Much has been written about thatch fires, the causes of fires in thatch and what measures you should take to try and prevent this happening.
Most Insurance Companies look favourably on any fire retardants that have been incorporated into the structure of the building (i.e. under the thatch). These normally take the form of a fire felt or fire boarding.
In the unlikely and unfortunate event that your property has a thatch fire where part or the entire roof is lost, consideration needs to be given to a few factors.
Try to get the roof sheeted over as soon as possible to prevent further damage. Often the Fire Brigade will do this for you. Any tarpaulins should be well fixed down because sorting out the claim with your Insurance Company invariably takes longer than planned.
If this is not possible because the roof timbers are too badly damaged you should make enquiries with your Insurance Company if they can give the go ahead for a scaffolding’ tent to be constructed over the top of the property. This will also allow trades people to work on restoring the property, even when the weather is very bad and therefore speed up the reinstatement process.
If your property is listed and is thatched in straw, you will usually have to re-thatch using straw and you will not be allowed to change to water reed. The number and size of windows will also have to remain the same.
When the time comes for obtaining quotes for repairs or renewal of the thatch, it is always helpful if you can show the thatcher a picture of the property prior to the fire, so he can as far as possible replicate the finish of the thatch. If the roof is very old and thatched with multiple layers of straw, the new shape of thatch will be different because the depth of thatch will be a lot less because the thatcher will normally thatch to a maximum thickness of 350mm.
Speak to the thatcher about anything on the roof that you think could be improved; maybe it is the old soil vent pipe that was always an eyesore which can be moved away from the roof or done away with completely. Fitting insulation to the underside of the thatch is something else to consider.
Try and make it a priority to obtain quotes from a thatcher as soon as is possible; many thatchers are well booked up and restoring the roof is generally the first task so that other trades can follow behind such as electricians, plumbers, plasterers and decorators. Sometimes tender documents will go out to a builder who will then contact thatchers along with other trades people. There is nothing to stop you going direct to a thatcher to obtain prices - just let the builder, thatcher and Insurance Company know you want to do this.
If the property has never had a fire felt or fire boarding fitted, it is worth looking at installing these – both will be fitted over the rafters and clearly if your property is very old, you will never (even if you wanted to), have had the opportunity to do this. It is unlikely that your Insurance Company will pay for this, but it is worth asking and they will look favourably on any such fire barriers that are fitted as will prospective purchasers – if you decide to sell the property.
Look carefully also at the condition of the chimneys, which may need re-building and flues fitted, or maybe just re-pointing below the line of where the thatch was.