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While the idea of a thatched roof sounds ideal in theory, some homeowners may be concerned that a thatched roof may not be able to withstand the test of time, or the elements for that matter, and opt to play it safe with a traditional slate roof.

But with an estimated 60,000 thatched property owners in Britain, the appeal of thatched roofs is undeniable, and this brief guide reveals that thatched roofs may be more durable and easier to maintain than people think.

Types of thatch

The varieties of thatch fall under the following three main categories: water reed, wheat reed and long straw, with water reed seen to be the most durable of these thatching materials. The average life expectancy of water reed is between 55 and 65 years, with combed wheat following this with a life expectancy of 20 to 40 years and long-straw with a life expectancy of between 15 and 20 years.

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Factors affecting durability

A number of factors can have an impact on the durability of a thatched roof and this includes the roof’s ability to shed water, determined by the way it is pitched.

As an example, a shallow pitched roof may be more susceptible to holding onto moisture, which would mean that it decays at a faster rate.

Climate can also have a bearing on the condition of thatched roofs. High humidity in some parts of Devon can shorten thatch life expectancy, while North Sea winds in some parts of East Anglia help in drying the thatch.


Over the length of the thatch’s life the material may loosen from its fixings, and require ‘dressing up’ to knock the fixings securely back into place.

The thatch may also need to be brushed down from time to time to remove loose material and moss which can act to retain moisture.

If a property needs to re-thatched it’s best to seek advice from specialist tradesman, and your local authority if you own a listed building.

If you are renovating your cottage, The Sash Window Workshop can help with many aspects including draught proofing sash windows.

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