The Job and What's Involved

Thatchers install, repair and replace thatched roofs. It is an extremely skilled profession, involving tying reed, grass or straw together in bundles to form a roof.

The work involves:

  • Meeting with the property owner.
  • Obtaining and preparing the thatching materials.
  • Erecting scaffolding and ladders.
  • Protecting the building from wet weather.
  • Stripping away the old thatch.
  • Checking and, if necessary, repairing the wooden roof structure and chimneys.
  • Fixing new thatch using a range of tools, such as shearing hooks, long needles, eave-knives, wooden pegs and mallets.
  • Adding a final layer of thatch to the ridgeline.
  • Fitting wire-netting to prevent damage from birds.

The work often involves early starts, late finishes and weekend work during the summer months. Working hours are shorter in the winter, due to the lack of daylight. The work may involve staying away from home.

Thatchers work outdoors in all weather and mostly at height, leaning in awkward positions. Thatching is hard, dirty work and is very tough on the hands. Masks may be worn to protect from the dust, seeds and spores found in the thatch. The job may not be suitable for those who suffer from respiratory problems.

Salaries may range from £14,000 to over £35,000 a year.

Self-employed thatchers set their own rates.

Getting Started with this Career Choice

There are around 500 thatching businesses in the UK; the majority are located from the Midlands down to the south coast. The industry has recently experienced a revival.

Most thatchers are self-employed, perhaps employing one other person, often on a casual basis. The best way to enter the industry is to contact established thatchers to see if they are taking on trainees.

Education and Training

There are no set academic entry requirements to begin training.

The Diploma in construction and the built environment is available is some schools and colleges, and may be relevant for this type of work. GCSE's in English, maths and ICT may prove useful for running a small business.

A Few More Exams You Might Need

Herefordshire College of Technology offers a funded course in thatching as part of its New Entrants Training Scheme (NETS). To join individuals must:

Be aged between 16 and 25 (though older applicants may be considered if there are places available).

Have recently started work with a firm in a rural area of England (with a population of less than 10,000).

The scheme involves fourteen weeks of training delivered over two years, leading to an NVQ Level 2 in roofing occupations (thatching). There is an option to progress to Level 3.

Short courses may also be available to improve the skills of experienced thatchers.

Skills and Personal Qualities Needed

Thatchers need to be:

  • Good with their hands.
  • Practical.
  • Able to work at heights.
  • Physically fit.
  • Able to estimate materials, price jobs and maintain accounts.
  • Good at communicating and negotiating.
  • Prepared to work outdoors in all weather.

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Your Long Term Prospects

There may be some opportunities for qualified thatchers to work on contracts overseas.

Get Further Information

Herefordshire & Ludlow College, Folly Lane, Hereford HR1 1LS
Tel: 0800 032 1986

The National Heritage Training Group,
Carthusian Court, 12 Carthusian Street,
London EC1M 6EZ
Tel: 0300 456 5517

National Society of Master Thatchers,
13 Parkers Hill, Tetsworth, Thame,
Oxfordshire OX9 7AQ
Tel: 01844 281208

Thatching Information Service,
Thatcher's Rest, Levens Green,
Old Hall Green, Ware,
Hertfordshire SG11 1HD
Tel: 01920 438710

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