Water Reed, Wheat Reed, Long Straw and more: A complete list of thatch materials and their properties

There are a number of different thatched roof materials, so we’ve put together an extensive list to help you understand the different properties and uses for each of them. Whether it’s thatch reed, water reed, wheat reed, long straw or other popular materials, we’ve got you covered.

Water Reed (Norfolk Reed, Thatch Reed or Continental Water Reed)

Water Reed, also known as Norfolk Reed, Continental Water Reed or simply as Thatch Reed is a type of wetland grass that has been used in thatching for thousands of years. It was originally common on properties around the Norfolk area of England, close to where the grass naturally grew. However, you’ll often find this material in use on thatched roofs across the country as popularity with thatchers has increased over the recent decades.

Water Reed is the predominant thatching material used in countries such as Germany and the Netherlands, where you’ll rarely see alternative materials being used.

Thatch made up of Water Reed should last from 25 to 40 years if cared for properly.

Combed Wheat Reed (Wheat Reed, Wheat Straw or Combed Wheat Straw)

Also referred to as Devon Reed, Wheat Straw or simply Wheat Reed, this material is often used as a ridging material. The material is made from wheat straw which has been combed to remove smaller straws and leaves as opposed to threshing which consists of beating the material to separate the grain from the straw. The result is a strong straw which provides a clean, crisp finish, hence its widespread use in ridging, although it’s not uncommon to see entire roofs thatched with Combed Wheat Reed.

Thatch made up of Combed Wheat read should last from 25 to 35 years if cared for properly.

Long Straw

Long Straw, sometimes written as “Longstraw” used to be the most popular material for thatching, but now sits in third place behind Water Reed and Combed Wheat Reed. Made from straw specifically grown for thatching, it’s similar to its combed counterpart although it is threshed to remove the smaller straws and leaves as opposed to combing. Long Straw work is generally more labour intensive which commands a higher price, that paired with its relatively low lifespan when compared to Combed Wheat Reed means it’s rarely chosen for new builds.

Thatch made up of Long Straw typically lasts for 15 to 25 years.


Heather has seen its popularity as a thatching material decrease over the past 100 years. The material grows on moors and needs to be three to four feet in length for use as a thatching material. The process of cultivating and harvesting Heather to the required standard requires a lot of hard work, which is the main reason it has fallen out of favour in recent decades.

Heather has a reputation for being a hardy thatching material with a lifespan of 25 to 40 years.


The use of Turf as a thatching material has diminished over the years, with its use now being confined to the North of England. This can be attributed to the high amount of effort involved in thatching a roof with this material, as well as the final appearance being completely different to that of a straw roof which features neat and tidy finish. Appearances aside, the material has great properties that make it ideal when used as a base layer beneath a straw thatch; its heavy, which helps it to weigh down and secure the roof, and its dense which means it makes a great waterproof barrier, almost like a roofing felt.

When used as a base material, turf can last many years, often being thatched over multiple times before having to be replaced.


Sedge used to be used as a roof covering, but is now often used as a ridging material. The grass itself has long triangular leaves with serrated edges and is therefore incredibly sharp, so care must be taken when handling it, gloves are an absolute must have! The grass itself is now harvested exclusively in East Anglia, where it has been used for generations.

When used as a ridging material, you should expect sedge to last 8 to 10 years.