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Posts tagged ‘thatch fire’

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Thatch Fires – 2018

With this cold spell set to last, it is worth repeating the message that it is crucial that chimneys and flue liners are swept and inspected.

For the last five years and always around this time of year, the UK has experienced a prolonged dry spell coupled with bitterly cold Easterly winds. This results in very dry thatch roofs and many homeowners continuing to use their wood burners and open fires much more than they normally would.

Last Friday sadly saw the first major thatch fire of the year. The cause is not yet known.

Care must be taken when first lighting and it is imperative the right fuel is used on both wood burners and open fires.

Please take time to read our thatch fire safety advice leaflet, which offers sensible advice on how to minimise the risk.

TAS – Thatch Fire Safety Advice

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Thatch Fire Protective Membranes

There are many fire membranes on the market ‘suitable for use beneath thatch’.

Are they suitable? What’s the difference?

Nearly all fire membranes are PU (polyurethane) coated.

PU28 is still often asked for and is widely used to describe fire barriers within the thatching industry. PU28 was used as a development code for a new membrane product and this code has stuck with many membranes to this day.

There are many formulations for a PU coating, some more economical than others. Some are solvent based, while most standard PU finishes would certainly fail a smoke & toxicity test.

A membrane, PU or other may have a BS type test. What test? The testing it carries may not be an indicator of a product’s quality as some tests are not as robust as others and may not be reflective of the environment in which a product is used.

Waterproof, water resistant and breathable.

Waterproof can be defined as an objects’ capacity to be impervious – water won’t get in.

Water resistant means water isn’t going to get in easily.

Breathable

An often used but nonsense adjective. Membranes cannot breathe. Nor can wine. We can.

A ‘breathable’ membrane (or breather membrane) is water resistant and air permeable. The majority of air permeable products will have a high moisture/vapour transmission rate but will not breathe.

Check if a product is waterproof and breathable – many are!!

TAS – Thatch Firewall Membrane

Manufactured in the UK.

Looks and feels similar to a PU28 type membrane but with a far superior coating – a temperature resistant aluminised polymer system.

Tested beneath a combustible material - thatch - to meet both BS476-3:2004 & BS EN 13501-5:2005.

Designated as Broof (t4) – the highest performance in accordance within the European class – BS EN 13501-5:2005, which refers to four separate tests. The suffix (t4) indicates that Test 4 is to be used for the purposes of Approved Document B (Fire Safety) B4 External fire Spread.

Water resistant and tested for air and water vapour permeability.

Tested to meet the same smoke and fire toxicity specification for commercial aircraft.

These are just a few of the tests TAS – Thatch Firewall Membrane carries. When considering a PU28 type fire barrier for use beneath thatch, it would be worth asking a few more pertinent questions.

For further details and information about TAS – Thatch Firewall Membrane, please call the office.

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Thatch Fires

Sadly there have been an alarming number of fires involving thatch already this year.

Since January 5th there have been 28 thatch related fires –  26 in the UK and 2 in the Republic of Ireland.

Of the 28, ten suffered minimal damage and/or were chimneys fires, which were successfully extinguished. Devon & Somerset were the worst affected counties with seven and four respectively.

The causes have been wide-ranging: a discarded cigarette, a nearby gorse fire close to a property and a faulty fuse box.

It is crucial that chimneys and flue liners are regularly swept and inspected. Care must be taken to ensure the right fuel is used on both wood burners and open fires.

Please take time to read our thatch fire safety advice leaflet, which offers sensible advice on how to minimise the risk.

TAS – Thatch Fire Safety Advice

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Thatch Fire Research

Thatch research update

TAS recently attended a workshop to hear the results to date of an NFU Mutual Insurance, Historic England & RISCAuthority research project, which was carried out at the Fire Protection Association’s (FPA) advanced fire test laboratory.

A number of delegates with a professional (and personal) interest in thatch and fire safety were in attendance. Four key speakers offered an interesting insight into the cause of thatch fires and what we can all do to try and minimise the risk:

  • Craig Lawrence – NFU Mutual
  • Dr Jim Glockling – Fire Protection Association & RISCAuthority
  • Alison Henry – Historic England
  • Keith Benjamin – Burgoynes Forensic Investigators

As expected, the main cause of thatch fires is thought to be ejected embers. As soon as the finished guidance and findings become  available, we will of course look to share this information as well as future information resulting from further planned research.

 

 

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Hampshire Thatchsayf

Easton

The recent good weather saw TAS out and about spraying thatched roofs across the country with their Thatchsayf Fire Retardant Spray System. First stop was Hampshire for a pair of lovely semi-detached cottages. The thatching was carried out by Ed Goodall last year. During the thatching TAS also installed the Thatch Alert chimney heat monitor system to both chimneys.

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Thatchsayf used on Maudslay Park newbuild

Maudslay Park

TAS recently carried out the application of its Thatchsayf Fire Retardant Spray System to a new build property, which is part of the Maudslay Park development – a new Retirement Village in the Warwickshire village of Great Alne. The thatched property is intended to be a shop for the village and provide warden accommodation. The roof which is approximately 210m² – 22 thatchers’ sq was thatched by Parkinson Master Thatchers.

Prior to the thatching, the roof benefited from the installation of the Thatch Fireboard Protection System comprising TAS100 Thatch Fireboards and 100mm of Thatchbatts®.

