Thatched roofs have typically been associated with the idylls of rural life, with evidence of this type of roof dating back to the Bronze Age.
Thatched roofs went out of style for a while but are now making a comeback, with more and more people opting for this type of roofing because of the several benefits it offers.
For starters, thatched roofs are more environmentally friendly than their tiled counterparts because they don’t require any mining or quarrying, and the materials themselves decompose after usage.
They also allow properties to breathe and offer excellent insulation, which is ideal for countries with cold climates.
The use of efficient fire retardant chemicals has led to a reduction in destructive fires, making them significantly safer for use.
And with its recent popularity, it has raised the question, and people are now asking how long a thatch roof lasts. In this article, we will answer all your questions to help you decide if this type of roofing is right for you.
What Is A Thatched Roof?
A thatched roof is a unique and revered design element that is often associated with rural idylls. Thatch roofs are composed of overlapping bundles of dried plant stalks known as thatches.
Thatch has been used as a roof covering for thousands of years, and although thatched roofs are now less common in developed nations, up until the late 19th century, it dominated much of the UK and Europe.
Many charming thatched homes still exist today, and for lovers of chocolate box cottages, they rank among the best houses in the entire world.
The types of materials often used as a roof covering in traditional thatch roofing include straw, water reed, vines, sedges, and other types of dry plants.
When dry and compacted, the material composition of thatch, with its inherent voids and surface flaws, offers excellent insulation.
However, the insulation qualities are less trustworthy when deteriorated by moss and rainwater buildup.
The materials used to make thatched roofs are very dry and highly flammable, and as such, it is necessary to take precautions to prevent a fire and promptly put out flames in the case of one.
Currently, certain companies work with synthetic fibres treated with flame retardants to mitigate the possibility of a fire.
Thatched roofs are mainly used in rural regions due to their low cost and very simple construction.
To put it another way, thatched roofs won’t be common in major cities since it is less tedious to use this construction method when the resources and labour are accessible.
Although thatched roofing is uncommon in the US today, you can still find some houses with thatched roofs.
Given the current trend in eco-home improvements toward using more natural materials, it is expected that this roofing style will become more and more popular for new homes, eco houses, and garden room ideas.
How Long Does A Thatched Roof Last?
The lifespan of thatched roofs depends on several factors, like how skillfully it was built, how steep it is, how frequently it is maintained, and what material was used to build it.
Contrary to popular belief, a thatched roof could last just as long as a regular roof. If properly maintained, they can endure between 15 and 40 years.
The skill of the thatcher is a very important determining factor in the lifespan of your thatched roof. If a thatcher doesn’t know about the thatch or type of property, they risk damaging the roof.
The location of your property geographically will also affect how long your thatch roof will last.
Strong winds and heavy humidity during the warmer months can make life difficult for a thatched home near the ocean.
The thatched roofs of a cottage made of thatch can, however, be negatively impacted by high pollution levels.
Your thatched roof can also get damaged if it isn’t properly protected from vermin and birds.
Thatched roofs under trees can decay more quickly because the sugars dripping from them can encourage germs to grow, thus, the drier the weather, the better.
However, in general, the lifespan of a combed wheat thatched roof is about 30 years, a straw-thatched roof is about 20 years, and a water reed thatch is about 30 years.
However, thatched roofs can endure for up to 60 years with routine maintenance.
Proper maintenance of a thatched roof involves re-covering it every twenty years, which is a relatively cheap process, and a complete removal and replacement after forty years, which is significantly more expensive.
The ridge might also need to be replaced more frequently, say every 10 to 15 years.
How Much Does A Thatched Roof Cost?
The cost of getting a thatched roof can be quite expensive, it typically costs around tens of thousands of pounds, which can be substantial in comparison to other types of roofing.
And for a good reason, as thatching is a highly skilled occupation, and a professional thatcher often needs decades of experience before they can open their own business.
Before starting any work on your home, it is important to consider the total costs involved so you don’t end up getting more than you bargained for.
When getting a thatched roof, the project’s prospective cost should be your top priority, whether you are getting a new one or rethatching your old roof.
