Thatched Roof Costs - A Guide To Roof Thatching Prices.

For the better part of the 20th century and now into the 21st, thatching has been regarded as a means of roofing only suitable houses owned by the wealthy. Thatching is seen as too expensive for even modest homes belonging to middle-class owners. But is that perception accurate? That depends on how one looks at costs. The good news is that the recent resurgence in thatching for new builds has resulted in the average thatched roof cost being more affordable to more property owners.

There's a lot that goes into designing and installing a thatched roof. Cost estimates take into account a full range of things that are all part of doing the job. In other words, costs involve more than just the materials used. Contractors must account for the materials, labour, special design features, and more.

How Thatchers Price Their Work

A general rule is that thatchers price their work on a unit known as a 'square' (10' x 10'). The average roof for residential buildings in the UK is between 6 and 12 square. To prepare an estimate, a thatcher will determine the number of square and then multiply that number by a per square price. Any extra costs will be added in to come up with a final estimate.

It should be noted that determining the number of squares in a job is more complex than just calculating surface area. Thatchers must account for:

Roof Shape
Roof Design
Ridge Type and Style
Flashings to be used
Thickness of the coat
Use of wiring or netting
The need for new timbers or battens.

An odd shaped roof provides an excellent example of how estimates can vary. Odd shapes can be measured for surface area and fall in between two square measurements – let's say six and seven square as an example. The estimator will use the higher number of seven square because that's how much material will have to be ordered for the job. It is also assumed that additional labour will be necessary to accommodate the shape of the roof, so going with the higher estimate makes up for that additional labour.

What Customers Actually Pay For

Construction estimates can be confusing regardless of the type of job in question. Things are no different for a thatched roof. Cost estimates can be confusing if a customer does not know exactly what he or she is paying for. This is one of the reasons we recommend getting estimates that are as detailed as possible.

So, what are customers actually paying for when a thatcher comes to thatch the roof? He or she is paying for the following:

1. Inspection and Assessment

Whether a home is getting an entirely new thatched roof or just a new coat, the thatcher has to inspect and assess the property prior to coming up with a plan of action. Both the inspection and assessment are critical to ensuring a quality job that will achieve its maximum life expectancy. The experience of the thatcher plays an important role here.

Let's say you have a house with a thatched roof that's already 20 years old. You are not looking to strip the roof down to the timbers and start over; you're just looking for a new coat. Your thatcher will have to inspect the existing roof and its underlying structure to ensure that adding a new coat is appropriate.

2. Labour (Thatching Process)

Property owners are obviously paying for the labour involved in the thatching process itself. Make no mistake; thatching is a labour-intensive process that cannot be rushed. Thatchers must take their time to make sure they are doing things right, otherwise, they risk a finished product that does not meet the customer standards.

Also obvious is the reality that labour is costlier if the thatcher uses a crew consisting of several workers. Any master thatchers among them will earn more than general labourers, but all need to be paid.

3. Custom Work

If a job includes any custom work that requires the skills of a master thatcher, that custom work will likely add to the thatched roof cost. For example, consider a specially designed block ridge that is intended to provide an artful finish atop the structure being thatched. That block ridge may be too complex for a thatcher's crew to do, requiring the master thatcher to handle that aspect of the job himself. That will add time and, thus, extra expense.

4. Materials Thatched, Flashing, Fixings, etc.

The second biggest expense next to labour is the cost of the materials used on the job. For example, long straw tends to be the most affordable thatching material used in the UK. Long straw is a combination product that can be made with wheat, rye, barley and oats.

The next level up is combed wheat reed. It is similar to long straw in composition but different in the way that it is processed for use. The most extensive material is generally water reed. However, water reed also tends to have the longest life. It may be worth spending the extra money to get a finished product that lasts significantly longer.

In addition to the thatching material, consumers are also paying for:

box gutters.

5. Fireproofing

A thatched roof is obviously combustible. Although there is no way to protect against fire completely, there are three different products craftsmen use to make a thatched building fireproof. Your thatcher may decide to use one of them as per the cost estimate provided. Fireproofing can be accomplished with thatch batts, aluminium barrier foil, and fire retardant spray. All three will add to the cost of thatching a roof.

6. Overhead Costs

Lastly, a thatcher has certain overhead costs involved in running his or her business. Those overhead costs are passed on to customers through standard pricing. Overhead consists of everything from office supplies to the space a thatcher uses to conduct his business. It also includes the insurance the thatcher must carry as a business operator.

Insuring a Thatched Structure

The total thatched roof cost a customer bears does not necessarily stop at the job itself. There is also buildings insurance to consider. It is not wise to go through the trouble and expense of installing a thatched roof if a property owner is not willing to have buildings insurance in place.

The good side to this is that buildings insurance for thatched structures is comparable to that which is available for conventional structures. Also note that many of the UK's master thatchers have business relationships with insurance providers as well. Property owners willing to shop around for buildings insurance the same way they obtained multiple estimates for the thatching job can usually find affordable insurance products.

Thatchers advise their customers not just to assume that a current buildings insurance policy will cover a thatched roof. Some do, others don't. The property owner who is unsure should make a point of contacting his or her insurance provider for more details about cover. It would be bad enough to suffer damage to one's home as a result of fire or natural disaster, but the problem would be exacerbated if buildings insurance did not cover the thatched roof.

Get Multiple Estimates

In closing this discussion on thatched roof cost estimates, it is a good idea to get multiple estimates before a job is contracted out. Thatchers do price their work differently. In addition, some thatchers insist on using certain materials over others. Property owners need multiple estimates if they are to determine which contractor will give them the best possible job at the most affordable price.

Do not be afraid to ask for detailed estimates from each of the thatchers you contact. Ask for references as well. The master thatcher should have no trouble providing both. Any thatcher unwilling to provide detailed estimates and references is probably one to be avoided.

About the Author


Ryan is a freelance journalist and spends most of his work time researching and writing for many well know industry magazines. In particular, he has a passion for British historical architecture and is himself a proud owner of a period thatched cottage.