Until the late 1800s, a large number of houses in the UK used thatching for the construction of the outer roof. Now, however, there are currently only around 60,000 houses in the UK that have thatched roofing. Although most of these are old builds – some of which are even listed – there are still new thatched properties built in the UK.
Thatched roofs require maintenance and are more susceptible to fire damage than regular roofing. But they also offer great insulation and are very environmentally friendly. A thatched roof also usually adds value to the overall price of the property.
Although there are very few thatched houses left in the UK in comparison to regular roofed homes, of which there are over 24 million, there are still enough for many insurers to offer cover that accommodates the unique needs of a thatched roof property.
We are going to take a look at thatched property insurance, what it is, and whether or not it is expensive.
Is thatched property insurance expensive?
On the whole, thatched property insurance is more expensive than regular home insurance. This is for many reasons, as we shall see, but a significant factor is the increased risk of severe fire damage that can be caused by a thatched roof, though it is important to note that a thatched roof does not increase the overall risk of fire.
Because properties with thatched roofs are increasingly rare, thatched property insurance is regarded as specialist insurance. This means that many insurers will not offer it. A-Plan offers thatched property insurance that can be tailored to the specific needs of your property.
So let’s jump in and take a look at exactly what is a thatched property?
What is a thatched property?
A thatched property refers to any building that uses dry vegetation for the roof. In the UK, the most common types of vegetation used for thatching are long straw wheat or water reed. However, there are other types of thatching such as palm, heather, bamboo, sedge, rushes, eucalyptus, or willow, though these are more often seen in other countries.
The thatched material is layered in such a way so as to channel water away from the inner roof of the house. Thatching can be used on any roof that already has a pitch of at least 50 degrees. Because the majority of the vegetation stays dry in wet weather and is densely packed, thatching also functions as insulation.
What is thatched property insurance?
Thatched property insurance – sometimes known as, ‘thatched roof home insurance’ or ‘thatched roof insurance’ – is home insurance that is specifically designed for properties with a thatched or partially thatched roof. As with regular home insurance, thatched roof home insurance policies cover you against damage caused by extreme weather or accidents, as well as theft and vandalism.
However, thatched property insurance is a specialist form of home insurance because it provides cover against certain issues that pertain only to a thatched roof property. This includes the increased risk of fire and the cost of hiring specialists to perform any fixes, replacements, or maintenance services.
Why do thatched properties cost more to insure?
Thatched roofs require expertise to build and maintain. Once, such expertise would have been commonplace amongst builders and roofers, but now there are fewer and fewer craftspeople who have those skills and those that do will charge for them. So any damage or maintenance work that requires a fix or replacement will be more expensive than it would be on a regular roof, which, in turn, raises the cost of the insurance premiums.
Thatched properties are also a greater fire hazard. A thatched roof is no more likely to catch fire than a regular roof, but if it does catch fire the flames can spread easily and the consequences can very quickly become devastating. This is perhaps the main reason that thatched property insurance is more expensive than regular home insurance.
Many thatched properties date back hundreds of years and are often listed buildings. This means that the building is regarded as being of historical or architectural interest and is therefore protected against certain changes or renovations. This not only means that the building’s infrastructure may be old and outdated, but also that there will be particular regulations that must be adhered to when performing any building work or repairments. The cost of adhering to these regulations will likely add to the overall cost of the insurance premiums.
How to reduce the cost of your thatched property insurance
Due to the risks outlined above, the cost of thatched property insurance is always going to be more than the cost of regular home insurance on a property of the same value in the same area but with a regular roof.
However, there are still plenty of ways you can ensure that the cost of your thatched property insurance is kept to a minimum. Most of these recommendations ultimately reduce the likelihood of a fire or of extensive fire damage.
Increasing the fire safety of the house is the best way to reduce insurance costs. You can do this by using a fire retardant spray or installing an aluminium foil barrier.
If you have a chimney you should ensure that it is cleaned and cleared on a regular basis – at least twice a year – and that you have proof and receipts of the work. You should also get multiple fire alarms installed around the house and make sure you have at least one on every level, though preferably one in every room.
Having up to date and serviced electrics can reduce the chances of fire and therefore can also reduce your insurance premiums. You should aim to have an inspection every five years and an immediate check if you have just moved in.
What are the advantages of a thatched roof?
So with higher insurance premiums and greater risk of fire damage, why would anyone choose to live in a thatched property? What are the advantages?
Well, the first and most obvious advantage, is that thatched properties are charming and therefore attractive to buyers. Since many thatched properties are listed and others are seen as having a rustic aesthetic, thatched properties generally cost more than similar properties in the same area with regular roofing.
A thatched roof is also a natural insulator that keeps the whole house warm in the winter and cool in the summer. This will save you money on heating (and cooling) bills. It is also a lot better for the environment, both because of the heating costs and because the resources used to make thatch are sustainable.
Thatch is incredibly flexible and can be fitted to any property. It is also a highly durable material that can last for many decades with the right maintenance.
What are the disadvantages of a thatched roof?
Beyond the added fire hazard, there are also a few other disadvantages that come with having a thatched roof.
For example, a thatched roof is expensive to initially install or replace. It is a heavily labour intensive process that requires specialist workers and can take a number of weeks depending on the size of the property. Although thatching is durable and can last a long time, if it is poorly maintained it will need replacing as the vegetation can rot.
Maintaining a thatched roof can also be a lot of work. They need to be regularly checked for mould, leaks, and bird’s nests, all of which can make themselves at home on a thatched roof. Other maintenance jobs include needing to change the ridge caps every few years to ensure the roof is as waterproof as it can be.
How to maintain a thatched roof
A well maintained thatched roof can last over 50 years. But, as with any part of a house, it does require upkeep to ensure to utmost longevity.
The most important part of maintaining your thatched roof is to consistently keep a check on it. Once, if not twice a month, have a look at both the inner and outer layers of the roof to ensure there are no holes or leaks, no mould, no damp, and no bird’s nests or other animals living inside. Pay especially close attention just before, during, and shortly after the winter months, because this is when leaks, damp, and mould are most likely.
You should also remove any trees that block the sunlight on the thatch. This is so that the thatching can dry properly and not become damp or rotten after cold and rainy weather.
If your roof requires repairing, use professionals rather than trying to do it yourself. The craft of thatching is highly specialised and requires expertise and professional care. There are many companies and specialists that offer such services and they will always do a better job than a DIY fix. Although this may be an expensive option, you can sometimes get grants from the council, especially if your property is a listed building.