Thatched roofs have a lot of character and look gorgeous. No wonder chocolate box photographers loved them. The pictures would always depict a scene of a tranquil country cottage with a thatched roof and roses around the door. Pure romance.
Most of the thatched roof houses situated in the UK are in the County of Devon in the West of England. And the only thatched roof you’ll see if you visit London is on the Globe Theatre on Bankside. Shakespeare’s theatre has a thatched roof made from Norfolk reed with hazel spars.
What many people don’t know is that a thatched roof needs a lot of maintenance. You will have to do some work to make sure it keeps its beautiful and unique appearance and doesn’t become a fire risk.
In this guide we give you estimated thatched roof costs for new roofs, replacements, and ridges, so you can see how much you need to spend. We’ll also tell you about the different thatch materials and the advantages and disadvantages of a thatched roof in comparison with other roofing materials.
We also advise you what affects the cost of thatching, how you can save money and the best way to find a roof thatching specialist. Finally, we’ll tell you how a thatched roof is installed and answer some common frequently asked questions.
How much do thatched roofs cost?
|Roof Size||New Thatched Roof||New Insulated Thatched Roof||Thatched roof replacement||Roof ridge||Time Required||Estimated Total Cost|
|Small, thatched roof (6 squares or 600 square feet)||£3,300 to £5,220||£4,700 to £8,800||£4,700 to £7,100||£800 to £2,200||2 to 3 weeks||£4,100 to £11,000|
|Medium thatched roof (9 squares) or 900 square feet)||£5,000 to £7,900||£7,900 to £13,300||£7,100 to £10,800||£1,250 to £3,300||3 to 4 weeks||£6,250 to £16,600|
|Large, thatched roof (12 squares) or 1200 square feet)||£6,700 to £9,400||£9,400 to £17,800||£9,400 to £14,400||£1,700 to £4,450||4 to 5 weeks||£8,400 to £22,250|
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Thatching has a price per ‘square’ and each square measure 3 x 3 metres (9m2). In feet, this works out to be 10 x 10 feet, which is 100m2. This table shows you the estimated costs by roof size, beginning with a small roof of 6 squares up to a large roof of 12 squares.
Finding a thatched roof specialist is easy if you use Household Quotes. Fill in the online form. Tell us what you need. Then we’ll get local thatched roof specialists to give you no-obligation quotes.
What affects the cost of thatched roofs?
Choice of Thatching material
- Water Reed – Water reed is the most common type of thatching material. Norfolk reed is in high demand, but not enough of it is grown, and so it is expensive. Most reed thatch now comes from Hungary or the Ukraine. Water reed thatch will last around 55 to 65 years and then it will need replacing.
- Wheat Reed or Devon Reed – Thatcher’s use wheat reed, or Devon reed, as it is known, to create the thatched roof ridging, as well as using it for coatwork thatch. It is also known as combined wheat straw and it should last about 20-40 years.
- Longstraw – Is perfect for older houses or those with historical interest. The straw gives the roof a less smooth appearance which is what makes it popular. You can expect a straw thatch to last between 15 and 20 years. It’s also more affordable than reed. You’ll find it is about 40% cheaper.
- Heather or turf -You will see more heather or turf thatched roofs in Scotland where it is easily available. European thatched roofs also use heather or turf for ridging.
- Rye straw isn’t used much for roofs because it doesn’t last long enough, but some thatcher’s use it as a base coat.
Roof size and design
Thatching a roof is labour intensive. A thatcher works without machinery and the thatch is laid by hand. Creating a thatched roof requires a great deal of skill, so labour costs are high. There are three roof types you can choose from:
- A full gabled end has less straw at the ridge and will be the cheapest option
- A half-hipped design has more straw, but it is not a full covering. It will be more expensive than a full-gabled, but not the most expensive.
- A full-hipped type has much more coverage than the previous two and this one is the most expensive choice
The design also has a bearing on the cost. It will take less time to install a plain thatched roof than one with an intricate design. Thatched roof designs take time and skill and so cost more.
