regularly inspect and maintain it. Keep an eye out for any damaged areas or signs of wear and tear. Prompt repair of any issues can help in mitigating fire risk.

Localized fires on thatched roofs can often be dealt with by using water to dampen the area. However, it is important to have a clear understanding of the fire safety procedures and advice provided by your insurance company.

If you have a wood-burning stove or fireplace, ensure it is properly installed and maintained. Regularly clean out flues and chimneys to prevent a buildup of flammable materials.

Thatched roofs can have a long life expectancy if well-maintained. Regular combing and treatment with fire retardant products can help to extend their lifespan.

In conclusion, while thatched roofs do pose a fire risk, taking the necessary precautions and following fire safety guidelines can minimize that risk. Regular maintenance and proper insulation are key in ensuring the safety of your thatched roof.

For the latest advice and information on thatched roofs and fire safety, be sure to consult your insurance policy and stay informed of any updates from local authorities and fire departments.


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