Thatched Roof Building Survey

(Last Updated: 18/06/2024)
6 min read
A thatched roof building survey, carried out by a qualified RICS surveyor, is highly recommended if you are buying a property with a thatched roof, for your peace of mind.

There are estimated to be 35,000 thatched roof properties in England; 24,000 are listed buildings. Thatching is one of the oldest forms of roofing and dates back 10,000 years.

In recent years, thatching has become less favoured due to the costs of thatched roofs maintenance, the introduction of cheaper materials and the perceived risk of fire damage.

It is highly recommended to get a full building survey if you are buying a property with a thatched roof.

The draw for buying a thatched roof is the feeling of owning what is viewed as the quintessential style for and English home.

The downsides are the concerns over the on-going thatched roofs maintenance, cost of replacement and the potential for fire.

The look of a thatched roof is a statement in itself and with so few properties remaining with the old thatched roof style, owning a thatched roof puts you in a very elite club.

In fact, there are different styles of thatched roof - see below - and different materials used depending on where the property is.

Before buying a thatched roof property make sure you are aware of the pros and cons which are set out in this article because, although a thatched roof is beautiful, there is a price to pay(!)

Click to get a Thatched Roof Building Survey: Specialist RICS Thatched Roof Surveyors- Great availability - Detailed Reports: or call us on 0333 344 3234

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The Building Survey is the most in-depth survey of a property available; it assesses all accessible areas of a home.

RICS recommend the building survey for older properties and particularly those of non-standard construction, which includes those with a thatched roof.

Building survey reports are tailored by the individual surveyor, and can address any additional questions or concerns. Note that this home buyers survey does not include a valuation as standard.

What is used to make a Thatched Roof?

Combed Wheat Straw (Devon Reed) – Lasts 20 to 40 Years

Straw used to be the material used when making a thatched roof. It is a by-product of wheat farming which meant it could be sold to builders wanting to thatch a roof.

The straw was bundled into ‘yelms’ before it is added to the roof and attached using staples, known as ‘spars’. Spars are made from twisted hazel sticks.

The preparation of the combed wheat straw takes a long time and it has a shorter life span.

Norfolk Reed (Water Reed, Marsh Reed) – Lasts 55 to 65 Years

The Norfolk Reed thatch roof came in and offered a longer life to thatched roof, plus the preparation of the reed is less labour intensive. It is also an easier method to learn than the others.

Long Straw – Lasts 15 to 20 Years

Long straw is a very labour intensive material to prepare for thatching and has a short life span. The draw is the beautiful ‘tea cosy’ look that people want for their thatch roof.

The laying of long straw rarely affects historic ceiling and timbers, thus making it more suitable for more historic listed properties.

A well thatched roof can last as long as 40 years; without overhanging trees. It is stated by local authorities that a thatched roof can be re-thatched in a broader range of materials; none of which last as long as Norfolk Reed.

The key area on a thatched roof that needs maintaining is the edges (Ridges) as they bear the full brunt of the elements and will require attention every 15 years.

How long does it take to thatch a roof?

This will depend on the roof and often the steepness; in East Anglia the thatched roof is made steeper and will require the thatch being taken down to the bare boards before being relayed.

A master thatcher can normally complete a 1,000 sq.ft roof in 3 to 4 weeks.

It is important to get the thatched roof surveyed by a RICS surveyor before buying so that you can be sure you know the current condition of the thatch and when it will need re-thatching and or if the edging is in good condition.

How much does it cost to thatch a roof?

The cost will vary per thatcher and by the overall size of the roof and or its style. An average cost is £700 per 10 x 10 feet. You should always get 3 separate quotes from trained thatchers. Poorly thatched roof can leak and will not last as long.


What are the problems with a thatched roof?

Is fire a problem?
Thatch is obviously more combustible than a roof tile, but it doesn't necessarily mean that the roof is going to be the trigger for a fire.

Thatched roof is viewed by insurers as danger and, rightly or wrongly, requires a specific type of insurance. The cost of thatched roof insurance can vary depending on the rebuild cost of the property.

As most thatched properties are listed, the rebuild cost is considerable and the insurance premium is reflective of this.

It is suggested to get fireboard laid underneath thatched roof because it can provide an extra 30 minutes of protection if there is a fire.

Regular chimney inspections and maintained thatch should also help lower your thatched roof insurance premiums.

Thatch Infestation
Birds, insects and other creatures can be found in thatched roof. The best thatchers will make sure they tightly lay the thatch roof so this is reduced.

Infestations reduce the durability of thatched roof and can lead to other structural defects.

A beautiful thatched roof is the sign of a true English home; filled with tradition. A well maintained thatched roof with Norfolk Reed, laid by a master thatcher, can mean you have the best of both worlds.

Be aware though, that a thatched roof comes with maintenance and thatched roof insurance costs, and although there is a risk of fire, it could be worth the risk.

If you are buying a thatched roof property, get a trained RICS surveyor to assess the age of the thatch and the materials used.

You should also check the chimney, ridges and infestations to give you peace of mind. A Building Survey should best suit the property and SAM Conveyancing has RICS surveyors trained in thatched roof properties.

If you have any questions about thatched roof building surveys or buying a home with a thatched roof - email or call 0333 344 3234

RICS Surveyors – Local Knowledge – Same Week Availability

Frequently Asked Questions

A thatched roof inspection will look for slippage, vegetation, animal infestation, wet areas/decay, mould or algae, depressions, gable line variation, underlying structural support/sagging,
A thatched roof must be pitched at 45% minimum. Also called 12:12 - this means that any 12 inch rise vertically, must be matched by a 12 inches horizontal run.
The optimum thickness will vary depending on the material and the pitch, it can range from 228mm - 381mm.
Andrew Boast of Sam Conveyancing
Written by:
Andrew started his career in 2000 working within conveyancing solicitor firms and grew hands-on knowledge of a wide variety of conveyancing challenges and solutions. After helping in excess of 50,000 clients in his career, he uses all this experience within his article writing for SAM, mainstream media and his self published book How to Buy a House Without Killing Anyone.
Caragh Bailey, Digital Marketing Manager
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Caragh is an excellent writer in her own right as well as an accomplished copy editor for both fiction and non-fiction books, news articles and editorials. She has written extensively for SAM for a variety of conveyancing, survey and mortgage related articles.

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