Ridge Type and Pattern
The type of ridge you choose and the pattern you have will play a part in the amount of money you pay for your roof.
The ridge is at the top of the roof and it’s where you see the thatched patterns. Thatcher’s mainly use straw to create ridges, even if the coatwork is reed. Your ridge will need replacing long before the rest of the roof. A ridge repair is the most common of all thatch repairs.
In the UK we still use wheat, rye, oat straw, turfs, or heather. On European thatched roofs you’ll probably see clay tiles which give each roof a unique style.
There are two ridge Designs:
Flush – There are a few different names for a flush ridge. They are also called buttup ridge, turnover or wrapover. They are flush with the main coatwork and are commonly made with longstraw.
Block – A block design is around 4 inches thick, and you can see it on top of the roof. Designs are commonly diamond shapes or scallops, but you can have any other type of design as long as it gives an upstand.
The flush design is cheaper to install than the block design. Sometimes people have a block design at the front of the house and a flush design at the back of the house.
The pattern on your thatch can be a simple, straight cut into the thatch, a herringbone design, a spar pattern, or a diamond shape.
But you can have a more intricate design if you choose one and your thatcher can provide it. Your thatched roof specialist will talk to you about designs options and what designs they are able to create for you.
New Roof or adapt an existing roof?
If your thatched roof material is water reed it will need to be completely stripped back to the timber. Or you can repair a straw roof with partial stripping. That means, even though you want to repair your roof, if you have water reed, it will be fitting a roof replacement.
If you need new flashings you can expect to pay about £350.00 for lead, this is presuming scaffolding is already in place for the thatch. If you need scaffolding, then you’ll need to add about another £300.00 to the costs.
Cement flashings are cheaper than lead, although they won’t last as long. You have cement flashings installed for approximately £200.00 plus, the scaffolding if you need it.
Number of windows
The number of windows you have in the roof will also have a bearing on the costs of installing the thatched roof. This is because the work is less straightforward. The thatch is cut put around the window space which takes time.
It is vital to have fire retardants in a thatched roof because they are not fire- resistant. The most common fire retardants are:
- Thatch Batts – These are slabs. A thatcher will install these slabs to the underside of your thatched roof. They will slow down the progress of a fire, but they won’t stop it completely
- Aluminium Barrier Foil – You can apply aluminium barrier foil to the roof to provide a barrier against excessive heat.
- Fire retardant Spray – This is a non-toxic biodegradable spray. Spray it on the roof to prevent the rapid spread of flames
A professional company will install fire retardants. If you want fire retardants applied to the thatch, ask if the thatcher will organise it and include it in the quotation. If not, get a quotation from a company dealing in fire retardants for thatched roofs from Household Quotes.
A roof doesn’t present as many problems as groundwork because the contractor is working at height. But to erect the scaffolding you will need clearance around the house.
If scaffolding isn’t included in your thatched roofing quotation, you’ll need to organise it yourself. The average cost of hiring scaffolding is between £950 and £1,150 a week. Take into account that a thatched roof will take between 4-6 weeks to complete.
Cost of Scaffolding per Week
|1 Week||4 weeks||6 weeks|
You may get a discount because you are hiring over a longer period of time, but that will depend on the scaffolding company.
You can choose a simple design made with straw which will reduce your costs.
When you need a thatched roof specialist, fill in the form on the Household Quotes website. We will have a look at what you need and arrange for specialist roofers to give you no-obligation quotes for a slate roof.
