04 Jun 2015

Thatch made in heaven: Practical advice on risks and rewards of owning a thatched property

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For many, renovating a thatched property is the epitome of rural living, but misconceptions often deter buyers. NFU Mutual, the UK’s leading rural insurer, offers practical advice on the risks and rewards of owning a thatched property.

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Claims for fires in thatched properties during 2014 are expected to cost NFU Mutual in the region of £4.6 million once all settled. However, the number of fires in thatched properties accounted for less than 1% of all fire claims in domestic properties handled by the insurer during the year.

Nicki Whittaker, a High Value Home Specialist at NFU Mutual, says: “Maintenance and fire are the two most common concerns voiced by prospective buyers, but statistically a thatched roof is no more likely to catch fire than a conventional roof. It is simply a matter of taking precautions and making sure you understand and take steps to minimise the potential risks involved.”

A new thatched roof should last between 15-35 years, depending on the type and quality of materials used, whilst maintenance on a typical three to four bedroomed home will usually include replacing the roof ridge every 10-15 years.

While thatched roof homes are no more likely to catch fire than homes with a conventional roof, it is important to remember that if they do ignite the fire is very difficult to control and the results can be devastating, with some buildings being partially or totally destroyed.

Nicki continues: “As 90% of thatch fires relate to chimneys and the use of wood-burning stoves, making sure your chimney is swept and inspected on a regular basis and that it is appropriately lined can all help to reduce the fire risk.”

Check out the National Society of Master Thatcher’s to find your nearest registered member or speak to Thatching Advisory Services if you are unsure about the condition of a thatched roof.

How to maintain the perfect thatched roof:

1. Take time to stand and look at the condition of the thatch.

2. If fixings are exposed it could indicate it is nearing, or is at the end of its life.

3. If gullies are appearing – vertical deep patches of rot – these will require the attention of an experienced thatcher.

4. Wet patches on the eaves could indicate the thatch is leaking.

5. 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.

6. 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.

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