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What fire precautions should I take for my thatched house?


What fire precautions should I take for my thatched house?

Thatch is an environmentally friendly, natural material which forms a strong, durable roof. 

A common presumption for thatched roofs is they have a higher fire risk than conventional roof material. In fact, the likelihood of a thatched roof fire is similar to that of a slate or tile roof. The key difference is when a thatched roof does ignite, the fire spreads more rapidly.
Statistically it is thought around 90% of thatch fires are chimney related, while other causes including electrical faults, lightning and bonfires. 
How to reduce the risk of a thatched fire:
  • Ensure your chimney pot is at least 1.8m above the ridge to allow any sparks time to die-out before exiting the chimney or settling on the thatch
  • Flues should be lined with appropriate lining – seek professional advice to ensure the correct lining is used for your property
  • Have hardwired smoke detectors installed on every floor, especially in the roof, to detect a fire as early as possible
  • Consider having a vertical heat barrier fitted between the thatch and the stack of your chimney to protect it from the heat generated when the fireplace is in useThatch chimney_135px
  • It is highly recommended the chimney is swept at least twice a year, across the entire length. At Higos, we recommend having it swept at least once between 1st July and 31st October prior to winter use and at least once between 1st January and 31st March, post winter use
  • Where fitted, ensure your spark arrestor is cleaned at the same time as the chimney sweeps - although note spark arrestors are not recommended
  • Only burn dry, seasoned wood to avoid high levels of deposit in the flue
  • Avoid allowing contractors to use equipment that may let off sparks when working in close proximity to the thatch, such as in the loft space
  • Try to keep bonfires 100 metres or more away from your thatched roof and avoid lighting a bonfire when the roof is dry. If a bonfire is essential, consider dampening the thatch prior to igniting the fire
  • Consider taking precautions to fireproof your thatched roof
Electrical checks:
  • Make sure your electrics are checked and tested every 10 years by a qualified electrician to minimise faults that may cause a fire
  • Loft wiring should be in conduit and should not be attached to any rafters
  • Ensure there are smoke alarms fitted on each floor, including the loft, and check these regularly
  • Light fittings within the loft space of a thatched roof should be bulk fitted
  • External security lighting should be installed away from the thatch eaves, however if it needs to be in close proximity then ensure low wattage lights are used
  • Install carbon monoxide alarms in the property and test them regularly
Thatched houses and thatched cottages tend to be set in rural areas, thus further away from where Fire and Rescue Services are based. This can cause a problem when attempting to tackle a fire quickly. There are a few things you can do to enable the fire services to tend to the fire as quickly and easily as possible.
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  • If you are in a rural area, ensure you know your 6-figure ordnance survey map grid reference and have it ready when calling the fire service. Be ready to give clear instruction of how best for a large vehicle to reach your thatched house when you call
  • Wire fitting on the thatch should be fitted in a way to allow the fire service to lift it and target the fire with water
  • Always ensure there is room for the Fire and Rescue Service to enter your loft space should they need to
  • Consider installing a hose pipe outside permanently connected to a water supply that is able to access all areas of your thatched roof
  • Make sure you are aware of the nearest water source, such as a fire hydrant, lake or river
  • Ensure you have the necessary fire precautions internally, such as suitable fire extinguishers and a fire blanket in the kitchen
As soon as you are aware of a fire at your thatched house or thatched cottage, call the fire service immediately before trying to tackle it yourself, no matter how small. In most cases, fires could have been contained and most of the thatch saved if the fire service was called just 5 minutes earlier.

It is important to ensure your thatched property is fully insured should the worst happen. At Higos, our dedicated thatch team offer bespoke cover to suit your exact requirements giving you peace of mind your home is covered. Find more information, visit our thatch insurance page or call our team on 01458 270 352.

Posted by: Higos Insurance Services Ltd