Thatched Cottage Ireland

a lovingly restored cottage in the West of Ireland

Month: January 2016

Is a thatched roof asking for trouble?


As we have learned most people think owning a thatched property is a really bad idea!

A picture on a postcard? – adorable, but owning one conjures nightmares of fire, expense and collecting rain in saucepans.

In fact, the thatch has been one of the easier parts of this project. Firstly, we managed to find an expert skilled thatcher early on to guide us. This put our mind at ease on the quality of the roof, which fortunately was reasonably good and just in need of some maintenance. Secondly, we realised that the longer term economics of owning a thatch roof once understood were not that bad.

We’ve come to realise that although the thatch requires yearly maintenance and will eventually need to be replaced, this expense is nothing compared to the maintenance required on a larger property. When we were looking at houses on the Irish market we could have picked up a large 4/5 bedroomed house in the countryside for the same price. But that’s 4/5 bedrooms with each room having at least one window, door, carpet, interiors and furnishings to maintain. Then theres painting, inside and out – more surface area. More bathrooms, more fittings. More plumbing, more electrical work. Houses have roofs too – big ones! Our maths told us that longer term a thatched cottage would be cheaper to maintain simply because its smaller than most houses.

But don’t you have to replace the thatch eventually? Yes but a good thatch can last 20 or more years. You can also extend the life of your thatch by 5 to 8 years by spending about €150 a year on maintenance.

On the subject of fire, if you do the research you’ll find that most fires on thatched properties are not due to sparks landing on the thatch as you might expect. They are from badly constructed and badly insulated chimneys that allow the heat from the fire to heat the thatch causing fire. You cannot get insurance unless you can prove you have put in the correct insulation to prevent this. So in practice if you follow the guidelines the risk of fire is minimal.

So the verdict on thatch? We love it!

New sewer pipe

It had not been mentioned in our survey that sewage waste from the cottage was being processed via a macerator.

A macerator takes sewage waste and disintegrates it so it can be pumped away via a small pipe. We had seen a skinny pipe outside the back wall but assumed it was a water pipe leading to the bathroom. In fact this was the macerator pipe but we were still a bit confused why the sewage didn’t just flow directly to the septic tank without this pumping mechanism.

It soon became apparent that the cottage is in fact built on a large slab of limestone rock. The macerator approach avoided having to dig into the rock and lay sewage piping.

Discussing it with our builders we decided that having a macerator wouldn’t be the best plan longer term. Macerators can be prone to failure, need an electrical supply and the exposed pipe protruding from the back of the cottage was both unappealing and at risk of freezing in a particularly cold winter.

Tom and Laurik decided to dig out a trench for sewage piping that would provide a direct route using gravity to the septic tank. This required digging through solid rock and care needed to be taken to avoid vibration damage to the cottage.

They eventually came up with a technique whereby they used circular saws to partition sections of rock and a jack hammer mounted on a digger to dig it out. They used lasers to ensure they were getting the correct angle such that gravity could do it’s job.

A big job but well worth it, and aesthetically the back of the cottage looks much better as a result.



Building work starts

At Christmas our builder Tom called around to chat about the project. Sitting at the kitchen table he surprised us by saying ‘Christy and the digger are free tomorrow, how about we start on site? It would be great to get a few days in while you are here.’ And so we were off!

Our Christmas trip to the cottage was the one time we thought it would be difficult to make much progress with the project, but before we knew it Christy had arrived and started clearing us a driveway as we almost had the car stuck in mud the day before.


Then digging moved to the back, clearing away the overgrowth and we were finally able to get a sense of how big the gardens would be. This had been difficult to judge before as they were inaccessible.


Top of the list was to finally assess the septic tank and the pipework so the guys traced the pipework and started to dig it out.


It had been a a struggle to walk around the land at the rear of the cottage, it had been so overgrown and full of rocks.


It was great to finally get started and see more of the surrounding landscape emerge.

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