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Thatched Insurance and Fire Protection

[intro]If you own a thatched home or are looking to buy one, the perceived increased fire risk is something which needs to be addressed. Statistically homes with thatched roofs are no more likely to catch fire than those with conventional roofs; what is important is that the risk is not taken lightly and is understood and addressed by the owner.[/intro]

What is all the fuss about thatch and fire?

If a thatched roof does ignite and the fire spreads, it’s can be impossible to control and the damage can be devastating. As an organic material, not every thatch is the same, there are varying factors that can influence a thatch fire such as weather conditions, the location of the property and of course, the thickness of the thatch.

From an insurance perspective, the cost of the skilled labour to repair the damage is only one element of the cover required. With Thatchers in high demand, it can take up to 2 years for repairs on large properties to be completed, during which time your property my well be uninhabitable. Alternative accommodation cover is a crucial component of all good thatched insurance policies.

Knowing the risks

Surprisingly, a survey into the cause of thatch fires revealed the use of wood burning or multi-fuel stoves as the main cause of thatch fires. More specifically, it was ejected embers and sparks from these which started the fires.

Wood burners, multi-fuel stoves and open fires are a wonderful addition to any thatched home. If you own a thatched property there is no reason not to enjoy them, but it is important to be aware of the risks, take the necessary precautions and make sure you have the right level of thatch insurance.

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A word on chimneys…

Chimneys play an important role in protecting your thatched home against fire.

Height – the risk of a thatch fire is increased when the chimney height has been reduced following many years of recoating works, this is more common with thatching materials such as long straw.

Liners -a suitable liner is a must for any operational chimney in a thatched property, especially when a wood burning or multi-fuel stove is being used. Many chimneys may not be correctly lined, for example, if a flexi-liner is installed incorrectly and is in contact with the side of the chimney it could result in a ‘hot spot’ which could accelerate the process of heat transfer. Thatch is at a much greater risk of the effects of heat transfer if the chimney is not lined.

Integrity – chimney stacks should be checked and maintained regularly if in use. Bricks maybe missing and heat transfer is further increased at the point where the thatch meets the chimney. This is due to the insulating properties of the thatching material. The heat transfer process can cause thatch to smoulder and ignite if temperatures in excess of 200ºC are reached.

Heat Transfer – wood burners and multi-fuel stoves can generate very high flue gas temperatures; this in turn can be transferred through the brickwork of the chimney to the thatch. This is generally caused by faulty chimneys, poorly or incorrectly fitted liners, combined with high flue gas temperatures.

Spark arrestors – it’s not just chimneys, if not cleaned at least once a year spark arrestors can clog up and catch fire, which in turn could cause a thatch fire.

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Protecting your thatch

There are a variety of solutions available to help protect your thatched roof from fire. These include monitors which can be installed at the point where the thatch meets the chimney, these systems will trigger an alarm should the temperature rise too high. There are also fire retardant sprays which can be applied to the thatch which swell up when they come into contact with direct heat. These bind the thatch stems together, cutting off the supply of oxygen to the fire and delaying the spread of flame. Ideally these sprays should be applied professionally, roughly every five years.

Fire barriers are a building technique designed to sacrifice the thatch and protect the home in the event of fire. There are various methods on the market, some which have to be installed at the point of construction whilst others can be installed retrospectively. The key objective of any fire barrier is to buy more time. A fire barrier will dramatically increase the chance of saving the majority of the building.

Thatched Insurance

Prevention is the best solution. In the event of a fire, a physical fire barrier or system will buy crucial time, dramatically help reduce the amount of damage and also create a safer working environment for Fire & Rescue Services.

However, should the worse happen, you need to know that you have the right levels of thatched insurance in place to cover the cost of skilled repairs, as well as alternative accommodation costs whilst your home is being lovingly restored.

If you own or are looking to own a thatched property Highworth Insurance are thatched insurance specialists. We can help with any questions you may have concerning insuring a thatched property, the perceived risks, additional precautions and the necessary levels of cover required.

You can also get advice from Thatching Advisory Services (TAS) via their website or on: 08455 204060.

[intro]As specialist insurers Highworth Insurance understand the real risks involved in owning a thatched property and we can quote competitively on thatched insurance using this knowledge and experience. Call our advisors today on 01202 937430 for a quote based on the individual requirements of your thatched property.[/intro]