What does a thatcher do?
On a full re-roofing job, you would prepare the roof and materials before starting to thatch. This involves:
- 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
- preparing the materials – straw, wheat reed or water reed – into bundles ready for use
Once you’ve prepared the roof, you 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 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.
What do I need to do to become a thatcher?
The most common way into this career is to contact individual thatchers or thatching companies to see if they have a vacancy for a trainee thatcher or thatcher's labourer.
Employers may ask for some GCSEs but your enthusiasm to learn and your practical skills are going to be as important as qualifications. Previous experience in related jobs like roofing or reed cutting may be useful.
It’s a physical job, so you'll need to be keen to work hard, have a head for heights and be willing to commit to long-term training. It can take up to five years to learn the skills and be considered a qualified thatcher. You may also need to relocate to an area where thatching skills are in demand.
If you’re between 16 and 18, you could apply for a place on a Heritage Apprenticeship, offering routes into a range of professions, and the chance to gain an industry qualification.
- Heritage Apprenticeships
Where to find out more
Where could I be working?
You would be outdoors in most weather conditions, working from a ladder or scaffolding. You would travel from job to job, so a driving licence is usually required.