There are many aspects to take into account, so it will be quite difficult to estimate the cost of a thatch roof.
Much like any construction project, the cost of getting a thatch roof comes in two parts: labour and materials.
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The project’s scope and complexity have an impact on both costs. In simple terms, a small detached house with a straightforward pitched roof will cost much less than a large one with numerous chimney vents, dormer windows, and other irregularities.
A thatched roof replacement will also be less expensive than having a tiled or slated roof completely replaced.
A system of measurement was established by thatchers in which a sizing method called “square” is used.
The term “square” refers to a portion of the roof that is 10 feet on each side and covers an area of 100 square feet.
The average cottage has a roof area of about 12 squares, so owners should budget between £10,000 and £14,000 for replacement.
However, these costs are dependent on a number of significant factors, including:
1. Structural Repairs
Whether you are repairing or replacing a thatched roof, a significant amount of structural repair is needed in order to ensure the roof is stable and you won’t be back fixing it again in a couple of months.
If a thatched roof needs to be replaced, the labour costs to remove the old thatch as well as the costs associated with transporting and discarding the old reeds must be considered.
The wooden boards that support the thatch may deteriorate or sustain damage as a result of removing the old thatch and would also need to be repaired or completely replaced.
It is possible that more structural problems will be discovered that must be fixed before the roof can be re-thatched.
2. Ridge Replacement Or Repair
Under normal circumstances, a thatched roof should last for about 30 years before needing a replacement, but because the ridge is subject to the most weather damage, you may need to replace it every 10 to 15 years.
The design of a new ridge will have a significant impact on how much it will cost to replace it because ridges offer an ideal opportunity for thatchers to showcase their ornamental abilities.
Although investing in a well-designed ridge can increase the charm of a thatched cottage, a simple design would be less expensive, so if you are on a tight budget, you can just keep it simple.
However, a ridge replacement will cost you about 25% of the price of a new roof. This suggests that repairing a ridge in an average home will cost about £3,500 to £4,000.
3. Netting Expenses
Thatch roofs tend to attract birds, rats, and other vermin, which can cause infestations and lead to significant damage.
Netting is a method used to keep rats and other pests out of the ridges and to protect the thatch. They often involve the use of galvanized wire, plastic, and sometimes copper wire.
It is important to take precautions to make it as difficult as possible for pests like rodents and birds to establish a home in your attic, especially in the winter.
Pest intrusions can be reduced by covering the outside of the thatch with netting, but as long as there aren’t too many creatures living there, they won’t likely do much real harm.
Not surprisingly, adding netting to your thatch roof will attract extra costs that need to be taken into account.
4. Fire Retardants
As earlier stated, thatched roofs are made of dry, highly flammable materials, and as such, you need to take the necessary precautions to avoid a fire. This involves investing in the use of fire retardants.
Although they cannot stop the thatch from igniting, they can, as their name implies, slow the spread of fire across a roof, giving you time to put out the fire and avoid major damage.
Many insurance companies demand that fire retardant sprays be applied to a new roof, but these materials can be pricey.
It is crucial that you contact your insurance provider to find out whether using these sprays is required under the terms of the policy.
5. Cost Of Scaffolding
Scaffolding can be quite expensive, so establishing accurate comparisons before the construction starts can help you avoid unpleasant surprises.
Ensure that you always ask for quotations from many thatchers to make sure you’re getting the best deal.
Of course, not every property would need scaffolding to rebuild a thatch, but due to safety issues, it is quite likely.
Types Of Thatched Roofs
There are mainly two types of thatched roofs when it comes to the mode of construction which are the open and closed thatched roof construction.
1. Open Roof Construction
Open roof construction is the conventional way of building a thatched roof. This method involves tying the reeds to makeshift pillars in an open design.
The reeds are attached from bottom to top using specialized tools and galvanized sticks.
The open area between the reed and the substructure, which allows for good airflow, is a characteristic of this roof form. Therefore, there is not a clear distinction between the inside and outside of the roof.
Although this roofing method has been used for centuries, a more contemporary methods are starting to challenge it more and more.
