1. How long does a Thatched roof last?
This question is of course impossible to answer definitively. The life of a thatched roof depends on a host of variables some that we can influence others not. Material type and quality, workmanship, pitch of roof, geographical location, roof complexity, surrounding features (trees etc) and many more all affect the performance of a roof. The real enemy is water, a roof that stays dry will decay very slowly indeed. Estimates can be given on an individual basis but even then they are just that, estimates. In the Berkshire area I have known long straw roofs last between 10 and 25 years, combed wheat reed roofs between 15 and 35 years and water reed roofs from 15 and up to 65 years which should give an indication of how misleading a blanket average would be.

2. Is it true that thatch is warm in winter and cool in summer?
Even a single coat of thatch provides very good insulation. Multi layered thatched roofs often achieve depths of 1-2m clearly providing wonderful sound and thermal insulation so the phrase warm in winter, cool in summer is heard on numerous occasions from thatched property owners.

3. Will I require minor work between any complete re-thatches?
Almost certainly yes, we would expect a ridge to last between 10 and 15 years (although we still have a ridge performing well after 21 years). Usually at the time of re-ridging we also renew the netting.

4. Are thatched roofs a fire risk?
Thatch is of course combustible and will burn under the right conditions. Precautions are the best bet here, being careful with bonfires or barbeques (or having them elsewhere), making sure any chimneys that are in use are in good condition and regularly swept, having any electrical wiring in the roof-space checked and if possible made safe from rodent damage are all courses of action we recommend. Thatch roof fires are not frequent events; they are only perceived as such because they get big media coverage due to their spectacular nature.

5. How long does it take to thatch a roof?
It all depends on the size and complexity of the roof. Small cottage roofs would probably take around 4-6 man weeks for instance but a large roof, with many complex features such as dormer windows and gullies might take some months.

6. How long does it take to become a Thatcher?
The simplistic answer is, as with any craft, a lifetime. A good craftsman (or craftswoman) will continue to learn throughout their life but an indication is that few Master Thatcher Associations will consider for membership anyone with less than 4 years’ experience.

7. How should I choose a Thatcher?
Go and look at previous work particularly roofs which have been thatched 10 or more years ago. All newly thatched roofs look good to an untrained eye, shortcomings become more apparent over time. Speak to previous customers as well. Good thatcher’s have nothing to hide and should provide you with some names and places if you ask them. The possession of adequate public liability insurance is also a good way to confirm someone has a responsible business ethic.

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