It can be a wonderful natural insulator

To the uninitiated, thatch can be daunting and off putting. As estate agents it is common to hear buyers say: “We want a period house, but won’t touch thatch.”  Why?  “Because of the fire risk, maintenance costs and the first floor is usually dark and pokey.”

This is not so and here are some facts about thatch:

How it works

In Oxfordshire, thatch is traditionally made from long straw as this was a natural by-product of farming and has been readily available down the centuries. The reason it is waterproof is that the rain runs down the stalks until is drips off the eaves to the ground.  In storms and high winds, thatch almost never blows away. Some moisture might penetrate the thatch, but it dries very quickly because of the natural movement of air. However, thatch is normally netted to prevent nesting birds from helping themselves to the straw or trying to nest in the thatch. 

Life in a thatched property

There are many attractions to a thatched property – other than the obvious visual ones.  For example, because of its unique insulating properties, your thatched home will keep you warm in winter and cool in summer.

Most thatched houses are old and were built before central heating was installed, so the house was warmed by an open fire.  It follows, therefore, that a real fire in a thatched house is as natural as the material on the roof - it is simply a matter of exercising common sense.

Statistically, homes with thatched roofs are no more likely to catch fire than those with conventional roofs - see the websites below for guides on fire safety for thatched properties.

Thatched homes are not disproportionately expensive to insure - it is simply a matter of shopping around and finding an insurer who is experienced in thatched properties.  See the link below.


Thatch maintenance must be done by a trained thatcher as it is a craft that cannot be learned from a book and done by an enthusiastic amateur DIY-er.  The National Society of Master Thatchers (see web link below) has a list of members who have passed their stringent vetting procedure to become a member so you can be sure that the registry includes the best thatchers in the country. 

Timing and cost

Typically, the ridge should be inspected and will probably need some work every 10 years and the thatch may need more replacing every 15-30 (or so) years; however, it is almost impossible to give a hard and fast rule as each thatch is different. 

You can extend the life of your thatch by decades by doing regular maintenance work if, and only if, you employ a qualified thatcher as they will have access to good straw, know from experience what needs to done and may even have laid the thatch in the past.

Some do’s and don’ts


  • Use a Master Thatcher (see website below)
  • Plan ahead – they can be booked up to years in advance as major work is often seasonal
  • Have the chimney swept regularly
  • Consult a thatcher to give you advice before you install a wood burning stove to ensure that your chimney is correctly lined
  • Maintain the thatch
  • Shop around for insurance (see website below)
  • Check for grants from your local Conservation Officer
  • If you are worried about your survey, consult a thatcher to give you a professional opinion
  • Consider the insulation benefits of thatch


  • Ever be tempted to do DIY
  • Mount an aerial or satellite dish on the thatch
  • Install a wood burning stove or do any chimney modifications without consulting a thatcher
  • Ever walk on the thatch or the ridge
  • Worry about moss – it is not always a problem
  • Worry – thatch is traditional, and natural. It is also a renewable resource and it insulating properties help cut fuel bills dramatically. Because most thatched properties are listed there are benefits and grants available.

National Society of Master Thatchers website:

Insurance specialists:

WEST-The Property Consultancy 01865 510000.