Winter is upon us, which means people will be using ways to keep warm over the next few months. With these come unforeseen dangers from fireplaces, chimneys and electrical installations around thatched structures.

Fact: Although fires in a thatched roof are not common, over 90% start as a result of a faulty flue or chimney.

Here are some key steps to make sure you are properly prepared:


Chimneys

• Check every three years to ensure the mortar is 'sound' throughout the length of the chimney stack, together with associated linings and timbers.

• A thatcher should check the hidden section when re-thatching.

• The exhaust aperture should be at least 1m away from the point closest to the roof.

• Have the chimney swept along its entire length by a competent person at least once a year, before and after the main burning season.

• Do not burn wet or unseasoned wood, as this will leave greater deposits in the flue.


Spark arrestors

• These are no longer recommended due to clogging (either naturally or through a lack of maintenance), which restricts the free flow of combustion gases. If in place, ensure regular cleaning with the chimney.


Electrical

• A qualified electrical contractor should check and test the electrical installation at least every five years. 

• Loft wiring should be in conduit but not attached to rafters that carry the thatch.

• Do not place high wattage security lights near the thatch or overhangs. 

• Do not cut recessed lighting into the ceilings below the thatch. 

• Use bulkhead light fittings in the roof space. 

• Overhead electricity supply cables need to be prevented from coming into contact with the thatched roof or nearby trees. 


Kitchen Extraction Systems

• Clean filters weekly. Have the entire system (filters, canopy and ducting) cleaned at least annually by appropriate contractors. 


TV Aerials/Satellite Dish

• Do not fit TV aerials or satellite dishes on or near chimney stacks. Fit these on a freestanding pole at least six metres from the building. Fix the cable to brickwork, avoiding contact with the thatch.

• Stop overhead telephone lines coming into contact with the thatched roof or nearby trees.