You are here: What is dry rot?

Crumbly wood in your house or concentrated patches of fine orange dust? You might have the first telltale signs of dry rot.

Dry rot is a very serious wood disease. Left untreated, it will eat away at any wooden structures or furniture in your house. Whether it’s under floorboards, behind plaster or up in your loft, if there is timber in your home that has been exposed to excessive water or damp, it can be the perfect breeding ground for the dry rot fungus to germinate.

Once settled on the wood, the fungus will suck the moisture out of the wood until it’s dry and crumbling. As the dry rot takes hold, fine grayish strands will appear on the wood that develop into cotton wool-like cushions known as white mycelium. When there is no more timber to feed off, the fungus begins the fruiting-body stage of its lifestyle and will grow mushroom-like bodies, which release new spores in the air to begin a new cycle and spread the problem.

If you catch dry rot early enough, there are some very effective treatments. The first thing to do is establish the source of the moisture. It can be anything from blocked gutters and leaking pipes to poor ventilation and air circulation that have to be repaired or improved before you begin any further treatment.

Once the source is identified, there are professional dry rot surveyors and technicians who can come and help you identify the nature, type and extent of the dry rot. For small outbreaks, they can apply a fungicidal treatment before the dry rot spreads. However, in many cases, dry rot is difficult to spot until later in its lifecycle. In this case, it is often necessary to remove plaster and floorboards to identify all the timbers affected, remove all signs of the fungus, treat the areas and then lay down new timbers.

The worst thing you can do is ignore it. If left unattended, dry rot – or ‘building cancer’ as it is sometimes referred to, can significantly weaken the strength and structure of your home. Standard home insurance policies will not cover dry rot as it is not ‘sudden and accidental’ and has usually built up over time. However, it’s worth checking as if your dry rot was caused by a specific incident like a burst pipe, your policy might just cover it.

The best advice is to be aware of the telltale signs of dry rot and fix the problem before any serious damage occurs


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