Does your home have a thatch roof?
11th December 2018
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This Christmas Devon & Somerset Fire & Rescue Service are reminding owners of thatched properties to ensure their homes are safe from the risk of a fire.

Did you know?

  • Although thatch fires are not common, the majority are directly related to the flue/chimney. Ejected embers from chimneys are now known to be the main proven cause of thatch fires
  • Fire in a thatched roof is difficult to detect and once underway extremely difficult to control.
  • The cost of rebuilding is not the same as the market value, it is usually much higher so make sure you are appropriately insured

Do you have a bird guard?

Birds love to nest in open chimney pots and can fill a chimney with flammable materials in very little time. Fit a bird guard, and it is essential that this is maintained and that combustion products do not reduce the size of the mesh.

Thatch information

There are key indicators for where a fire may start in a thatch associated with older and/or listed properties with any two or more of the conditions highlighted below:

  • A deep multi-layer thatch where the thatch is over one metre deep a guide to the depth of thatch can be assessed in relation to the level of visible chimney. Originally chimney height would have been about two metres from the ridge, with a minimum of 1.8 metres being recommended
  • Regular use of a multi-fuel or wood burning stove or an open fire with an inappropriate, old or poorly fitted liner
  • Central chimney surrounded by thatch or a house that is part of a terrace
  • Electrical faults and careless tradespersons, any recessed halogen spot lights, those particularity in ceilings adjacent to the roof space. Plumbers should use push fit or compression fittings when working near thatch, if any hot work should not be undertaken
  • Security Lights - situated too close to the eaves.  Any outside lights, particularly those fitted with motion sensors should be installed at least 1 metre away from any thatch. Consider the use of LED's which generate very little heat
  • Television aerials on thatched buildings should be fitted to a freestanding pole. Where this is not possible, the aerial should be fixed to a gable or gable-end chimney, where the cable can be run down the wall, avoiding contact with the thatch.

Develop 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.
  • Check the electrical system throughout your home.
  • Do not use 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 and 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.
  • Residential sprinkler systems will greatly improve the fire precautions within your home.
  • Consider installing 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.

Wood burning stoves and open fires

The increased efficiency of such stoves, whilst very welcome to residents of otherwise draughty older properties, has its own implications with regard to fire risk.

  • Fit a stove top thermometer and ensure that any one lighting and using the stove understands how to read it
  • Use firelighters and kindling rather than paper and cardboard to light the fire
  • Stay with the fire during ignition and return the ventilation controls to their normal operating state once the fire is lit
  • Don't burn unseasoned, wet, soft or tantalised wood. These leave greater tar deposits on the flue increasing the risk of fire
  • Make sure that your chimney is swept regularly and retain receipts. These may be required by your insurance company if you make a claim.

If in doubt, ask and don't use any chimney related appliance until you are sure it is safe!

Free Home Safety Visit

Thatch Property owners are eligible for a free Home Safety Visit on: 0800 05 02 999. For any other fire safety advice, contact the Devon & Somerset Fire & Rescue helpline on: 01392 872288 or visit our website

Useful links

English Heritage - Listed buildings/graded properties

The National Society of Master Thatchers (NSMT)

About the Author

Colin S

Member since: 27th February 2014

Hi, I am Colin Slade, I am the New Business Manager here at thebestof Exeter and I handle lots of the PR and News stories for our clients

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