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Why is thatch insurance such a specialist product?

First sight of a thatched cottage and you are likely to recoil at the prospect of having to insure it. Not only does it represent an unusual, non standard construction these days, but surely the risk of fire from stray spark on all that thatch makes it a huge risk. Specialist thatch insurance products have been created as a result.

And, as anyone knows, the greater the risks, the higher the insurance premiums. Some regular insurers might choose not to offer home insurance cover at all – but, if they do, to charge a great deal for it.

In fact, it needn’t be like that. By choosing your insurer carefully, you may find an attractive deal on home insurance for a thatched property – a deal which the Thatch Advice Centre describes as a “good solution”.

That solution is likely to come from an insurance provider experienced in arranging cover for homes of non standard build – and those with expertise is arranging cover for those with thatched roofs in particular. In other words, a provider such as ourselves here at GSI Insurance, where we recognise the specialist nature of thatch insurance.

What makes it special?

It might be useful, to return to that initial fear about the risk of fire destroying not only the thatched roof, but the rest of the property too.

Standard insurance companies, for example, might still cling to the traditional notion that thatch fires are usually caused by sparks or embers setting the material alight. Citing research by HM Technology, Chimney and Fireplace Services, Cico, reveals a different picture. It suggests that a more common source is the heat radiated from the chimney itself, especially when a wood burning stove is used beneath the brickwork of a chimney passing through the roof space. It has been found that charring and smouldering can be generated even though the brickwork might reach a temperature of only 200ºC or so.

This suggests a specialist thatch insurance which recognises the measures that may be taken to mitigate the risk of fire through this or any other way:

  • any such solid fuel burning stove and the flue to which it is connected needs to comply with local building regulations and be installed by a specialist qualified to carry out the work;
  • the stove and chimney also need to be inspected at least once a year – preferably by a HETAS engineer and if necessary using a remote CCTV camera to get a detailed close-up view of the condition of the brickwork;
  • it is a good idea to fit a thermometer to the flue to help you monitor the working temperature of the stove;
  • in the case of a home with a thatched roof, smoke alarms are more important than ever and one needs also to be fitted on the chimney breast, as high up as possible in the roof space.

Precautions such as these may help you control and mitigate the risk of fire in your thatched home and, as a consequence, reduce the price you are likely to be paying for your specialist thatch insurance.

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