Specifications for Thatching Works

Why we are writing about Specifications for Thatching

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What this is about.

Well here is a huge topic.  The plan of this article is to help you think about points to cover in specifications for thatching works, either as a homeowner contacting a thatcher or a thatcher specifying their works.  It is not a definitive list but hopefully a guide to point you in the right direction based on our experience and knowledge of both sides of the coin.

What this is not about

To be clear, this article is not covering the accepted specifications for thatching works in terms of depth over fixings, thickness, eaves and barges, spar application, fire resisting barriers for new build   etc.  These things should be the base standard knowledge applied by all good competent thatchers.

Thatch should be applied so that, whatever material used, it is fit for its purpose and maximises its longevity.  As there is no overall governing body for thatching and there is a variance in thatching techniques across the country, we always recommend you get more than one quote, and follow up references.  The term Master Thatcher is now used by all Thatchers and so should be taken in that vein.  A lot of useful information can be found in older thatching publications and in the minds of older thatchers traditionally trained.  Perhaps it will soon be time for an update of this information to incorporate some of the newer improvements.

It is about clarity

This guide is to help thatchers and homeowners to avoid confusion, miscommunication and some of the many calls we have had where there have been problems which could have been avoided if both parties had been clearer in specifications when thatching maintenance is required.

Homeowner  – Specifications for Thatching Work

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What do you want?

Many homeowners know that their thatched roof probably needs some expert attention but are not sure about specifications for thatching works required because they think they don’t know.  It is true that they may not understand the state of the roof and what works may be required but often they have requirements which, if specified at the beginning, will save time and potential problems in the future.

Is your thatch listed?

If your property is a listed thatch, understand that no changes to the material, ridge type, flashings etc. can be made without Listed Building Approval.  The materials must be maintained, “Like for like”.  Depending on what is being done, do you need to notify your Listed Building department beforehand to gain approval before commencement of works?

What about a thatcher?

Do you want a thatcher to be a one man band with the benefits that he will be the only one thatching and you will probably get to know him over his time thatching your roof but.  Potential drawback on scheduled timescales if he is, for example, ill.  Or do you want the works done by a small team or even a larger one?

What about their insurance? Do you want a thatcher who can prove he has a reputable business and can provide references?  If yes, make sure you ask for these credentials.  Do not assume that a good website is a good thatcher or a not so good site a lesser thatcher.  Do your homework.

Will your decision on what is done on your roof be based on cheapest price, proposed value for money or do you think that the most expensive will be the best?  On what basis are you making your decision?  Remember it is not what a roof likes when it is first thatched, it is how good it still looks after a few years.

Other specifications for thatching to consider?

Thatching roofs is like making omelettes, you have to make a bit of mess.  If you are a keen gardener you may want to schedule around your favourite plants flowering season.

Scaffolding will obviously be necessary.  Do you want to deal with and pay a scaffolder directly (which may be a cheaper option) or have this included in any works specified.  Health and Safety is everyone’s responsibility.

Be aware that a good time to get a chimney inspected is when a thatcher has removed the old thatch.  (NB take care what is removed if property is listed as you cannot take the thatch to timbers without Listed Building Consent) Do you need to specify this to the thatcher to call in a specialist if things look in need of attention or will you do it?  Don’t assume that it will be notified to you, make sure you ask beforehand.

What about the roof timbers and battens?  If there are problems with these timbers who do you want to deal with it, and when.  How will such issues affect the thatching works or will they be part of it?

Thatcher – Specifying for Thatching works

What does your customer want?

A thatcher who has been asked to specify thatching works on a property will often find the customer is extremely vague on what they are asking for.  They can just expect the thatcher to tell them everything.  If it is not written down it can sometimes then cause problems e.g. when you are due to be paid!

Whether you are specifying thatching works as a work schedule, quotation or estimate or even tender response, make sure the main areas are covered to avoid confusion.


  • What material you will use, depth over fixings and overall depth and type of fixings.
  • Exactly which sections of any thatch roof you will be attending to.  Avoid confusion if you are rethatching the front of a roof by mentioning where the join in a hip end may be for example.
  • Specify your method, i.e. what you will be doing.  From supplying scaffolding, removing wire to clearing the rubbish away.  Make it very clear what you will be doing.
  • Clarify what gauge of wire netting you are using, what will be wired and how it will be fixed.
  • What are you doing to the chimneys? Flashings, etc.  If the customer wants a chimney painted while you are there, make sure you specified this and priced for it.  If you don’t want to make it clear to the customer so that they can make alternative arrangements.
  • Give indications of how long you anticipate the specified works will take and when you can start. Confirm your insurance cover and give customer references if required.  Remember to tell your references that they may be contacted by potential new clients.
  • You may need to specify the provenance of any materials.
  • Specify payment terms clearly.  You may want a contract signed with terms included so make this clear at the time of specifying for thatching works.
  • Clarify your lead times if you can.

You may have a template for your specifications or maybe each one is unique, but put things in writing.  Make clear what is and what is not included in the price.

Specifying thatching works made simple

If these simple, and perhaps obvious (sorry if we are preaching to the converted), steps are taken we are hopeful that it will reduce potential conflicts or bad feeling in the future.  It will also save us being contacted as if we are the thatch police!  Much as we like to help we cannot resolve situations only point you in the right direction.  The reason for this article is to help pre-empt any problems so that things run smoothly and misunderstandings are minimised.

So please everyone, make it clear what you want or are going to do,  put it in writing and agree it before works commence.  Specifications for thatching works done in this way will make the whole process much more straightforward and less stressful for everyone.

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