Many properties across the UK sport thatched roofs, and this number is only growing as more homeowners decide to have a thatched roof installed on their property. Before having a thatched roof installed, or before buying a property with a thatched roof, one of the biggest questions asked quite frequently is “are thatched roofs protected?”.
You will want to know that you are making a wise investment that won’t cost you a large amount of money down the line, so it is only natural to ask whether thatched roofs are safe and protected. One of the biggest concerns to using dry materials on thatched roofs is whether they are at risk of fire and, if something should happen to your thatched roof, whether the roof and you are protected.
Well, all thatched roofing should be installed with a suitable fire resisting building board (FRBB) to protect the roof timbers. This will provide a minimum of 30 minutes of fire protection for your thatched roofing.
Additionally, thatched roofs can be insured, but you will need to work with an insurance company that specialises in thatched roofing. While we at the NSMT don’t provide thatching insurance, and we don’t recommend any insurance companies in particular, we can point you in the right direction. Call us today on 01530 222954 to find out more.
How to Keep Your Thatched Roofs Safe
One of the main questions that those with thatched roofs ask of us is “how can I keep my thatched roof safe?”. Thatch fires are not common, but they can happen, and most of the time they are very easy to avoid altogether. Around 90% of thatched roof fires start as a result of using a wood burning, open fire, or multi-fuel stove.
Thatch is designed to repel water to keep the interior protected, and this can make it difficult to put a fire out, so we recommend following the below guidelines to keep your thatched roof safe.
It is incredibly important to have your chimney and flue swept by a professional, and we recommend once a year for smokeless fuel, oil, or gas fires and every six months for other fuel types. You should also have it thoroughly checked by CCTV survey every few years, as this can identify any faults or damage. Plus, all chimneys and flues should be installed by professionals and be lined in accordance with The Building Regulations Approved Document J Combustion appliances and fuel storage systems.
Any thatched roof should be installed with a specialist fire retardant spray, as these are specially designed for use on thatched roofs. This will help to protect the roof from risk of fire, keeping your thatched roof safe. We also highly recommend carrying out general maintenance on the thatched roof to ensure it is in top condition.
How to Maintain Thatched Roofs
It is highly important to maintain your thatched roof, to ensure its ongoing longevity. However, to understand why maintenance is required for thatched roofs, it is important to understand the factors that can affect the longevity of your thatched roof. Thatched roofing materials are biological materials, which means that they will gradually wear through the actions of weathering and natural, gradual decay.
There are many factors that can affect the longevity of your thatched roof, including:
- Local Conditions
- Thatching Techniques
- Birds and Vermin
The overall longevity of a thatched roof will depend on the actual roof itself, the materials used for thatching, and how well it is maintained.
To maintain the thatched roof, the roof needs to be kept clean, and this must be done by hand. There are different types of thatching rake that can be used to remove leave and moss, and this doesn’t cause any harm to the thatched roof when handled professionally.
You also need to keep any trees and shrubs in check. The thatched roof needs to be kept dry, as this will allow it to last longer, and to do this, trees and shrubs that grow near the house and overhang the roof need to be kept back. A thatched roof can’t dry as quickly in the shade, so it needs access to the sun.
You also need to control the growth of algae, as a layer of algae across your roof will prevent the natural drying process, leading to your thatched roof remaining damp. To protect the roof against algae, an algaecide can be sprayed onto your thatched roof.
Finally, you need to avoid any unnecessary damage to your thatched roof, and this includes ensuring other trades working on your property don’t damage it. Any divots created by ladders or walking on the thatch can increase wear and tear, thereby decreasing the lifespan of your thatched roof.
How to Reduce Risks of a Fire on Thatched Roofs
Each year, around 60 – 80 thatched properties are lost to fires, which is far too many, especially considering these fires can be prevented. The properties most at risk to fire is those with deep thatch, particularly those constructed pre-1960s, as these properties are incompatible with the installation of modern wood burning stoves that many homeowners wish to invest in.
While chimney fires are a high risk for properties with a thatched roof, there are some common sense preventative actions that can be taken.
Modern multi-fuel stoves fitted into old fireplaces can compromise chimney safety and cause a fire in the thatch. We recommend getting the chimney installation and construction checked by a professional and using an alternative heater. We also recommend that the chimney be swept twice a year, once in October and once between February and March.
Use a Log Burner Safely
The only safe fuel to use when you have a thatched roof is properly seasons wood, ideally cut in year one, stored in year two, and used in year three. An alternative is to buy kiln dried wood, but the wood moisture content needs to be below 20%. You should never burn rubbish or treated timber.
There are some warning signs that you should be on the lookout for, and we have listed these below for you:
- Stoves are not incinerators – do not burn any waste material
- Chemically treated timbers and building waste will produce tar and toxic gasses
- A properly managed fire, using correct fuel, won’t blacken the glass
- Look at bird guards and spark arrestors – if black, there will be tar build up in the chimney which could ignite (most common cause of chimney fires)
- Soot is a powder – any lumps indicate tar formation in the flue
- Fire can burn unseen in deep thatch for several days before it is detected
Check Out Our Thatcher Services
Hopefully after reading the above, you will be much more informed regarding thatched roofs and the fire risk associated with them. However, we hope that this information hasn’t put you off thatched roofs, as the risk of fire is minimal when you work to maintain the roof and engage in safe procedures.
If you are now interested in the installation of a thatched roof, and wish to find a reliable thatcher to assist, we can help at the NSMT. We have a handy database that lists all registered master thatchers in the UK, and you can use this database to find a professional thatcher near you.
If you require further information regarding thatch, we are the experts and are happy to help. Call us on 01530 222954 or send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.