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Thatched House Insurance

Thatched House Insurance for Uk Property

You may find that this type of insurance is usually difficult place, the majority of insurers are worried about the flammable nature of the roof coupled with the often non standard construction and in many cases the age of the property. Often our definition of standard construction does not apply to Thatched Buildings, many are built of bricks but timber frames or part timber are very common. Wattle & Daub (Wattle & Daub consists of a latticework of wooden stakes or poles called wattles, daubed with a mixture of clay and sand and sometimes even animal dung or straw. This was then whitewashed to increase its resistance to the elements. Wattle & Daub is quite common in half timbered buildings as a placement between the wooden beams) can also be found along with a number of other rather esoteric building techniques.

Risk Management
As the owner of a Thatched Building you probably will all ready be aware of the following information so we apologies but as there are over 50 serious fires a year involving Thatched Property, we think it is important to point it out again:-

  • Always be very careful when handling naked flames around Thatched Buildings
  • Try to avoid using candles or if you have to, never leave them unattended
  • Never light bonfires or burn rubbish near to a Thatched Building
  • Make sure that you have the electrics checked on a regular basis

The most commonly reported Fires in Thatched Property is that caused by Wood Burning stoves or other Solid fuel Devices, if you are thinking of installing this method of heating in your property, please seek professional advice. Second on the list are electrical firms, with a lot of Thatched Property having old wiring, having it checked can help avert a fire.

Thatched Buildings in the United Kingdom – Mention the term thatched building or property and most people will think of a quintessential British scene, in fact there are more thatched roofs in the United Kingdom than in any other European country. Strangely though, whilst we lead the way on this building type we now have to import the bulk of our roofing materials from Eastern Europe. This technique of roofing buildings has been in existence in our country since Bronze Age times and traditionally speaking it is the use of certain types of straw or grass used as a roof covering.

In medieval times, thatched cottages were the norm and were often built as a result of localised country building styles that necessitated a light roof covering. Walls were often built of “wattle & daub” or cob and these structures whilst reasonable sound and waterproof, would not carry a great deal of weight. Rural accommodation was mainly required by the poorer elements of society and thus building and roofing had to be economic. Although traditionally a covering for use in lower grade houses, there is evidence that many quality homes and even church buildings were at some time covered with thatch materials. Thatch was the lightest covering known it was ideal for ” low grade” walls and was often employed by local craftsman. There is much debate as to what constitutes the best thatching material but is must be remembered in days gone by, builders would simply use what ever they could get their hands on, thus most building materials were sourced locally. These meant that across the length and breadth of the country materials as diverse as; straw, broom, flax, grass and sallow to name but a few have all been used as thatch roof covering at one time or another.

With the coming of the industrial age, thatching fell in to decline as better transportation links meant that that building materials could be sent cheaply from most parts of the country, the need for localised materials was thus not so great. Further, industrial farm machinery meant that the by product of harvesting was cut in such a way that it no longer rendered itself useful as a roof covering. Today reeds have to be especially grown for the thatch industry which thankfully is enjoying something of a renaissance. Many people are attracted to thatched property and owners of listed buildings proudly endeavour to keep their property in a way that helps preserve our country heritage.

Thatching is a skill carried out by trained fitters. The materials are tied in to bundles and then laid on to the roof beams and held in place with wooden poles or rods. This layer is referred to as the underlay. Above this is added the overlay and at the ridge-line a final layer is placed, which adds strength to the structure. A good quality Thatcher will fit a roof to a property that should last up to 50 years. Traditionally new layers were simply added on to the old and there are buildings in Britain that have lower thatch layers that are in excess of 500 years old.

One of the major risks factors of thatch buildings is the increase chance of a serious fire and of course once a fire takes hold in a thatched property it can be difficult to extinguish. Due to the age of the buildings many have old or poor quality chimneys and often , fires start in the winter months when hot fire gases break through old or damaged flues. This increased fire risk leads to more expensive insurance premiums. Owning a thatched property carries a great deal of responsibility and a risk management program should be put in to operation to help identify all threats to the buildings and the occupants safety.