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Last updated: 20 May 2020
If your idealised image of an English village has thatched roofed cottages, reality doesn’t disappoint. An estimated 50,000 to 60,000 homes in the UK are still roofed the way Britons have been roofing homes for generations: with densely packed long straw, combed wheat or water reed. If properly maintained, the thatch is just as waterproof and warm as tile or slate roofs.
But while they’re both pastoral and surprisingly practical in the 21st century, thatched roofs pose a small insurance challenge. Many insurers won’t cover properties with this type of roof, due to the need for regular maintenance, high costs of repair, and risk of greater damage in a fire.
You may need to seek out a specialist provider and may pay more for your home insurance
cover but shopping around can reduce the premium on thatched roof insurance. We take a look at insurance for a thatched roof home.
What is thatched roof home insurance?
Thatched roof home insurance is a home insurance policy typically including both buildings and contents cover, that protects you against the risks and expenses of living in a house with a thatched roof. This includes higher costs of repair, maintenance and greater risk of damage in a fire, which may put off mainstream insurers or make them inflate premiums.
You can buy thatched roof home insurance from specialist providers. Not only will these specialist insurers typically charge you less for your cover, they have the expertise in protecting and maintaining thatched roof properties which can be important to you as a homeowner. They can give you advice about keeping your thatched roof property safe and direct you to qualified thatchers, for both repairs and regular maintenance.
Do homes with thatched roofs cost more to insure?
Yes, the premiums on home insurance policies for properties with thatched roofs will typically be more expensive, although you can keep your bills affordable by sticking with a specialist provider. Let’s take a closer look at why it costs more to insure a property with a thatched roof.
First, in the event of damage, thatched roofs are more expensive to repair. The materials are more costly than tile or slate and you’ll need to find a thatcher, an increasingly rare profession to perform the repairs properly.
And while thatched roof cottages aren’t much more likely to catch fire than those with standard roofs according to the Fire Service, of all the thatched roof properties in the UK, just 60 to 70 will suffer fire damage in any year. However if they do catch fire, the damage to the home is more likely to be extensive and very costly to repair.
Additionally, an estimated 75% of homes with thatched roofs in the UK have listed building status, which means they need to be repaired and rebuilt to strict guidelines, which inflates the cost of claims to insure and thus the level of your premiums.
Finally, thatched roofs require regular maintenance, including re-ridging every eight to ten years. Your insurer will want to know you’ve been properly looking after the thatched roof on your home.
How do you insure your thatched roof home?
When you seek out a thatched roof home insurance policy, the insurer will want to know the following details, in addition to the usual information you provide about the property’s size and location:
- What type of material is used? Water reed, long straw or combed wheat, each has advantages and risks that will influence your insurance premiums.
- What is the depth of the thatch? For example, 12 inches. The deeper the thatch, the more contact area it has with a potential heat source, like a chimney, and thus the greater risk of fire. Furthermore, fires in deeper thatch are more difficult to contain, increasing the risk of substantial damage and total loss of the property.
- What height is your chimney above the ridge? 95% of the most devastating instances of damage to thatched roof properties are caused by chimneys. You, and your insurer, want to ensure yours is tall enough, at least 1.8 metres so embers have enough time to cool down before they land on the thatch
- What type of heating do you have? Open fires are more traditional and pose less risk of fire. Wood burners or solid fuel stoves are becoming increasingly popular but are the primary cause of fire related claims, so insurers may hike your premiums accordingly.
- How is your chimney lined? For example, with pumice liners (the best), or flexible stainless steel (basic and may lead to higher premiums)
- What fire security measures do you have in place? For example, smoke alarms, spark arrestors and fire retardant on your thatch. In some cases these measures can reduce your premiums.
- How far away is the property from the nearest fire brigade? You may earn lower premiums if you live within five miles of a fire brigade. Insurers may also want to know where the nearest source of alternative water supplies are.
How do you keep your thatched roof policy valid?
Any home insurance policy can be invalidated if you don’t maintain your property and take proper precautions against damage, including fire, but for thatched roofed properties vigilance and upkeep is particularly important. Your claims can be rejected, and your insurance policy invalidated if you don’t take the following measures which are usually specified in your policy documentation:
- have your chimney swept at least once a year
- line and insulate your chimney, ideally with the best materials (pumice, clay or concrete)
- have a spark arrestor fitted
- have a valid, recent electrical inspection report