Dry Rot

Dry Rot

Dry rot has been a problem in wooden structures for hundreds of years. Some of the earliest records come from the early seventeenth century and are of dry rot to ship timbers belonging to the Royal Navy of king James 1st. Dry rot has since then been identified as a major problem in buildings, Dry rot is recognised throughout the British Isles and many other countries. It is most prevalent in the North and West of this country (UK) and in buildings constructed before the Second World War.

Wood in properties can be attacked by many species of wood-rotting fungi, Dry Rot is one of the most common with the Latin name Serpula lacrymans.

Dry rot can have many different appearances depending on the situation it is in, the appearance is determined by food source, ambient moisture levels and temperature. Spores from this fungi settle on damp timber and germinate, they develop into fine, thread-like filaments called hyphae. These hyphae releases enzymes, which break down wood cells, causing loss of timber integrity. Fungi do not attack wood with a moisture content below about 20% w/w so decay does not occur unless dampness in buildings occurs.

Dampness can come in many forms (see Dampness in Buildings) but most often it is through poor design, lack of maintenance or building faults. All pictures on this site are taken by our own surveyors and are of jobs they have managed for clients.

Dry rot damage

Dry Rot sporophores and mycelium in a ceiling caused by a leaking roof. This outbreak eventually pushed all the plasterboard off the ceiling.

Dry rot damage

Dry rot sporophores found underneath floorboards, a strong smell like mushrooms and orange dust was apparent in the room above.

Dry rot is actually the term used for decay caused by Serpula lacrymans, It is a brown rot that destroys wood, eventually reducing timber to a dry and brittle consistency - hence the name 'dry rot'.

Dry rot is the most serious type of timber decay in buildings because it can establish itself at a lower moisture content than wet rot fungi. Dry rot can also spread through masonry and brickwork, and behind plaster. It can therefore move rapidly through a building, making the correct remedial treatment essential if you are to successfully stop the attack.

Warning signs for Dry Rot

  • Dark orange coloured dust appearing as a fine film on floorboards, floor coverings and furniture/stored items. These are the spores from the dry rot sporophore or fruiting body.
  • Spore dust may also be evident at bleed areas such as gaps under skirting boards or in areas with no carpet such as under stair cupboards. This is often from a sporophore beneath the floor or in a cool damp hidden area.
  • Any persistent unusual smell when you walk into a room or affected area. The dry rot sporophore gives off a mushroom smell.
  • White mycelium, usually found under floors, can be similar to heavy spiders web or white pillows of cotton wool, Dry rot can have a different appearance depending on the humidity and ambient conditions.
  • Gray white coloured tendrils (may look a bit like a thin grape vine with no leaves). This is how the dry rot spreads.
  • Timber with deep cracks across the grain, becomes brittle, light in weight and crumbles easily. As the name implies, dry rot sucks the moisture and nutrients from the wood leaving it dry and brittle.
Dry rot spores

This shows spores from a Serpula lacrymans (dry rot) sporophore. The orange spores can be seen in the path of a draft through the gap left under the skirting board crossing the hearth.

Typical Bleed marks left by dry rot spores

This picture shows dry rot spores passing through gaps beneath skirting boards. Every time the occupant opens a door or a window, air from the sub floor void (in this case filled with spores) is sucked through any gaps.

Dry rot damage to skirting boards

Picture shows shrinkage to skirting boards affected by dry rot, as the wood shrinks the paint does not and a wrinkled appearance is created on the surface, eventually leading to gaps between skirting and walls and at joints as shown.

If you think you may have dry rot do not delay or put off, contact us, immediately. Dry rot travels relatively quickly, everything it touches will need specialist treatment or to be cut out and renewed, so the sooner dry rot is dealt with the less expensive it will be.

Do not sit and worry, it is always best to know what you are dealing with. Arrange one of our expert surveyors to come and identify it for you, It may be nothing to worry about, but better safe than sorry - arrange an inspection and have peace of mind that it is not dry rot or peace of mind that you have done something about it.

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