The Pros and Cons of Thatched Roofs

A detailing of the various advantages and disadvantages of Thatched Roofs.

thatch

Thatched roofs have been used for centuries, and not without good reason. They’re not just nice to look at, and whilst they do add great character to a building they are also very durable.

When building your own home, or simply adding a roof, the look is important. Thatch is considered beautiful on all kinds of homes from little, old cottages to brand new houses. Thatched roofs have enjoyed a climb in popularity in recent years as sustainability has become more important to everyone in society. Being a sustainable material, thatch is an ideal way of beautifully roofing a house whilst caring for the environment.

Thatched Roofs: The Pros

- A properly, professionally installed thatched roof which is maintained on a regular basis and sited away from any overhanging trees will offer great durability. You can expect thatch to last anywhere between 15 to 20 years in good condition.

- Being a naturally insulating material, thatch is able to insulate your home without the need for additional insulating materials in the loft space such as natural or synthetic wools. A good insulator will not only keep your home warm in the winter months but will also keep it cool during the summer.

- Thatch changes with age, and as it settles in it will begin to darken. This helps it to blend with the surrounding countryside, creating a sense of harmony and belonging which more boldly coloured and textures tiles and slates cannot offer. This makes thatched roofs perfectly suited to more rural locations, although it is just as attractive in towns and villages.

- Thatch is highly environmentally friendly, and is one of the best eco roof types around. The materials needed are grown easily and harvested with little to no machinery. Whilst thatched roofs are more labour intensive to source and construct than some other options, most of the materials are sourced from rural communities which benefit greatly from the work created.

- One of the most interesting characteristics of thatch is its ability to be shaped into natural, flowing forms unlike the harsh lines that tiles create. This adds great character and personality to a house, and allows you a lot of freedom when designing the shape of the roof.

- Thatching your roof is a fairly low cost method of adding on space to your home by utilising roof space which would otherwise form a loft. Additionally, the high, open ceilings create a very spacious feel to the rooms.

The Cons

- Due to the very heavy labour intensiveness of installing thatched roofs, they are generally a little more expensive than alternative roofing materials might be.

- When it comes to insuring your home, you must expect to pay a premium due to the higher cost of the material and its tendency to dry out and become highly flammable if not properly maintained.

- You will have to carry out an annual inspection of thatched roofs to make sure that any necessary minor repair work is carried out as soon as possible, as this will prevent you having to undertake much more expensive repairs further down the line. The ridge cap – which is the part of the roof that is most abused by the elements – will need to be seen to a little more often in order to prevent any leaks from opening up and to maintain the structural integrity of the roof in general.

- It is important to make sure that thatched roofs are located away from any overhanging trees. This will stop the material from drying out too quickly, which can be hazardous. Also, if thatch is left too damp for too long then it will become susceptible to rot and fungal growths.

- Thatched roofs must be regularly treated with fire-retardant, especially during the summer when the weather can cause thatch to become easily ignitable. The treatment of thatch is based on the impregnation of the material with a combination of biological preservative and fire retardant.  The risk of fire cannot be forgotten, and many professional thatchers recommend that a fire board is used for added safety.

- Other safety measures include:

Lighting Rods

Installing a lightening rod will help to intercept and disperse a lightening strike which could otherwise have disastrous effects on thatched roofs.

Fireplaces

A fireplace in a thatched house will need to be properly walled, with a minimum double-wall thickness surround, and the chimney ought to have a spark resistor fitted and be located high enough that the risk of stray embers is reduced.

Infestations

Thatch can look like quite a cosy home to a number of creatures who won’t do the roof any favours by settling in it, but this shouldn’t be a problem if the roof is properly laid and protected. You should discuss any potential treatments with your thatcher to see what is the best way of dealing with this problem.

Image: Zyance

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