Thatched Roof Maintenance: Winter Tips
With snow already scattered across the UK, we speak to Alastair Dodson, Master Thatcher at Dodson Bros. in Cambridge, about thatched roof maintenance over winter. He gives his tips on preparing for bad weather and where to look for signs of damage.
What is the biggest danger faced by thatched property owners over winter?
The main danger at this time of year is posed by chimney fires. I recommend taking a look at the Thatch Advisory Service website and following their fire safety recommendations.
This is particularly important for homes with straw roofs, which often have many layers of thatch material built up around the chimney. This can cause the chimney to be extra insulated, creating high temperatures to build up.
Do weather conditions pose a risk to thatched roofs in winter?
Extreme weather can be an issue. High winds, for instance, can damage exposed areas of thatch. Heavy rain and melting snow may also cause leaks in areas that are normally fine.
Are there any signs of damage that thatched property owners should look out for?
Homeowners should regularly check the thatch for changes and make a note of what they find.
Look out for gullies or holes in the thatch because these can be signs of deterioration. Also, check under the eaves for watermarks. This will help you to see how far rainfall is penetrating the thatch.
Finally, check the seals around chimneys and adjoining roofs, if you can. This will ensure that the lead or mortar fillets are keeping the rain out.
What steps can thatched property owners take to minimise damage over winter?
Take action early. In autumn, remove any leaves and debris that may have accumulated in thatch valleys. They can prevent the roof from drying out and cause rapid degradation of the thatch. Thick moss can also hold a lot of moisture and cause the same problem, so try to remove this where you can.
It’s also worth keeping an eye out for vermin. Rats, mice or squirrels can do a lot of damage to the roof, which may be heightened in bad weather, so pest control may be required.
What should property owners do if they have any concerns?
For any work on the thatched roof, it’s worth speaking to an experienced thatcher. They are able to advise the best course of action going forward. It’s always best to keep a thatch roof well maintained because it costs less in the long run.
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