Pros Of Open Roof Construction
- Aesthetics: Open thatched roofs are attractive and give the house a distinctive appearance. The natural appearance and feel of thatched roofs, which have been in use for centuries, can give a building a more rural charm. Because of the method of construction, the reed is visible from inside the house.
- Ventilation: Open thatched roofs are porous and allow natural ventilation, they help keep a building’s interior cool and comfortable. In warmer climates, this can be very helpful.
- Durability: Open roof construction has been the way thatched roofs have been built over decades and that is simply because this type of construction works. When constructed and maintained properly, open thatched roofs can be quite durable and can last for several decades. Thatch is also resistant to wind, rain, and fire, making it a good option in areas prone to natural disasters.
Cons Of Open Roof Construction
- Fire hazards: Because thatch is highly flammable, open thatched roofs can pose a serious fire risk, especially in areas where wildfires are common.
- Durability: Thatch is not as durable as other roofing materials, and open thatched roofs have a shorter lifespan and may need more frequent maintenance and replacement.
- Insulation: Thatch is a poor insulator and, depending on the climate, can make the inside of the structure uncomfortable hot, or cold. In contrast to closed roof construction, adding insulation to an open thatched roof is doable but extremely laborious.
- Security: Open thatched roofs may be more easily breached than other types of roofing, which might compromise the safety of the structure and its occupants.
- Dust and drafts: Open roof construction gives way to a lot of dust and draft that gathers at the base of the roof.
2. Closed Roof Construction
Closed roof construction is a relatively new way of constructing thatched roofs. It involves attaching the reeds to a closed surface like insulation boards, multiplex, or underlayment.
Contrary to the conventional and “open” working approach, this building represents a significant advancement in thatching.
Strong improvements in fire safety have been made, and there won’t be any drafts or dust at the base of the roof construction.
Moreover, compared to a conventional thatched roof, this system provides better insulation values. You can select any material you wish for finishing.
Pros Of Closed Roof Construction
- Insulation: The thatch on closed thatched roofs is packed closely together, providing a continuous layer of insulation.
- Less prone to fire: Closed thatched roofs are often constructed with fire-resistant materials, including metal or clay tiles. Compared to conventional thatch, which is formed of dried grasses, these materials are less prone to catch fire.
- No draft or dust: Closed thatched roofs are constructed with no openings or gaps between the thatch layers, making the roof fully impermeable. This lessens the possibility of dust and other materials gathering in the roof space and prevents drafts from entering the structure.
Cons Of Closed Roof Construction
- Maintenance: Closed thatched roofs require a lot of maintenance to keep them in good condition. Every few years, the thatch must be renewed, and the roof must be frequently inspected for leaks, decay, or other problems.
- Cost: Due to the additional materials and labour needed for the enclosed ceiling, closed-thatched roof construction is typically more expensive than open-thatched roof construction. It is necessary to build the interior ceiling out of fire-resistant materials, which can be expensive.
Benefits Of A Thatched Roof
- When properly constructed and maintained, a thatched roof can last for up to 40 years.
- Thatch is essentially a water reed, a tall, grass-like plant with hollow stems that is waterproof by nature. The reeds are layered by a roof thatcher to a height of approximately a foot, making it nearly hard for water to leak through.
- Thatch has a charming appearance since it initially appears a light wheat or honey colour before darkening over time. And unlike today’s more vibrantly coloured tiles and slates, thatch blends beautifully with the surrounding countryside.
- Thatch is one of the most environmentally friendly roofing materials. It can be simply cultivated and harvested without much equipment. And while thatch may require more labour to get and lay, this is mitigated by the material’s environmental friendliness.
- One of the thatch’s distinctive qualities is its ability to be combed and moulded into a variety of attractive forms; some homes have thatch foxes, pheasants, and even dragons perched on their roofs for all to see.
In conclusion, when compared to modern standards, thatched roofs are incredibly beautiful and quite uncommon.
They are therefore very appealing to those who value structures with more personality and character due to this as well as their eco-friendly features.
If you are looking into this roofing style, then you should have a better viewpoint after reading the article.