Straw for straw and reed for reed” It is important for the survival of straw thatching that buildings which have been traditionally roofed in straw, continue to be so roofed. The same applies to reed in traditional reed areas. A switch to a different material results in a change of thatching technique and possibly alterations to the underlying materials and roof structure. A lot of important historical, archaeological and botanical evidence can be lost if the roof is changed. However it would be perverse for the statutory authorities to insist on not using reed, for example, if suitable thatching straw proves impossible to find. Owners and thatchers traditionally varied the materials, depending on what was available. This is also an essential feature of thatching and building maintenance.

Yes, there is grant assistance available for thatched buildings or buildings that were previously thatched. There are three grants available, and depending on certain criteria an owner may apply for all three. These are:

Department of the Environment, Heritage and Local Government Grant

This is the most common type of grant, currently available every seven years. An initial inspection will have to be carried out on the building, but this grant carries conditions. For Medical card holders and pensioners the maximum available is €6,350.

Contact the Housing Grants Section, Department of the Environment, Heritage and Local Government, Government Buildings, Ballina, Co. Mayo.

The Heritage Council

The Heritage Council operate a “Buildings At Risk” grant and an owner may apply for this grant depending on certain conditions are met. All types of buildings are considered for inclusion. The application form indicates categories, and space is provided for other categories if required.Among the factors which will be taken into account in evaluating building for inclusion are the following : Architectural Significance, Proposed Usage and Type of Risk.

Local County Council Grant

The Planning Act 2000 provides the legal basis for the protection of buildings of architectural interest and for the first time obliges all planning authorities to produce a list or record of Protected Structures whose protection is regarded as important to the heritage of the country. The individual buidlings are known as 'Protected Structures' and the list is called the 'List of Protected Structures (RPS)'. In most County Councils there is a Conservation Officer appointed. Contact your local Council and ask for the Conservation Officer.

There are companies that can 'fireproof' a thatched roof; This involves the application of chemical fire retardants, which limit the ability of flame spreading up through thatch or down into thatch; This can involve fire proofing boards used in conjunction with chemical fire retardents. For new builds, a heavy type aluminium foil can be installed onto the roof structure; this is done similiar to ordinary roofing or sarking felt; this foil is known as “841 Barrier Foil”; 1 roll usually covers about 40 square metres.

Thatched houses generally carry a loading on Insurance premiums. These increased premiums are not necessarily prohibitive, and some Insurance companies might simply require fire extinguishers present on site or a hose reel.

Thatching can be labour intensive work, so costs are usually 20-30 % higher than for the equivalent roofed in slate or tiles. Reed supplied and fixed : €170 – €190 per sq metre; Straw supplied and fixed : €130 – €150 per sq metre - these figures will vary for more complex additions and/or roof features. To be completey accurate for pricing work, a site visit is usually in order.

The longevity of any thatch roof can depend on any number of factors; Thatch performance is very specific and depends on geography and topography, material quality, roof design, and not least, the skill of the thatcher.

For Oaten straw: Usually 10 years, but this can give up to 15 years provided yearly maintenance is carried out. i.e repairs and applications of copper sulphate to prolong its life; For Wheaten straw: Up to 15 years; For Reed: Up to 30 years.

For most “typical” cottages, in other words cottages that are approximately 45 feet long, the time taken to thatch is usually 5-6 weeks. This time also depends on the weather ! For more complex features like hips, dormers windows then this time will increase accordingly.

Thatching can be carried out in Winter time although again the weather will dictate on what days thatching can occur.