A guide to having a thatched roof installed, including the costs that you may encounter and what the job entails.
There are over 60,000 thatched properties in Britain currently, and there can be no doubt that a well-maintained thatched roof can enhance the beauty and desirability of a picture-perfect country cottage. Most thatched rooves are made of one of three natural materials - Water Reed or Norfolk Reed as it is also known, Combed Wheat or Long Straw. Each of these has a different lifespan. Water Reed has the greatest longevity, lasting on average 25-50 years, with some lasting up to 60 years. Combed Wheat will last for anything between 25 and 35 years while Long Straw may need rethatching after 15-25 years.
Thatchers operate on a sizing method called a ‘square’ which is an area of roughly 3m on each side, so approximately 9 square metres in area. Expect to be quoted in the region of £700-£1,000, depending on the material selected, per thatcher’s ‘square’, which means that the average-sized roof (which takes about 12 ‘squares’ will cost somewhere in the region of between £8,000 and £12,000 for materials alone. You will pay extra for the latest fire-retardant sprays to be applied-some insurance companies insist on these, so you need to check your policy carefully. If you are considering investing in a thatched property, this is a considerable expense that needs to be borne in mind. Also, all thatched roofs, of whatever material, require regular maintenance and upkeep to ensure they last as long as possible.
As well as the high cost of the thatching material itself, the labour costs can be considerable as re-thatching a roof is a time-consuming and labour-intensive job with everything being done by hand. It can take 2-3 thatchers around one month to complete an average roof. You can expect to be paying a daily rate of between £100 and £225 a day per thatcher depending on your location and the complexity of the job. There is also the cost of the scaffolding to factor in. If the old thatch is being removed, then this will also add to labour costs.
There are three types of thatched roof you can choose from; water reed, wheat reed and long straw. Water reed is the most robust choice and is more likely to last longer too. To replace or repair a water reed thatched roof, a complete roof strip back (to the timber) is required, whereas wheat reed and long straw roofs only need to be partially stripped.
To install a thatched roof from scratch, a lot of preparation is needed to get the roof ready. Thatch needs to be attached to a wooden frame, so stripping the existing roof is essential, and then a timber skeleton is created and fixed to the roof.
Before purchasing any thatch, the roof needs to be measured accurately in square metres. If you want double thatch, ensure to double the measurements. Remember, to always add 10%-15% for overlapping and overhang.
Once the thatch panels are bought, they’re ready to be attached to the timber roof frame. To ensure the thatch is weatherproof and bird proof, every individual strand of thatch should be under tension (known as springing or kick), as well as being held firmly with nails. The thatch panels are layered on top of one another until the entire roof is covered. A roof ridge will be placed at the top of the roof and will need replacing every eight years or so.
You will first need to consider what type of thatch you want-this will impact the longevity as well as cost so needs to be given meticulous consideration. You may need to adhere to local guidelines that outline an aesthetic to be followed. If you are unsure, then you will need to contact your local Planning Department who will be able to answer your questions.
You'll need to consider if you want to remove all or part of the original thatch and who's going to pay. Ensure you are comparing like-for-like quotes. Always ask for a detailed quote so you can see exactly what you are paying for.
Give some consideration to whether you intend to fix netting in place to deter nesting birds and other pests such as rodents? This will increase your outlay, so it needs to be considered carefully.
Don’t forget to consider the style of the ridge, as the more decorative designs will cost you more. Think about whether you need the eaves to be wholly or partly stripped and whether you intend having the whole roof wired or just the ridge.
The ridge, or decorative top of the roof, should be replaced every 10-15 years. These provide an opportunity for an experienced thatcher to showcase their decorative skills, so the design of your ridge will impact the total cost of the replacement roof.
Are you planning to have the eaves fully or partly stripped? This will have an impact on the cost of the job, as will the choice to have the whole roof wired or just the ridge.
In total, the cost of replacing a thatched roof can vary somewhere between £15,000 and £30,000, with the many variables mentioned above having an impact on the final amount you will pay.
Here is a list of commonly asked questions regarding installing a thatched roof.
Expect to pay somewhere between £15,000 and £30,000 depending on variables such as size, materials, finish etc.
No, this is never recommended. Hire a thatched roof specialist who has experience in the roof and thatch you want. The roof is an integral part of any property, to help keep out the weather and outdoors, so it must be installed correctly by a professional.
This can take up to a month depending on the size of roof and type of thatched used.
Water reed thatch should last between forty to fifty years, so as long as any other type of the roof. The roof ridge may need replacing every eight or so years though.