The Thatching process

Thatching Process

Types Of Thatch

There are three main categories:

1. Combed Wheat Reed.

The wheat reed is combed and stripped by the farmer before delivery. It is then clipped out by us prior to being used for thatching.

2. Long Straw.

This is normally a wheat or rye-based straw, cut and threshed prior to delivery to us. It takes some time to prepare normally on the ground and then carried up onto the roof

3. Water Reed.

A harder and longer lasting material, usually grown in marshy estuaries. This is currently sourced from Norfolk, France and Poland. It is also laid and dressed in place.

Stage One

Thatching - Stage 1

Firstly, a specialist contractor must place scaffolding around the property. Work can then commence on the replacement of the house’s eaves with new ‘bottles’ of straw. This forms the ‘eave course’ which must be securely fixed as the thatch will overhang the side wall and is thus, vulnerable to wind damage. The first ‘eave bunch’ is laid at 45 degrees and overhangs the wall by approx 12 inches. It is fixed securely to the first ‘batten’. The replacement of the eaves is largely a cosmetic exercise that ensures the roof of a re-thatched property looks entirely new and there is no evidence of the old coat.


Stage Two - Initial Coatwork, Laying Stalches

Thatching - Stage 2

Having completed the replacement of the eaves and spared down the old coat work the laying of new thatch can begin. In these photos the work is fairly advanced and thatch is laid in ‘stalches’, in effect columns of straw. This method ensures that the thickness is consistent (new thatch generally adds an additional 12 inches of cover).


Stage Three - Feature Work

Thatching - Stage 3

Once the coat work is complete the more complicated feature work can begin. This involves thatching over features that make up the roof, for example windows, and it requires the Thatcher to see the roof in a 3 dimensional format. The aim is to maintain the pitch, thickness and cover. Feature work is time consuming and intricate.


Stage Four - Creating the Ridge

Thatching - Stage 4

With this property water reed ridge rolls were laid along the length of the ridge in order to gain more height and to give a firm, central fixing. The ridge is created by laying ‘skirts and reverse’ which is an additional layer of thatch that provides further protection for the roof over the water reed. Once the thickness of this is consistent, ‘yealm’ is bent and laid on top to form the final cover. Yealm is then cut and decorated using ‘hazel spars’ to produce the detailed pattern on the ridge. This pattern work is both cosmetic and practical as it binds the ridge ensuring that the thatch is tight and secure and thereby reducing weathering. The skill is ensuring it is both level and straight no matter where it is viewed from.


Stage Five - Cutting the Eaves

Thatching - Stage 5

The eaves are cut by hand using shears. This is a time consuming process that requires patience to ensure that the angles cut are both accurate and neat. The aim with this property was to make all the gables look the same. It should be noted that the pitch of the roof is far less than 45 degrees. This means that the thatch will wear more quickly and the customer must be informed of the limitations of the roof.


Stage Six - Dressing and Sweeping the Roof

Thatching - Stage 6

The picture shows where the left hand side of the roof has been swept and dressed. This is where the Thatcher uses his skill to create a smooth surface all over the roof, getting rid of imperfections and creating uniformity. The curves are consistent and even this reduces the effect of weathering. The dressing of the roof is carried out using a Leggett and the roof is swept using a stiff broom.

It should be noted that the height of the chimney has been raised to compensate for the increase in the roof’s height.


Stage Seven - Wiring the Roof

Thatching - Stage 7

The final stage is to cover the roof with chicken wire. This affords it protection from birds and other wildlife. Each roll is twisted together by hand. The wire is pinned at the top and then either stapled or nailed under the eaves. The wire is then tightened using a ‘hedgehog’ (4 six inch nails in a small block of wood). The difficulty with laying wire on the roof is then avoiding leaving ladder marks or toe marks in the wire as you work across the roof.

About Adam Nash

About Adam

Adam is a member of The National Society of Master Thatchers.

Find out more

Thatching Process

Thatching Process

Promoting excellence in thatching and the highest standards of workmanship.

Find out more

Contact Us

Get in Touch

Adam is based in Crockerton, Wiltshire and thatches in Wiltshire, Hampshire and Dorset.

Get in touch