Are Thatched Cottages a Good Buy?

Thatched cottages are many people’s idea of a dream home – the quintessentially English property located in the heart of a picturesque village. But is is just a dream, or are thatched properties a good buy?

At Anderson Associates, as chartered building surveyors, we take a keen interest in all aspects of the property market – so here is our guide to some of the pros and cons of purchasing a thatched cottage. There are many beautiful properties of this type in Kent, Suffolk and Essex, all areas which we cover.

An Excellent Insulator

If you live in a thatched cottage, you don’t need to worry about temperature variations because your roof is an excellent insulator. This is because thatch traps pockets of air within its structure, making it a bad conductor of heat. So, in summer they keep the heat out, while in winter they don’t let the cold air in.

Thatch has other qualities too. Most thatched roofs are made out of a waterproof material such as water reed. The inside of this plant is hollow, but when installed on a roof the outer layers overlap which creates a water-resistant barrier.

Well-maintained thatched roofs should also have good sound insulation properties which is good news if the property is on a busy road.

They Look Good – and are Environmentally Friendly

Not only are thatched cottages extremely picturesque, but owners also have the satisfaction of knowing that their roof is made out of natural, sustainable materials such as thick straw or reed. These are traditionally grown and harvested without using any machinery.

Thatch is also relatively light, so you need less timber for your roof structure. And because it is such a good insulator, it also helps reduce your carbon footprint – you don’t have to turn your heating on so much.

Fire Hazards

There is a good deal of controversy over whether thatch poses a fire risk. There is some evidence to suggest that fires are no more likely to break out in a thatched cottage roof than in a more conventional home. However, the flames are more likely to spread through the thatch, and cause more widespread damage to your home.

This means you should take a number of safety precautions, including:

  • having your chimney lined;
  • fitting a smoke alarm;
  • creating a fireproof barrier between the thatch and the roof structure;
  • having your electrical wiring checked regularly, particularly in the loft;
  • spraying special fire retardants onto the thatch.

You need to make sure you have factored in these potential extra costs before you exchange contracts.

Be Wary of Other Ongoing Costs

Your home insurance premiums will almost certainly be higher in a thatched property. There are specialist insurers who should be able to offer you a more competitive quote than the bigger insurers.

You will have to factor in the cost of regular roof repairs, particularly if you intend to live there for a long time. The lifespan of thatched roofs tends to be anywhere between 15 and 35 years, depending on the quality of the materials used, and natural factors such as how close the nearest trees are (if they are too close, then the thatch may dry out too quickly after a spell of rain) and if birds like nesting or feeding there.

Ridges may have to be replaced even more regularly because they lie across the top of the thatch and bear the brunt of the weather as they are more exposed.

Chartered Building Surveyor Anderson Associates

If you are thinking of purchasing a thatched cottage, you need to know as much as possible about the whole property, and not just the thatch. In cases like this, it is essential to consult an independent chartered building surveyor such as Anderson Associates, who offer surveys for buyers in Kent, Suffolk, south and east London and Essex. We do not have any financial ties with anybody else, such as your mortgage lender, which means we can offer you totally independent advice.

In the case of a thatched cottage, we would recommend our full building survey. You will get a full, detailed report on every part of the structure, including all its defects and what it these defects would cost to put right – which could in turn help you negotiate a lower purchase price. Follow the link above to get in touch.

We do provide a fact sheet addressing most of the FAQs regarding thatched properties but would in most instances advise you to seek specialist advice.