Devon Thatchers
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Master Thatcher Devon
Its All About Thatch

Thatch is a large part of the character and identity of the British country side. Thatch has been used in England as a roofing material for around 700 years. Lightweight roofing material was required as often walls were made out of materials that simple wouldn’t take the weight of anything much heavier. Thatch was perfect for the job as not only was it light weight, using straw or grasses, but also very easy to source. These factors mean that it is commonly used. Even now in the 21st century.

Though thatch is rarely seen on building other then rural house it was quite commonly used on farm building as well as on town houses. Due to special architectural and historic interest most thatched houses are now listed and have statutory protection. Excellent insulation is provided by thatched roofs, the house is kept warm in the winter and cool in the summer. Due to thatch being an organic material, the stems of the thatching material will, over time, degrade and rot back. Most vulnerable is the ridge of a thatched roof, this will normally need replacing at intervals of anything between 7 to 12 years.

The life span of thatch depends on many variables;

  • The local climate

  • The location of your building

  • The pitch of the roof and overall design of the roof

  • The quality of the materials

  • The skill of the Thatcher and their work

  • Your own care to avoid neglect

If the pitch of the roof is steeper, the rainwater will run down the stems of the thatching material quicker and off of the roof. On a house with a thatched roof that is in good condition the damp won’t penetrate far into the top layer, due to this most of the thatch is dry all the time. Thatch has the advantage that unlike other roofing materials there is no need for guttering because thatch has deep projecting eaves. These eaves ensure that water is shed from the roof well away from the base of the walls, helping top avoid splash damage. The rest of the thatch will normally last much longer. An obvious sign that it is time to carry out some patching or re-thatching is when the fixings of the thatch (which may often be horizontal lengths of split hazel wood or straw called sways or sometimes even steel bar) start to show. Depending on the local conditions and the orientation one pitch of the roof may need attention before the other.

Most people like to compare materials and methods as they want a thatch that is long-lasting. Which type of thatch best fits their house is also considered. Today, more attention is paid to the appearance of their thatch that that of their farming predecessors, often planning a head for a visit from the Thatcher. However, patching is still a practical method of extending the lifespan of a thatched roof.  It is advised to ask a Thatcher when they come to re-ridge if any part of the roof needs a patch at the same time. The colour of the patch will be lighter as first, but will weather.

Some roofs will last longer than others, but most Thatchers would be disappointed if a well thatched wheat reed roof using goods materials lasts less than 20 years. A good
Water reed roof created with the same quality materials and expertise can last over 40 years. Normally a wheat reed roof thatched by good quality craftsmen, using quality materials should last 25 to 30 years. The best guide to the life span to expect for your thatch is to look at some reliable records for your own building and to maybe even carry out some local research.

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