Fire safety: thatched properties

Thatched cottages evoke dreams of fairy tales and days gone by.  Once the regular choice of material for homes, thatched roofs are becoming increasingly rare.

thatched roofMany insurers refuse to offer cover for thatched homes due to an increased risk of fire damage more so than a tiled roof.  This is in part due to the higher re-build cost of the property. According to NI Direct, fires in thatched buildings are not common.  However, the major cause of fires in thatched buildings is heat transfer from the chimney into the thatch.

Once a fire has taken hold on thatched roof, it spreads rapidly.  Some common causes are stray sparks from chimneys, cigarettes and bonfires, electric faults and lightning hitting the TV aerial.  When a fire does break out in thatched building, the Fire and Rescue Service has a difficult task to extinguish the flames as the thatch is designed to repel water.

Thatched Roof Cottage

NI Direct outlines fire safety advice to prevent fires:

  • Chimney flue should be insulated to prevent heat from transferring to the thatch later
  • The chimney should be swept twice a year by a qualified chimney sweep
  • Don’t burn wet or unseasoned would as it leads to build up of soot
  • Consider heat sensors within the thatch around the chimney
  • Consider forming a fireproof barrier between the roof timbers and the thatch layer
  • Ensure the chimney stack is at least 1.8 metres above the ridge
  • Keep spark arresters clean
  • Fit smoke detectors in the roof space
  • All plumbing, painting and electric work should be carried out by a person experienced with thatched roofs
  • Be vigilant of bonfires and firework lit near by
  • TV aerials should be fixed to a gable or gable-end chimney to avoid wires contacting with the thatch

Chimcoat recommends your chimney only be serviced by professionals.  With over 25 years as Northern Ireland’s Chimney Doctors and many projects with thatched roofs, we are your experts.

Check out Thursday’s blog and our Facebook page for a recent stove reinstallation in a thatched home.


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