From an historical perspective, dwellings with thatched roofs in Britain were used to house the poorest families; it was the cheapest form of roofing and was often substandard. By comparing early photographs of thatch with those of today, the differences between the condition of the thatch becomes immediately obvious. With social changes during the last 100 years, thatch ownership has changed too; with many discerning owners wishing only that their thatch looks as good as the day it was finished, this is an unrealistic and expensive aspiration.
Many roofs are re-thatched while they still have a useful life remaining; the tendency is to apply a spar coat when the roof starts to look “untidy”, the reality is that a scruffy roof that is keeping the property warm and dry is fulfilling its intended function. A thatched roof will wear and lose some of the original “chocolate box charm” but for many years after this, it will remain a serviceable roof covering.
Traditional annual patch and repair on a National Trust property. Few owners nowadays want their thatch to look like this, although it would have been the norm a couple of generations ago.