The skill and aptitude of a thatcher contribute greatly to the lifespan of a thatch but equally important are the materials that he uses. As with all natural products the quality of thatching material varies. Wheat straw for instance, can be greatly affected by the growing regime employed i.e. use of chemicals and artificial fertilizers. Weather conditions and harvesting techniques also play a role.

There are three types of thatching material widely in use today; Long Straw, Combed Wheat Reed and Water reed.

  • Long StrawOpen or Close

    Since such time as man started growing cereal crops there has been a readily available bi-product of straw to supply the thatchers requirements. Long Straw thatching makes use of this bi product extremely efficiently with the forming of slabs of straw known as a yealms which are then fixed to the roof to produce a poured on, slightly shaggy appearance. Once widely used throughout England and Wales, now most common in central and eastern counties. Good quality long straw comes from old long stemmed varieties grown in low input conditions, now grown especially for the thatching industry.

  • Combed Wheat ReedOpen or Close

    Combed Wheat Reed, Sometimes called Devon reed is often grown from the same varieties as long straw but is processed and threshed slightly differently with a comber to produce uncrushed stems free of grain. Wheat reed is placed on the roof and dressed into place using a leggatt, which produces a very uniform and neat finish. Historically most common in the South West although it became popular elsewhere from the 1960s.

  • Water ReedOpen or Close

    Water Reed is a tall marsh plant that has been gaining in popularity for thatching in recent times. Originally it was only used in areas such as Norfolk where the broads provided a plentiful supply. Has a reputation as the most durable thatching material, although this is not always the case.. Many Thatchers now favour this material due to the speed that it can be applied. Approximately 90% of the water reed now used in the UK is imported from eastern Europe and China.

  • FixingsOpen or Close

    Spars and ledgers. Lengths of coppiced hazel or willow are cut to length and split to produce spars and ledgers. Spars are twisted and used like a staple for fixing each course of thatch. Ledgers are used to secure the ridge and are held in place by yet more spars. Screws, crooks and steel. Used for fixing thatch directly to the timberwork.