The application of the fire retardant was partly carried out using a boom lift (cherry picker). TAS operatives are licenced to operate boom and scissor lifts, which can often reduce the time it takes to treat a roof and also ensures close contact with the thatch. This also allows for greater control and coverage when treating the roof. You can see from this image where the Thatchsayf has already been applied.

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Thatchsayf Spray System – Thatch Fire Retardant

Thatchsayf - Fire Retardant

Fire – Causes

A report from fire investigators Burgoynes into the cause of thatch fires revealed ejected embers and sparks as one of the main causes.

Investigations have shown that many thatch fires relate to the use of wood burning stoves and have occurred within 30 minutes of the stove being lit. In addition, some home-owners were found to be using unsuitable materials to get the wood burner/fire started in the first place.

Other causes can increase the risk of the effects from ejected embers or sparks, these include:

Spark Arrestors – If not cleaned at least once a year then soot deposits can build up and ignite causing a fire in their own right, which in turn could cause a thatch fire. A number of fire services recommend the removal of spark arrestors although a wire-mesh bird guard could be installed to deter birds from nesting but still allow the chimney to function efficiently.

Chimney Height – The risk of a thatch fire is further increased when the chimney height has been reduced following many years of re-coating works, this is more common with thatching materials such as long straw.

 

 

 

 

 

Fire Retardant Sprays

The main purpose of a fire retardant is to starve the ignition area of oxygen and therefore delay the spread of flame and the full development of a thatch fire. The idea is to buy more time so that the fire and rescue service have a greater chance of extinguishing the fire before it fully develops.

Thatchsayf Spray System is a water based solution containing fire retardant and intumescent ingredients for the protection of thatched roofing.

This environmentally friendly solution is applied externally to the thatch surface and penetrates the stems of the thatch by up to 75mm, forming a thin protective film on the surface of the thatch stems.

A treated roof will offer protection from a number of fire risks, including sparks, ejected embers, bonfires, Chinese lanterns, fireworks and barbecues.

On exposure to these risks, Thatchsayf Spray System will ‘foam up’ (intumesce) and form a carbonised char, which binds the thatch stems together, cutting off the supply of oxygen to the fire, delaying the spread of flame and lowering the radiated heat output.

The application of Thatchsayf Spray System is undertaken by our fully trained employees using specialist spraying equipment and is normally carried out between March and the end of October. This is due to the high levels of moisture in the air during the winter months.

Once a roof is treated, the homeowner is issued with a Certificate of Completion, which is valid for five years after which re-application is required.

A new build/newly thatched roof offers a good opportunity to treat a roof. However, an existing thatched roof can also be treated as long as it is in good condition. Thatchsayf Spray System can be applied as a standalone product or in addition to having a physical fire barrier system installed.

We suggest you contact your insurance company to check if any discounts are available for taking a proactive approach by treating the roof with a fire retardant spray and fire barriers.

Testing

Thatchsayf Spray System has been tested to vigorous testing by the British Research Establishment (BRE). Further details of testing is available upon request. Thatchsayf Spray System is tested to BS476 Part 3 and achieved the designation of EXT.S.BA

The benefits of Thatchsayf Spray System

  • Fire penetration may be delayed for over 30 minutes with no spread of flame
  • Can be applied to new or existing thatched roofs
  • Contains preservatives
  • Retards bacterial and fungal growth including moss
  • Application is fully certified for 5 years
  • Environmentally friendly
  • May reduce insurance premiums

 

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Unique thatched project – Enterprise Centre

Following our epic journey to the Isle of Harris in July, TAS then embarked on another unusual project after we were approached by Master Thatcher – Stephen Letch for our thoughts on treating a unique thatched building in Norfolk with our Thatchsayf fire retardant spray system.

We were aware of a project at the University of East Anglia (UEA) in which Stephen and his team of thatchers had been busy carrying out ‘vertical’ thatching to the walls of the Enterprise Centre. Stephen then confirmed that this was indeed the project.

Please click on the thumbnail images to view the full size images and slide show.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The project incorporated a unique thatch cassette cladding system which had not been used anywhere in the world. The process saw 294 individual cassettes thatched off-site using straw from the Norfolk/Suffolk borders. The thatch cassettes were then transported to site and erected onto the façade of the building.

Please click on the links below for a couple of great videos showing the thatched cassettes and cladding take shape:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=V7NyuO_z-84

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kEA_25II144

We were initially invited to the centre by the Project Director from main contractor Morgan Sindall and the Lead Architect from Architype to carry out a trial application of the Thatchsayf to a small sample area of the thatch as questions were raised about discolouration to the thatch. Once satisfied, both parties instructed us to carry out the application to the entire thatched façades – around 1,000m² or 108 thatchers’ square.

Gary and Stuart from TAS then spent the best part of a week carrying out the application using cherry pickers and their specialist spraying equipment.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Enterprise Centre, which is a Passivhaus and BREEAM Outstanding building, is the greenest in Britain and one of the most sustainable buildings in Europe.

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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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Thatching Advisory Services – New Website

Thatched cliff-top shelter overlooking Seaton beach

Thatching Advisory Services (TAS) recently launched it’s new website. The new site contains the latest information on fire protection as well as comprehensive advice on buying, owning and maintaining thatched properties. There is a new section devoted to new builds and extensions which includes detailed information on roof construction and the latest building regulations.

There is comprehensive information on all our products and systems and a new facility to buy the products via our online shop.

Have a look around the site and feel free to contact us with feedback or if you have any further questions or queries.

www.thatchingadvisoryservices.co.uk

 

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