Stories of thatch fires seem increasingly common and people are often confused as to why old thatched properties suddenly catch fire when they have been standing for centuries. Other than the obvious spark from a garden BBQ or bonfire the reason is simple. Until quite recently, homes were not as warm and cosy as they have now become. Older properties were draughty and cold with much lower internal temperatures than are accepted today. Once a stove is installed and the base of the chimney is closed off, the cooler air that previously drew freely up through the chimney, is no longer available to reduce heat build up. A high temperature within a chimney stack can lead to a thatch fire however the most common cause of thatch fires is chimney fires where regular sweeping and maintenance is not carried out.
The Thatch Advisory Centre offers the following advice to minimise risk to your property:
Sweep your chimney Avoid a chimney fire eg tar build up, birds nests Burn seasoned wood Take care when lighting and refuelling the fire Spark arresters are to be avoided, if not clean they are a hazard Height of chimney dispersing embers is also a factor
It is possible to reline chimney stacks with traditional methods such as flexible steel liners, however this also requires the thatch to be taken back from the chimney stack and rafters. Quite often conservation restrictions prevent modifications to thatch and homeowners are often loathed to disrupt a sound roof.
One solution is to construct a rigid metal insulated chimney (sometimes called a twin walled flue), which can be lowered inside a standard two brick (450mm) stack. This method means no work is required on the thatch at all.
To meet current Building Regulations when installing a stove, it is necessary that the top of the chimney pot is no less than 1.8m (almost 6ft) above the thatch. Although a straightforward job for any good builder, these works still require permission from both the planning and listed building departments. The reason for such a height is to allow sparks time to cool before hitting the thatch. This was previously thought to be prevented by spark arrestors but these are no longer recommended as they may actually increase the risks, due to blockages forming.
Carrying out any works within a thatched or listed property requires specialist knowledge, along with a respect for our heritage properties. It is also essential to have an appreciation of the complexities involved with finding a solution that meets both the needs of the property owner and the requirements of conservation organisations and local authorities. Our dedicated engineers have installed numerous stoves in thatched homes across Buckinghamshire, Oxfordshire and Hertfordshire particularly in areas such as Long Crendon and surrounding villages.
Call now to see how we can offer our expert help on 01844 342400.