The art of thatching can be traced back as far as the bronze ages and has become synonymous with the quintessential English country cottage. Though they suffered a decline in popularity in the 1980's and 1990's, they are making a strong comeback with increased awareness of care and maintenance costs and are even seen by some as an eco-friendly, sustainable alternative to other roofing materials. However, thatch is a natural, organic roof and so like all organic products, it has a limited life expectancy. For many, when thinking about purchasing a thatched property, a key question that may arise is the cost of maintaining a thatched roof and how often it might need to be replaced. On average, a thatched roof will last between 40 and 50 years but this can be influenced by a variety of factors such as reed type, weather and care and maintenance.
The rate at which a thatch roof ages is dependent on several factors including how skilled the original thatcher is, the quality of the materials being used and how steep the roof is. If the pitch of the roof isn't steep enough this will cause rain to gather which can speed up the rotting process. For each thatch type, the life expectancy will be different but our partners at the Thatch Advice Centre advise the following:
Water reed: 20 - 40+ years
Combed wheat reed: 25 - 35 years
Longstraw: 15 - 25 years
Ridge: 10 - 15 years
It's worth noting the effect of geographical location and therefore weather can have on the lifespan of a thatch roof. Since thatch is an organic material, moisture can have a big impact on how well it ages. Those who live in warmer, more humid environments will see their roofs deteriorate at a faster rate and the same applies to thatch properties in areas that see a lot of rain and wind.
With all thatch roofs, it's worth considering if you need a full replacement or if it can simply be repaired. although damage caused by storms or even birds can be a frustration, it doesn't necessarily mean that the roof needs to be replaced, often just repairing it will be enough so long as it is done quickly. If the damage caused by a storm or severe weather has resulted in a leak or caused the thatch to shed, it may need to be re-thatched, but you should always consult a professional thatcher first. with proper care and maintenance, a thatch roof can reach its full life expectancy. A home with a thatched roof should be cleaned at least once per year to remove any leaves or moss that may have built up and help the roof to dry more quickly. This must be done by hand and we would always recommend using a professional to ensure no damage is sustained to the roof during the process.
As we have previously discussed, humidity can affect the lifespan of a thatched roof but this doesn't just apply to thatched properties in warm and humid countries. Trees and large bushes growing near the property can contribute to the level of moisture retained by the thatch as too much shade will prevent the sun from drying out the roof and can also restrict the movement of air resulting in more humid conditions. Maintaining any surrounding trees will help extend the life of the thatch and reduce the cost of repairing the roof.
Insuring a thatched property can be a challenge as they are considered to be non-standard homes so ensure you are getting the right level of cover to protect your home and give you peace of mind.
At CGA Protect, we have been insuring thatched properties for over 70 years and can provide tailored policies to suit individual homes.