Thatch Materials

Overview of thatch materials used in homes

Thatched roofs are constructed out of a variety of materials.

The three materials used most for thatching in the UK now tend to be

  1. Water Reed
  2. Long Straw
  3. Wheat Straw also known as Wheat Read, Combed Wheat Read and Combed Wheat Straw

The following materials are still used to thatch roofs, but in much smaller numbers. This is partly due to the labour costs to harvest some of these materials; another of the drivers behind this change is due thatcher’s typically being skilled with the 3 most popular thatching materials (as mentioned above).

  • Veldt Grass
  • Sedge
  • Rye Straw
  • Heather
  • Turf

What’s the difference between the thatch materials?

We were going to include life expectancy for the different materials, but as you may already know, every one has a different opinion on this; probably as a result of the different weather conditions throughout the UK along with pitch angle and the skills of the thatcher carrying out the work which can all affect how long the thatch will last on your roof.

Water Reed

Due to demand, the majority of water reed tends to be imported from abroad from across Europe, Turkey, and China. Norfolk Reed, which as you may have guessed, is primarily grown in Norfolk and tends to be used more around the Norfolk coast. Our understanding is that cost and availability are the key sticking points if wishing to use Norfolk Reed.

Typically needs a metal fixing system to attach directly to the roof timbers.

Combed Wheat Straw

Very popular and a few thatcher’s that we’ve come across in the West, seem to have  a preference for this material and claim it has an equal life expectancy to Water Reed for homes in the South West when factoring in weather and roof pitches. We’ve also found other thatch advice websites who dispute this. So we will leave the water reed vs combed wheat straw debate to you.

Wheat Straw seems to be the predominant material for thatched roof covering in the West Country.

The majority of Combed Wheat Straw is grown in the UK, which is good for buying local and supporting the UK economy and reducing travel miles.

Typically attached to the roof with twisted hazel spars; now that sounds good for the planet.