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Thatched roof safety

Free home safety visit for thatched homes


If you live in Devon or Somerset and own a thatched property, you are eligible for a free home safety visit. The first 1000 people to book a visit  will also receive a free stovepipe thermometer to help you burn your stove more safely.

Please call 0800 05 02 999 to speak to a friendly advisor and get your visit booked in. Alternatively, text 07800 002476 or email firekills@dsfire.gov.uk

Top tips for a safe thatched roof

Please download our handy booklet (PDF) and keep it safe for future reference. It has more detailed information than these pages, so we strongly recommend taking a look.

Roofing was traditionally made from several materials depending on location and availability. Today, only three materials are widely used, long straw, combed wheat reed and water reed, all of which will burn rapidly in a fire.

Follow our tops tips for keeping your thatched property safe.

Chimneys

Wood burning and multi-fuelled stoves are not suitable for use in thatched buildings. Old or poorly maintained chimneys can deteriorate to the point where smoke and hot gases can escape from the chimney into the upper rooms, the roof space, or directly into the thatch.

Vital signs to look out for that may indicate a problem:

  • research has shown the major cause of fires in thatched properties is heat transfer from the chimney into the thatch. The thatch then reaches its ignition temperature and a roof fire can develop.
  • staining of the plasterwork or wallpaper around the chimney breast
  • black or brown localised deposits on the chimney or in the roof space
  • soot on cobwebs in the loft. Chimneys built pre-1960's (as is the case of most thatched homes) are likely to be single brick thickness and unlined.
  • The protective parging or roughcast plasterwork will crumble and disintegrate with age.
  • Due to the age of many thatched properties, built before the introduction of Building Regulations, the construction of chimneys can be highly unconventional.
  • Period homes often have timber lintels over the fireplace and timber joists built into chimney stacks. These can be exposed to scorching when the protective layer inside the chimney disintegrates.
  • It is important to insulate the chimney flue to prevent the heat from transferring into the thatch layer. This is especially important when a solid fuel or wood burner is installed as they burn at higher temperatures than conventional open fires.
  • Have the chimney swept regularly by a qualified chimney sweep. A chimney in regular use should be swept twice a year.
  • Only burn seasoned wood.
  • Have the chimney inspected by a qualified chimney engineer.
  • If you have a spark arrestor fitted clean it regularly. This should be done every three months on chimneys in regular use and the arrestor should be taken down to clean.
  • Fit a bird guard to deter birds from building nests in chimneys.

Have a fire plan for your home

  • Smoke alarms should be installed throughout your home. If you have a loft space then an interlinked smoke alarm should be installed which is linked to at least one other within your home.
  • Install a fire blanket in the kitchen.
  • Check the electrical system throughout your home.
  • Be careful when using blowtorches or heat guns (if plumbing or painting etc).
  • Restrict the use of bonfires near to your property.
  • Consider a system of heat sensors within the thatch around the chimney. This will give you an early warning of any overheating of the thatch.
  • Install an outside tap with enough hose to reach around the house including the roof.
  • This can be used to extinguish any fires at an early stage.
  • Residential sprinkler systems will greatly improve the fire precautions within your home.
  • Consider forming a fireproof barrier between the roof timbers and the thatch layer when renovating or undertaking re-roofing. A thatch fire will be mainly restricted to the thatch and damage to the rest of the house will be limited.
  • Before going to bed, ensure your fire is extinguished.

Useful links

Historic England - Listed buildings/graded properties

www.HistoricEngland.org.uk

The National Society of Master Thatchers (NSMT)

www.nsmtltd.co.uk

 

British Flue and Chimney Manufacturers Association (BFCMA)

www.feta.co.uk

Heating Equipment Testing and Approval Scheme (HETAS)

www.hetas.co.uk

The Association of Professional Independent Chimney Sweeps

www.apics.org.uk

National Association of Chimney Engineers (NACE)

www.nace.org.uk

Thatch Advice Centre

www.thatchadvicecentre.co.uk

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