The three thatching materials in common use today are long straw, combed wheat reed and water reed. Although long straw is still used in certain parts of the country, the vast majority of cottages are thatched using either combed wheat reed or water reed.
Wheat reed gives a more rounded finish and is usually sparred on using hazel spars. A good quality roof would usually last between 25-35 years.
Water reed gives a slightly less rounded appearance and is usually crooked straight onto the roof timbers. A good quality water reed roof should last for at least 40 years, but often will last considerably longer. During re-thatching, we have stripped off water reed which was around 100 years old, some of which was still in very good condition.
Long straw is a by-product of the production of corn and has been around for as long as farmers have been growing fields of wheat for corn production. It is widely regarded as being a very traditional material and its main feature is that it is supplied by the farmer in a very rough form: it is simply a large pile of straw which needs to be sorted and straightened out by the thatcher who is applying it.