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Archive for October, 2014

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Buying a thatched property

Many prospective owners of thatched houses are often dissuaded by friends and family who ‘wrongly advise’ that owning a thatched property is expensive, has an increased risk of fire and requires constant attention. This is not the case!

However, if you are considering owning a thatched property that is part of our national heritage, it is advisable to find out as much information about the property as possible.

Below are some suitable questions to ask:

  • Which thatcher does the current owner use?
  • What thatching works have been carried out and when?
  • What materials have been the used on the both the ridge and main coatwork?
  • Does the owner or thatcher know if any fire barriers have been fitted?

It may be worth considering a separate survey for a thatched roof. A local thatcher is the best person to offer an opinion on the current condition and advise when future works are likely to be required and what the costs will be.

It is also advisable to find out as much information about the chimney especially if there is an open fire or a wood burner installed.

  • Find out if a liner is installed. If so, ask what type of liner is it and who installed it?  Ask for copies of any related installation documents such as a HETAS certificate etc.
  • Has the chimney and/or liner been inspected by means of a CCTV inspection, if so request details
  • When was the chimney last swept and by whom?
  • Does the chimney have a spark arrestor fitted?

Find out when the electrical circuits were last inspected and tested. Insurance companies will require electrical test inspections, so request a copy of the last inspection certificate.

Finally, speak to specialist insurance companies beforehand. They may have a ‘check-list’ or certain criteria that has to be met.

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Chimneys in thatch

There are approximately 60,000 thatched properties in the UK, of which 50-80 suffer a serious fire each year, most of which are completely destroyed. 90% of the homes struck by thatch fire have a combination of a wood burning stove either a flexible chimney liner or no liner at all.

Condition
Chimneys should be checked to ensure the brick or stonework is in good condition. Old or poorly maintained chimneys with loose or missing bricks & mortar and not lined, could allow hot gases and smoke to escape into upper rooms, the loft space or directly onto the thatch. If re-thatching works are taking place and the thatch around the chimney stack is removed, the thatcher will be able to advise on its condition.

Maintenance
Ensure chimneys are regularly swept by an experienced and qualified chimney sweep. This normally needs to be done at least twice a year, however if the chimney is used frequently during the winter period then additional sweeping may be required. Your sweep will be able to offer you further advice. Many chimney engineers and other specialist companies offer a CCTV survey, this is recommended to check the internal condition of the flue.  Again check with your property insurer because some of them have a list of approved companies.

Liner
A number of thatch fires occur as a result of old or inappropriate flue liners, therefore chimneys serving either an open fire  or multi-fuel appliance should be suitably lined. Contact an appropriate professional body such as HETAS so a registered  chimney engineer can review the liner (if already installed) to ensure it is fit for purpose for the type of appliance or fire in  use.

An engineer will also be able to advise on the condition of the liner and recommend on how often it should be  checked. If you are considering installing a wood-burner or similar, again contact HETAS who will advise on the most  suitable appliance and liner for the property.

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U-Values & Condensation in thatch

Thatch Roof Rafters

U-Values & Condensation in thatch
Modern living under thatch has changed in the last 10 to 15 years, with the introduction of modern central heating, double/secondary glazing, power showers and more home owners wanting fully vaulted ceilings. In addition, the requirements and associated recommendations from Building Control and insurance companies see the requirement for fire barriers and increased levels of insulation to be installed within the roof structure.

All these areas can have an effect on the performance of thatched buildings, therefore all components of the roof structure need to be built into U-Value calculations/reports.

U-Values are expressed in units of watts per degree of temperature difference W/m²K. Overall U-Values will vary according to actual thickness and density of the thatch. For example:

  • 300mm thickness of Water Reed – 0.29 W/m²K
  • 300mm thickness of Long Straw – 0.23 W/m²K

For comparison, the standard in Part L of the Building Regulations (2010) for replacement roof insulation at rafter level is 0.18 W/m²K.

A suitable insulation product to help achieve a U-Value of 0.18 would be Thatchbatts® as they are non-combustible, high density slabs which also offer additional protection in terms of fire resistance.

Vapour Control
It is widely accepted in the construction industry that in addition to sufficient levels of insulation, vapour control layers are required to control vapour and reduce the risk of condensation. A correctly fitted vapour check will also play an important part in the way the building continues to perform in the long term.

Bespoke U-Value & Condensation Risk Analysis reports can be generated for thatched roofs and will take into account the design and construction, type of materials used and location within the country.

See the Thatching Advisory Services website for further information and product details.

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