Inspection & Condition Assessment

Regular inspection of the condition of the thatch is essential so that any signs of deterioration can be identified as early as possible. Binoculars are useful. Do not lean ladders against the eaves of the roof, or use a roof ladder to climb onto the roof; thatch can be damaged easily if it is compressed, and any close-up inspection should be undertaken only by a thatcher. It is very helpful to take photographs to record the condition of the thatch over time, including ones of any notable features or details e.g. ligger patterns.

The following information is to help those looking after thatched buildings inspect the roof and identify potential problems. By answering the questions, the inspector can arrive at a decision of whether to consult a thatcher for their professional opinion. But if in any doubt, contact a thatcher.

Click here for a printable inspection checklist (PDF 61KB).

The gallery page contains images that illustrate some of the conditions.

Historical Survey

Thatch and the roof space beneath can be revealing, and can often help to clarify the building’s history. Every thatched roof is unique, and its history can be unravelled by investigation of historical records and careful examination and excavation.

Many ancient roofs have had their thatch stripped, and have been re-roofed with other materials, and this will often be clear from looking at the internal structure. The degraded remains of the original thatch can sometimes be found lying on the first-floor ceiling, providing evidence of the materials and methods used in the past.

Where multi-layers of historic thatch are evident, it may be useful to undertake a more detailed excavation of the archaeology of the thatch to date and understand the materials previously used. This will help inform the repair of the thatch and may be a condition of listed building consent.

As much documentary information e.g. previous surveys, bills for previous building and thatching work should be gathered together. Photographs can be particularly useful, showing the old profiles and styles of the roof.

A thatch historian can usually extract very useful information from early photographs, manuscripts and published sources to help identify historic materials and thatching methods, and help ensure that old profiles and styles are maintained.

Ideally, an historical survey should be carried out with a thatcher present, because it will usually reveal technical information that can help guide repair or re-thatching.

Archaeological excavation is a specialist area and requires an archaeologist with knowledge of thatching methods and materials. A guidance document on this subject is currently being prepared.

Click here to read more about archaeological investigation.

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