Five common mistakes

Five common mistakes that some thatch owners make:

1. Installing a wood burner without first checking your chimney.

Wood burners have found to be a common cause of devastating thatch roof fires. They generate tremendous heat which can pass through the thin walls of a chimney and can ignite tinder dry thatch. Thatch owners should check that their chimney is in good condition and have an appropriate lining. Ideally the top of the chimney including the pot should be a minimum of 1.8 metres above the thatch.

2. Buying a thatch property without having a written survey.

Just as you wouldn’t buy a second hand car without trying to find out as much as possible about its history you shouldn’t buy a thatched property without first knowing as much as possible about its condition. Ask a Thatcher to carry out a written roof survey. Most surveyors will automatically suggest this anyway as their expertise will not extend to thatched roofs. The survey should tell you how old the thatch is, any problem areas and likely repair / re-thatching costs going forward. Do not just accept the verbal comments of a thatcher (unless you know the roof is very new) because if you find out the advice you were given was misjudged you will have no comeback.

3. Accepting the lowest price for thatching work.

We all want the best value for money deal available, but this does not always mean cheapest is best. If you are looking to buy a new washing machine, then it makes sense to compare like for like models and buy the cheapest. This unfortunately does not work with thatch roofs. All Thatchers are different and despite seemingly providing the same specification for the same job, the items they include or more importantly exclude will vary greatly. Some will ask you to pay for the scaffolding, others will include it in their price. Some will strip off a top layer of old thatch so that the new coat of thatch does not get too near the top of your chimneys, some will just go over the base coat and not strip anything. Some will thatch to a 12-14” thickness, others will just put a much thinner layer on. Some Thatchers will fit wire mesh to the whole roof and others just to the ridge. Always question why the Thatcher has recommended what he has done in his quote and don’t be afraid to quote to him what other Thatchers have said.

4. Assuming that because a Thatcher calls himself a Master thatcher or has been thatching for many years then this means he is a good craftsman.

Anyone can call themselves a Master Thatcher and so it doesn’t actually mean anything. What is more, because there are no universally accepted agreements on thatch specifications no two Thatchers will work alike. Most people like things this way because it enhances the notion that thatching is a craft. You should therefore carefully study his quote and ask to see old and more recent examples of his work. One fool proof way of gauging the integrity of your Thatcher is as follows; rather than ask him for selective customers which he will be happy to supply, ask him for the last 6 months work he has done with addresses, the phone numbers of his customers and the start and finish dates. Also ask him how many people he employs and is he fully insured. If there are any gaps in his schedules, ask him why this is. Also it will give you some idea of how long your job will take if you employ him.

5. Paying up front for a job that has not started.

There is no reason why you should be badgered into paying a deposit for work that has not started. You are not buying double glazing where your windows have to be made off site to a certain size and are unique to your property. Your Thatcher’s suppliers will be able to deliver materials for your job virtually on the day he or she starts. They may go to his storage yard or to your property and he will normally be given 30 days to pay for them. Suppliers who ask for immediate payment normally do so because of a previous bad payment experience with the Thatcher or because he is a part time Thatcher. Check your Thatcher’s payment terms prior to him starting and make sure they are written down and you are both in agreement. Be clear as to what circumstances may arise whereby he may ask for extra payments as the job progresses. Most good Thatchers work on a fixed price and the only ‘extras’ that may be added are unseen items like the condition of roof timbers.