Advantages and disadvantages of thatch and other materials:
|Thatched||· Good insulation|
· Durable – 60 years
· Environmentally friendly
· Can be fire retardant if you install fire retardants to the roof
|· Not fire-resistant or fireproof
· You have to maintain the roof and the surrounding area (overhanging trees)
· You must clean your chimney regularly
· Your building insurance will be higher than someone with a standard roof
· Attracts pests in and on the roof
· Easily replaced
· Fire resistant
· Plenty of choice in styles and colours
|· Heavy so they are hard to install
· Loose colour over time
· Weather may cause cracks and stains
· Lichen and moss growth
· Will break if something falls on to your roof
|Clay||· Long-lasting- 100 years|
· Fire resistant
· Environmentally friendly
· Easy to repair
· Good variety of styles and colours
|· Heavy so difficult to install
· Can move in strong winds
· Fragile: Will break if something falls on your roof
· Easy to install quickly
· Repairs easily
|· 10-15 years duration
· Can become soft in the sun and brittle in the cold
· Must maintain it to keep it looking attractive
|Slate||· Unique appearance and colour|
· Extremely durable should last for 100 years
|· An expensive option
· Might be too heavy for your roof structure
· Fragile – expect breakages when installing and if something falls on your roof
|Zinc||· Long-lasting – Could be centuries|
· Lightweight so easy to install
· Malleable so it shapes easily around objects
· Virtually maintenance-free
What’s involved in installing a thatched roof?
- Erect scaffolding
- Strip off old thatch
- Lay new timbers if necessary
- Make the spars – The thatcher creates spars using wood. They are V- shaped with a point at each end
- Now the roof thatcher takes the sheaves of wheat or read and lays them on the roof. A thatching pin holds each sheaf together
- Now the thatcher will start the coatwork. If they are dealing with reed, they will place the bundle with the flower ends facing upwards. The other end, which is known as the butt-end is pointing towards the ground
- The next part of the job is to take a tool that looks like a small- handled spade. On one side the metal is smooth, but on the other, it is full of ridges. The thatcher uses it to comb the reed or wheat. You will see the thatcher patting the butt-ends of the reed or wheat to make all the ends smooth
- The roof thatcher works his way upwards creating layers of thatch as he goes. He drives the wooden spars through the new thatch into the old thatch underneath
- When the roof is covered the thatcher will then create the ridge with a double layer of thatch. He will also add the design you have chosen
- The layers of thatch, known as courses, are about 150mm thick. It is important that a thatched roof has a sufficient incline so that the rainwater travels downwards and off the roof
- When everything is in place your thatch is complete!
How do I find and hire a professional roofer?
When you need a new roof, firstly ask friends and family, or even work colleagues. Have a look around the area where you live. Is someone having a roof renewed? If they are, you can ask the owner whether they recommend the thatching company?
If you don’t find any personal recommendations, Household Quotes can help you. Simply fill in the online form and we’ll find local roofing contractors to give you no-obligation quotes.
Their members all meet the criteria set out by each association, and they expect high standards.
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What questions should I ask them?
When you talk to a thatched roof specialist ask the following questions:
- Are you a member of SPRA or NFRC? (they are roofing associations with high standards). Or they might be members of the National Society of Master Thatchers. (Although these specialists may be more expensive)
- If they aren’t members of any associations, it could be because they are an old established thatching firm. Maybe it’s a family business that’s been going for generations and the thatchers were trained by family members.
- Do you have a website I can look at? It doesn’t matter if they don’t have one. Instead, ask if they have any photographs you can see.
- Do you have any testimonials or references? If they have a website, it is likely that they have testimonials on the site. They might have case studies as well.
- What is your experience with thatching – If you are talking to an established company, it is likely that they have been in the business a while or it is a family company with youngsters who have were trained by family members
- While you are working on the roof can you install fire retardant materials? Do I need to buy them, or can you supply them too?
- Is the scaffolding included in your quote or do I need to organise and pay for it?
- Do you hire a skip and remove all rubbish, or is that down to me?
- Do you have public liability insurance?
Finally, make sure you get the quotation in writing and read it to make sure it includes everything you agreed during your conversation.
A thatched roof will give your home character. It will also insulate your property well. The ridging will probably need replacing every 15 years, but the rest of the roof will last 60 years or more if you maintain it.
