For those who dream of a rural idyll, the thatched cottage is very much a part of the fantasy. The straw or reed that is used to build up a roof gives a home that distinctive age-old appearance and really marks out a home as one to stop and stare at. Overseas tourists will stop and take photographs, locals will cast admiring glances and all your townie friends will ask how much it costs to maintain, whether it needs trimming and if it’s the original thatch.
It may be your ultimate home-owning aim to live beneath a thatched roof, but you’ll need to maintain it if you are to avoid problems. You will also want an expert tradesman to check it out before you buy. Your mortgage company can insist this is a part of the survey, but it’s always best to get an opinion as to potential future costs. It can also help you with working out insurance costs.
The first thing you need to know about your thatched roof is that it will need repairing at some point. It may look like an organic structure that will look after itself, but time, weather and wildlife will all have an impact on your roof. Repairs may be needed at any time and it is best to have a professional perform maintenance work at least once every five years.
The roof is made up of a selection of reeds or grasses and the kind of material used can determine how long it will last. There are three main kinds of grass or reed used in the construction of a thatched roof and these are water reed, wheat reed and long straw. As a rule of thumb, these materials will last on average for 50 years, 30 years and 20 years respectively. But this doesn’t mean that the odd repair won’t be necessary in the meantime.
One cause of damage to thatched roofing is wildlife. The squeamish may wish to jump ahead now, but your thatched roof can play home to a number of rodents as well as the more obvious nesting birds. Squirrels can tear at the thatch as they move around and mice or rats can cause damage as they search for a place to bed down and eventually make a home.
Rodents rarely nest in thatch when there is food and shelter elsewhere, which means they are unlikely to end up in yours if you are watchful. A thatched roofing expert will be able to deal with any damage, but the best thing you can do to avoid infestation is to make sure that there are no food sources near to the house. If you do have bird tables then make sure they aren’t close to the home, as rodents will be attracted by any seeds or nuts that the birds drop.
Another common maintenance job is known as brushing down, which as the name suggests is largely a case of tidying up the thatch. This will also give the tradesperson a chance to remove any moss that has built up in the reed or straw. It’ll retain moisture in the roof and cause damage, so it does need to be removed from time to time.
A roofing expert may also suggest the roof needs ‘dressing up' which will mean re-attaching and perhaps adding some more thatch, usually where it has been knocked out of place by high winds or storms. Some work may also be needed on the wire that holds the thatch in place.
The big thing to remember with thatch is that it’s generally as safe and as sturdy as any other roof. But don't be tempted to use non-experts when having it worked on. Those in the know will have worked on thatched roofing for many years and will be aware of all the advantages or pitfalls of various designs and materials. An enthusiastic first-timer may make a decent fist of a repair, but you can be sure that you will be needing the work re-done before too long.
Is your cottage far from cosy? Let us help you find a roofer to polish up your roof.