Scottish thatching (Highlands' and Islands' styles) are quite different from what most people would think of as a thatched house, which is in fact an English or Scottish Lowland style. Lowland Scottish and English styles are very similar - they both use cuilc (water reed / Norfolk reed). This material is quite rare in the Highlands, hence our use of about six other materials:
I thatch in the above materials for the Scottish Highland and Island style, with the exception of Oat Straw which is no longer available.I thatch in the following styles:
I also build, repair or advise on the build of the roof timbers themselves, beyond the thatch alone. This involves other aspects unique to Scottish styles:
I only use traditional materials in the roof. I do not use stainless steel or wire ties or rods, plastic string etc. This is important if your roof is of scheduled / listed status. It is also important for the health of the roof and its environmental impact.
Generally, the way I approach thatching is to put a building back the way it was designed to be and to, if possible, reinstate the human context that supported the building's maintenance. This latter involves where possible training property keepers, developing sources of local thatch materials and removing historically inappropriate and unsustainable inclusions in the roof. We think it's important to rethatch a Scottish roof in the local or original style, applying the 500 Yard Rule: if you can't find the materials fairly close to the site then you're moving out of the local style and into higher costs and other vernacular styles. It's not always possible to stick to the 500 yard rule, but it's a good start point. Often cuilc / water reed is imported from Eastern Europe nowadays. You'll want to ask about and consider this when looking for a thatcher.
A good part of my work is for community groups, NGOs and the like, wishing to use a thatching project to engage and skill the public in revitialising a building or creating a new outdoor, covered workspace. See the video.
A video about a community garden thatching project (a Celtic round house).
I work all over Scotland with a team of three thatchers, myself (Scot AnSgeulaiche), Toad and Weaver.
I trained with the late Jim Souness, who trained with Duncan Matheson (Duncan Stalker) and Gaelic-speaking thatchers from Tiree. In keeping with the Highland tradition, we're not "Master Thatchers" the way the trade has in England. The Highlands didna really have such, historically speaking. Houses were maintained communally, by rotation within the townships. Today we have about six professional thatchers in Scotland (although a very small number of owners still maintain their own thatch, as we used to do).
As a rough estimate, it's between about £90 and £170 per square meter, depending on the material choice and its availability at the time of the job. This revitalizes the roof, sometimes keeping the the existing thatch underneath.
Typically a small highland cottage will cost £4000-5000 for ath-tughadh (dressing thatch) and £5000-8000 for a complete rethatch, both dependent on materials, location, state of the existing roof and so on.
If you are considering a thatch project, here are two things that make a big difference to the cost, at least for my jobs:
If it is maintained correctly (serviced like a car each year, minor and major) then a thatch job will last between 2 and 40 years, depending on material type, the property location. At the end of that time, the above "dressing thatch" /"ath-tughadh" would be needed. A complete rethatch is only needed when maintenance has been neglected. I am keen to train roof owners to do the yearly maintenance for themselves.
If you care for or are considering buying a thatched property in the Highlands or Islands you'll want to know more about the indigenous thatch styles. If you are applying for a HES grant to rethatch, then understanding the difference between Highland and Lowland / English thatch, traditional and non-traditional materials or styles might be important. Your thatched building might be listed and thus require a local and old-school thatching. I can advise on these.
I can conduct a thatch survey if you are looking to purchase a property or to appraise the life expectancy and problem areas of the current thatch, or for insurance purposes.
If you just need some initial outline help, a first phone call will cost you nothing! If you need a more worked up proposal, start with that free phone call or email and we'll cost it from there.
Thatching in extreme places - Benbecula.
Site created 2016. Updated 2021. All images copyright.