Thatched roof insurance explained

If you live in a home with a thatched roof you’ll need specialist home insurance. Here’s what you need to know about thatched roof insurance and how to get the best policy
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  • Wondering if you need thatched roof insurance? Thatched homes may be an icon of the British countryside but they are more expensive to insure than other types of home because of the extra risks involved. Thatched roofs are also more costly to replace than standard tile or slate roofs so it’s essential to have the right home insurance in case disaster strikes.

    Most mainstream insurers don’t cover homes with thatched roofs so you’ll usually need to go to a specialist insurer. One exception is Admiral, which offers cover for homes with all types of roof. Rural insurer NFU Mutual is another well-known name that insures thatched homes.

    What is thatched roof insurance?

    thached roof cottage with blue painted door and windows

    Image credit: Future PLC/ Colin Poole

    If you own your home you’ll need buildings insurance to cover any damage to the structure of your property from events such as fire, a storm or vandalism as it could cost tens or even hundreds of thousands of pounds to repair or rebuild your home if it’s destroyed.

    For a thatched home you’ll need a specialist policy that will cover your entire property, including the roof. ‘The main risk is fire for thatch, which would damage the roof and the rest of the property, hence you’d insure the whole property on a single policy’ explains David Fowkes, head of household underwriting at Admiral.

    A thatched roof isn’t necessarily more likely to catch fire than a conventional one but if it does it will be difficult to control and could completely destroy your home. Other risks are wildlife, such as birds, mice and rats, nesting in your roof and damaging the thatch.

    You may also need specialist contents insurance. Getting a combined buildings and contents insurance policy could be cheaper than buying them separately.

    What conditions apply to thatched roof insurance?

    An insurer will want to reduce the risk involved by applying conditions that will make it less likely that you’ll need to claim.

    You’ll be expected to take steps to protect your property. ‘Properly cared for, thatched roofs can last for more than half a century but thatched homeowners should take special care to maintain their property to protect their building, contents and loved ones,’ says Phil Cooper, propositions manager at NFU Mutual.

    ‘That means fitting fire safety equipment like fire extinguishers, fire blankets and smoke alarms, and regularly having the thatch, chimney and electrics checked by skilled tradespeople.’

    exterior thatched cottage with blue door and window frames

    Image credit: Future PLC/ Colin Poole

    Some of the conditions of NFU Mutual’s policy are:

    • Your electrics must be inspected by a qualified electrician every 10 years.
    • Your thatched roof must have been inspected by a competent thatcher within the five years before the policy started.
    • You must have further inspections of your roof at least every five years.

    To reduce the risk of fire you may also not be able to use barbecues or fire pits, or have bonfires, within a certain distance of your home. Some policies may exclude the use of wood-burning stoves. There may be conditions about how often chimneys are inspected and swept, which could be once or twice a year.

    If you don’t comply with the conditions it may invalidate your insurance, which means you won’t be able to claim if you need to. You’ll have to show proof that you have complied, such as by showing inspection reports.

    How to get the best thatched roof insurance

    Getting the cheapest policy shouldn’t be your only consideration for roof insurance. Make sure it covers everything you need it to and that you’re comfortable with the cover levels and exclusions, which may be different than for homes with standard roofs.

    You’ll need to accurately calculate the rebuild cost of your home to get enough cover while not paying for more than you actually need. This is the cost of rebuilding your home from scratch if it’s destroyed, not its market value. It may be higher for a thatched home than for other types because of the specialist skills and materials, as well as the extra time, needed to restore it to its previous state.

    The rebuild cost will be shown on your mortgage valuation If you’ve recently bought your home with a mortgage. Alternatively, consult a surveyor.

    If you live in a newer thatched home built to the Dorset Model – a set of fire protection standards for thatched properties – you’re likely to get a discount on your insurance.

    It’s a good idea to speak to an insurance broker to find the best deal. ‘A broker will know which insurers cover thatched roofs and will make sure your property is suitably insured,’ says Graeme Trudgill, executive director of the British Insurance Brokers’ Association (BIBA).

    You can find one by visiting the BIBA website or calling 0370 950 1790.

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