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Demystifying the facts about thatched houses

Thatch has been used as a roofing material on houses in Britain since the Bronze Age. Although most often equated with period cottages and farm houses, today, there are plenty of new-build country houses being built with thatched roofs.

Once described as “the marmite of the property world” for their love-hate impact on buyers and having gone through a decline in the 80s and 90s, they are rising in popularity again.

Winkworth sell thatched houses and cottages predominantly through our offices in Marlborough, Devizes, Salisbury, Exeter as well as, Romsey and Winchester. While typically found across the West Country, Wiltshire, Hampshire, the Cotswolds and over in East Anglia, there are examples of thatched roofs all over the country—including a few in Scotland. They aren’t exclusive to the British Isles either, with thatch used as a roofing material in Germany, Holland, Denmark and Northern France, particularly in Normandy and Brittany.

Exeter, Devon, EX5

Exeter, Devon, EX5

For more information please visit Winkworth Exeter or call 01392 271177.

“There are a number of new-build houses in rural villages where owners or developers are choosing to use thatch as the roofing material,” explains David King, head of Winkworth Country House department. One reason is down to an increased awareness in sustainability. Not only are thatched houses extremely attractive from an architectural point of view but they tick many environmental boxes, too as it’s one of the most environmentally friendly materials available for roofs—thatch is renewable and is both grown and harvested without the need for machinery.

Additionally, with more eyes on ever-increasing fuel bills, thatched roofs bring another unique benefit: they provide excellent insulation meaning the house will stay warm in the winter and cool in the summer, thereby reducing heating and cooling costs.

Michelmersh, Romsey, SO51

Michelmersh, Romsey, SO51

For more information please visit Winkworth Romsey or call 01794 511911.

“I suspect another reason for their rise in popularity is as a result of modern methods which address one of the key concerns about thatch: the fire hazard,” continues David. These include specialist retardant sprays which are applied on the outside of the completed thatch and give protection from embers and sparks from the chimney, bonfires, fireworks and Chinese lanterns. Additionally, there are chimney heat monitors and alarms which alert about heat around the chimney area and semi-rigid slabs which give further protection and allow for more time should a fire take hold for the fire services to arrive.

“Aside from the fire hazard concern, the other concern about owning a thatched house is to do with maintenance costs. “But the reality there is that, providing they are well maintained, roofs they only need re-thatching every forty to fifty years. The ridge will require more frequent work but that’s a much smaller job,” explains David. “As a buyer, it’s important to find out from the vendor when and by whom the property was last thatched and make sure there’s a well-kept record of the work done. Work that remains outstanding to do at the point of sale should be reflected in the sale price.”

Keevil, Trowbridge, BA14

Keevil, Trowbridge, BA14

For more information please visit Winkworth Devizes or call 01380 729 777.

Providing that any work on the roof has met with current building regulations, using fire-retardant methods could result in more reasonable insurance premiums too. In any case, a certain amount of misconception exists around this question. According to NFU Mutual, which insures thatched properties all over the country: “Thatched homes are no disproportionately expensive to insure—it’s simply a matter of shopping around.”

As a result, according to David, “lots of fears can be allayed and there are a number of places where owners can seek advice. Once a would-be owner understands this, they feel more comfortable buying a thatched property.”

Are you looking to buy, sell, rent or let?

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