Here’s what you need to know about having a thatched roof

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Thatching is the oldest form of roofing still in existence; it has been in use for around the last 10,000 years. In the last century, with building developments expanding, thatching lost favour with many people as it was often regarded as an expensive way of roofing your house. However, the last few decades has seen an increase in thatching's popularity. Indeed, it is widely used today on country houses and cottages, and on converted barns to provide a traditional look. Thatching is also popular throughout the country for garden structures and fixtures, such a gazebos. Thatching can be shaped into a wide range of designs, which can either adhere to local traditions of the area or provide a unique design.

Why should I thatch my roof?

Thatching provides many qualities which make it more desirable than other forms of roofing:
  • It is an ecologically renewable source.
  • Provides an individual look.
  • Makes for a superb insulator in winter, yet is also cool in summer.
  • When compared with tile roofing, thatching is comparatively cheap.
  • Planning departments look upon thatching favourably when it comes to planning applications.
  • It raises the selling price of a house, so proves to be a good investment.

Types of thatching

A range of materials are available for thatching, and you should discuss with each thatcher what material would be best for you. Types of materials available are:
  • Norfolk Reed (Water Reed, Marsh Reed, Continental Reed) – This is the most popular type used due to its long lifespan. The preparation of the reed is also less labour intensive and the thatcher can learn this method faster than the others.
  • Combed Wheat Straw (Devon Reed) – This is probably the oldest type of thatching material that is used. Its preparation takes longer than that of Norfolk Reed and it also has a shorter lifespan, making it slightly less popular.
  • Long Straw – The preparation of this material is very labour intensive and has a relatively short lifespan. However, it gives the “tea cosy” look which many people may want from their thatch and the laying rarely affects historic ceilings and timbers, thus making it more suitable for older or historic houses.

What is the ridge?

The ridge is the thatch which covers the upper part of the roof where the covers join. This part of the thatch has a great deal of character and the thatcher will hand craft it. Many thatchers stick to one pattern, acting as a sort of signature. However, there are a range which you can choose from, provided by a variety of different thatchers. Ridges are either flush, meaning that they are flat to the rest of the thatch and at the same level as it, or block, meaning that they stand away from the rest of the thatch. Instead of using a reed or straw ridge, a sedge ridge can be used instead. This is a very sharp type of moss.Types of ridges you can choose from include:
  • A simple straight pattern and thatch cut. This is often specific to the thatcher.
  • A complex egg and dart pattern, which consists of an egg shaped design followed by a dart, anchor or arrow shaped one.
  • A hearing bone pattern, which is a zigzag pattern.