Some Professional Advice
If you have a thatched property in the UK or Ireland it is worth shopping around for Insurance cover through several specialist Insurers who deal with insuring thatched roofs.
Please contact us and we can forward the details of the companies that we have details for. Please specify UK or Irish Companies. We do not receive commission for introducing you to any particular Company. The Insurance Company may send you a questionnaire about the roof which we would be pleased to help you in fill in.
The Real Fire Risks for Thatched Roofs
A recent headline of 8th July 2011 “Dry weather sparks fire risk” from an Insurer of thatched properties illustrates how much confusion there is about the way a thatch roof works.
The article quoted a technical survey manager who said:
“We’re definitely seeing more fires in thatched roofs this year, which we believe is a result of the weather. Thick thatch is obviously highly flammable, but conditions in the UK mean it’s usually damp, which suppresses the risk. But when it’s dried out like it is now in many parts of the country, fire becomes a much greater risk”.
A thatch roof works by repelling water from the surface – damp does not penetrate more than an inch into the surface of the reed or straw and therefore the underside will always remain dry irrespective of weather conditions. The surface will also very quickly dry out with the sun and the wind. The same manager in fact states this very point – “Once a fire takes hold of a thatched roof, it’s incredibly hard to extinguish. Thatch actually repels water very effectively, which makes a fire crew’s job much harder”
It is now generally accepted that by far the most widespread cause of thatch fires are faulty chimneys and heat transference through old chimneys.
On a roof we are now re-thatching, the thatch owner is having all four chimneys re-built.
We have taken the old single brick chimneys down and with one of them the mortar was so badly decayed that we were able to virtually remove the courses of brick by hand without using a hammer! This same chimney was being used 3 months ago and the inside of the bricks was caked in soot and old ash! Fortunately the old thatch was a single 12″ thickness of water reed and not the multiple layers of straw found on many thatch roofs (see the pictures on my blog December 13th 2010).
Dry thatch roofs on their own will never be a fire risk but thatched roofs with old chimneys and those without flues, chimneys of insufficient height above the thatch and carelessness in burning all sorts of rubbish in chimneys will be a risk.