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Thatcher

Source of Information: Next Step / DirectGov / Careers Advice Service

Thatcher

The Work

Thatchers are skilled craftspeople who repair and replace thatched roofs. They work to strict rules governing the materials and methods they are allowed to use in order to preserve buildings in their original form.

One of your main tasks as a thatcher is to prepare the roof and materials before starting work on the re-roofing. This would involve:

  • putting up scaffolding or securing ladders to the building to allow access to the roof
  • stripping off the old roof
  • checking the roof timbers for damage or rot
  • repairing, treating or replacing timbers where necessary before starting to thatch
  • preparing the materials straw, wheat reed or water reed into bundles ready for use.

Once you have prepared the roof, you would secure bundles of thatch to the roof timbers (battens), using tarred cord or metal hooks. You would start at the eaves (where the roof meets the walls) and work your way up to the ridge at the top. You might also shape the ridges into decorative patterns.

You would use a range of thatching craft tools, including shearing hooks, needles, eave-knives and mallets. Some thatchers also grow and harvest their own thatching materials.

Hours and Environment

Your hours would depend on the availability of work, but could include early starts, late finishes and weekends.

You would be outdoors in most weather conditions, working from a ladder or scaffolding.

The job can be very dusty, and reed seeds and spores from wheat straw can be harmful if you have a chest condition.

You may have to travel across a wide area for jobs.

Skills and Interests


  • a good head for heights
  • a willingness to work outdoors in all weathers
  • strong practical skills
  • good maths skills for estimating materials, pricing jobs and doing accounts
  • good communication and negotiating skills
  • a knowledge of building, safety and conservation regulations
  • the ability to adapt your skills to work on complicated thatched structures and solve problems
  • a good level of fitness
  • a willingness to travel and work flexibly.

Entry

You do not need any specific qualifications for this job. You could find work by contacting individual thatchers or thatching companies for details about possible trainee positions.

If you start as a trainee thatcher, you may be able to apply for the New Entrants Training Scheme run by Herefordshire College of Technology. See the training and development section for more details.

You may also need to relocate to an area where thatching skills are in demand.

You can find details of local thatching companies by contacting the Thatching Information Service, or by visiting the National Society of Master Thatchers website.

Training

Once you start working you could take the Roofing Occupations (Thatching) NVQ at levels 2 and 3. The NVQ covers:

  • preparing roofs
  • preparing thatching materials
  • thatching roofs
  • thatching specialist features (dormer windows, gable ends and ridges)
  • health and safety.

If you take up a place on the New Entrants Training Scheme, you would normally train over two years. Training takes place on the job and at Knuston Hall in Northamptonshire. On completing the course you would gain the Roofing Occupations (Thatching) NVQ. For more details about the scheme, contact Herefordshire College of Technology.

If you are an experienced thatcher, a trainee or simply have an interest in the craft, you can contact the National Society of Master Thatchers about their membership scheme, which could help you develop your career and make contacts within the industry. The Society also runs training courses for members and offers advice on technical issues.

Traditional Building Skills Bursary Scheme
The Traditional Building Skills Bursary scheme aims to address skills shortages within the traditional crafts and built heritage sector, by offering bursaries and organising work-based training placements for eligible applicants.

To find out more about the scheme, eligibility and what placements are available, visit the Traditional Building Skills Bursary Scheme website.

Opportunities

Your work opportunities are likely to be on a self-employed basis, either working alone or with a partner or trainee.

Most thatched buildings are in rural areas of the country like East Anglia, the Midlands and the West Country, and in Ireland, Scotland and Wales. Conservation regulations often do not allow owners to replace thatch with other materials, so the number of thatched properties remains reasonably stable.

There is a lot of competition for thatching work. The Countryside Agency advises craftspeople who live outside a main thatching region to have another source of income, but one which also provides the flexibility to take on thatching work as it comes up.

Annual Income


  • Starting salaries can be between 13,000 and 16,000 a year.
  • Experienced thatchers can earn between 17,000 and 22,000.

Figures are intended as a guideline only.

Further information

If you would like to discuss your career options with a learning advisor at the Careers Advice Service advice line, call 0800 100 900 or use our online enquiry form.
 

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