Living beneath a thatched roof doesn't mean you can't enjoy the warmth of an open fire or woodburning stove. As with many things, it is simply a matter of exercising common sense.
Statistically, homes with thatched roofs are no more likely to catch fire than those with conventional roofs; however, if a thatched roof does ignite, the results are rapid and spectacular, so their owners are well advised to take the following precautions.
- Around 90% of thatch fires are caused by chimneys - so make sure you have your chimney swept regularly to prevent a build-up of soot deposits.
- Ensure that the top of the chimney stack is at least five feet above the thatch, allowing sparks to escape and die-out before they settle on the thatch.
- Have your chimney checked to ensure that the brick or stone work is in good condition, especially where it passes through the thatch.
- An insulated lining should be fitted where the stack passes through the thatch.
- Having your chimney lined is a sensible precaution.
- When installing a stove, make sure you employ a professional with experience of thatched properties to do the job.
- Keep any eye on the flue temperature by fitting a flue thermometer.
- Do not burn wet or unseasoned wood, as this will leave greater deposits in the flue.
- Electrical wires in the roof space should be checked by an electrician at regular intervals and your electricity provider will often conduct a free visual check for you.
- Check your roof for signs of mice or other vermin as they can cause damage to electric wires.
- Locate smoke alarms and appropriate fire extinguishers throughout the property.
- If contractors are carrying-out work in the roof space, make sure they do not use blow-torches or other equipment which could create sparks. Plumbers for example should only use compression joints.
For further advice about preventing fire in thatched properties, speak to your local fire safety advisor or Master Thatcher. They will also be able to advise on preventative measures such as the use of Thatchbatts, Barrier Foil and Magma Firestop.
Fire risks outside the property
Although the majority of thatch fires begin inside the home, it is important not to overlook other potential fire risks outside the property.
- If you plan to light a garden fire, bonfire or incinerator, it must be positioned at least 100 metres from your house.
- Before lighting your fire, make sure you check the wind direction and strength.
- Remember that wind direction can change quickly, so make sure that its prevailing direction is away from your house.
- Do not throw too much rubbish on your fire at once and take special care with those items that burn fiercely.
- Make sure your nearest neighbours are aware of the risk that a garden fire could pose to your roof.
- Make sure you have an outside water tap and hose pipe from which a jet of water can reach any point on your roof. Although this wouldn't be sufficient to extinguish a fire that had taken hold, it could help you avert disaster.
- Try to avoid lighting a fire on days where everything, including your roof, is tinder dry.
- If you need to light a fire in very dry conditions, consider dampening your roof first.
Thatchers are well aware of the risks of smoking around thatch, however other contractors may not realise the risk and should be reminded not to smoke whilst carrying out work on your roof.
Although you may not be planning a bonfire on your premises, bonfires and fireworks in the surrounding area could pose a risk to your thatched roof. Whilst the chances of a stray rocket landing on your roof are fairly small, it is wise to be extra vigilant around November 5th and make frequent checks on your roof. For further information and advice, contact your local fire safety officer.
Your local fire officer should carry out a free site visit for thatched properties, as they are keen to know of the whereabouts of every thatched property in their area. Especially as thatched properties are often old with poor water supply and access.
Please note in case of fire - call the brigade first. Many roofs could be saved if only they were called 5 minutes earlier!