Thatched houses epitomise the quintessential countryside home, but taking on the maintenance of these traditional properties can feel daunting. Lack of knowledge can be costly; with Country Homes & Interiors' top tips you'll know what to look for and what questions to ask before you take the plunge...
1. Get a full electrical check done in addition to your survey with a qualified electrician – dodgy wiring and thatched roofs don't mix! If any work needs doing, speak to the vendors and get it done straight away. Most insurers will require an inspection of electrical circuits every 5-10 years going forwards.
2. Investigate house insurance costs. It's a common belief that thatched properties mean sky-high prices, but this isn't necessarily the case. To receive an accurate quote, approach insurers who specialise in thatch, such as NFU Mutual. They'll offer competitive premiums based on real risks as opposed to inaccurate assumptions.
3. Don't be put off by the state of the existing thatch. Just because it looks dirty doesn't mean it needs re-thatching. Simple repair and strengthening or just a good clean is usually sufficient – and a lot cheaper too! Get a professional thatcher in to judge; if anything does need doing you can negotiate the asking price with the vendors.
4. Always get more than one quotation for thatching work as they can vary massively. Ideally you would want at least three from respectable thatchers – ask the owners of neighbouring thatched houses for recommendations.
5. Employ the professionals. Thatching is a skill that's acquired over time. Bear in mind that the title ‘Master Thatcher' does not imply any particular skill level or qualifications, it merely indicates that the thatcher is an independent craftsman.
6. Research re-thatching restrictions. More than 75% of all thatched properties in England and Wales are listed by English Heritage. If yours is one of them, or is situated within a conservation area, there will be certain guidelines when it comes to re-thatching. Different styles and materials will require permission from your local authority.
7. Check if you're eligible for a re-thatch grant. Many district councils run historic building schemes to help protect and repair listed properties. The amount of money they are able, or willing, to offer differs widely so don't rely solely on this if your pre-survey check says you need re-thatching work done.
8. Have your flue and chimney inspected by a professional to ensure that the brick or stonework and lining is in good condition. Living beneath a thatched roof doesn't mean you can't enjoy the warmth of a real fire, it's just a case of exercising common sense – use appropriate firelighters, have your chimney swept at least once a year and ensure you have a working fire alarm fitted.
9. Ask the experts! For further advice on anything thatch-related, call the Thatch Advice Centre on 02380 428 058.
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