- Decide on your budget and then choose your thatch material and the style you want
- Remember straw is cheaper than reed
- Be prepared for the work to take longer than a month
- Think about fire protection and arrange this if your contractor doesn’t include it in the quote
- Don’t forget to ask if the roofing contractor is a member of SPRA, NFRC or the National Society for Master Thatchers. They might not be members of any association. Thatching companies tend to be family firms that are very well established
- Arrange a scaffolding company to erect the scaffolding if this isn’t included in the quote
If you need help to find a thatching specialist, Household Quotes will help you find a contractor in your area to give you no-obligation quotes.
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Do I need planning permission for a thatched roof?
You are likely to need planning permission, or you will need to conform to building regulations. This is because many thatched roofs are in properties situated in conservation areas or the houses are listed buildings. If you need help and advice about planning, then pay a visit to your local authority planning department.
You will probably find that any repairs must be like-for-like and you won’t be allowed to make any significant changes. A new thatch roof may be subject to certain designs and types so that it blends in with the rest of the homes in the area.
Will I need specialist home insurance for a thatched roof?
Most standard insurers will cover thatched roofs, but it will be at a premium. It may well be worth asking an insurance broker to find you quotes with insurance companies that specialise in thatched roofs. A specialist company may not have the same restrictions as a standard company, and your cover may be more comprehensive.
Can a thatched roof attract pests?
Unfortunately, yes. Pests love thatched roofs because they are warm and dry and sometimes even provide food.
Pests are more prevalent in unoccupied houses that remain empty for long periods of time. Pests prefer this type of habitat because they are not disturbed by the occupants.
Common pests are:
Large pests need dealing with and you should contact your nearest pest control department. They should also be able to advise you how the pests got into the roof. That way you can take appropriate action to block their entrance. A bee specialist can rehome bees and a pest controller can smoke out wasps.
You can also buy false birds of prey to put on the roof to discourage other birds. You must move them into a different position once in a while or the birds will become used to them.
How many years will a thatched roof last?
- Reed – 55 to 65 years
- Longstraw – 15 to 20 years
- Combined Wheat straw – 20-40 years
- Heather and turf – 20-30 years
How should I maintain my thatched roof?
- Clean the roof regularly to remove leaves and moss. You should clean a thatched roof using a rake.
- Make sure there are no overhanging trees because as well as causing leaves to fall on the roof it may cause moisture droplets to dampen the straw. If the roof is in the shade because of the trees, the straw won’t dry out quickly and will lead to damp.
- Spray the roof with a liquid to prevent algae and moss
- Repair any holes that birds may cause
- Keep an eye on the condition of your ridge and your flashings
Are thatched roofs more likely to leak?
If they aren’t laid properly there is a risk of leaks at the corners and on the ridge. But if your roof is treated with a water repellent coating, all your joins are secure and your flashings are in good condition, there’s no reason why your thatched roof should leak. A well-maintained roof does not absorb a great deal of water.
Will a thatched roof keep my home cooler in the summer?
Yes. Thatched roofs are designed to be cool in the summer and to keep you warm and well insulated in the winter. Modern thatched roofs have a high thermal mass and will produce U values. This means that a home with a thatched roof is as energy efficient as any other modern home.
Are thatched roofs a fire hazard?
There is a higher risk of fire in a thatched roof compared to other roofing materials. The problem is that once a fire is in process it spreads rapidly in a thatched roof because of the straw.
When you install or renew your roof you can add fire-retardant materials. But you still have to be careful and make sure your chimney is clean. Smoking in the garden and sparks from a bonfire are also risky.
Do thatched roofs need ventilation?
Thatched roofs are natural ventilators. The material breathes by itself.
How thick is the thatch on a thatched roof?
A thatched roof has a topcoat of around 12 inches which provides warmth and protection from the rain.
Why don’t thatched roofs need guttering?
It is difficult to place guttering on a thatched roof, but they aren’t necessary anyway. The overhang of thatch at the eaves makes sure that any excess water runs off the roof and away from the house.
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