Dry Rot

What is Dry Rot and how can it impact the value of your home?

Are you worried about dry rot affecting your home? You’re not alone. Dry rot is one of the most common causes of concern for homeowners in the UK, but in order to deal with it effectively it’s important to take the right course of action and seek out professional help.

If you suspect your property is experiencing a dry rot issue, you should start by finding the source of the problem. However, this may not be as simple as you’d think, as the symptoms are not always obvious – which is why having an expert on hand is always advisable.

What is dry rot

Dry rot – or Serpula Lacrymans to give its proper name – is a type of fungus that feeds off the moisture found in wood and timber. As a result, the timber can become ‘infected’ and eventually start to crumble, destroying materials that were previously considered safe. If it’s left unchecked, it could quickly spread and affect the structural integrity of your property, causing long-term problems.

While dry rot spores are always present in the atmosphere, they only really affect damp timber and structural materials as a result of the environmental conditions. It’s advised that you fix ventilation issues in the home such as rising damp and condensation, as they can result in excessive levels of moisture spreading throughout the property.

Once the fungus has formed a large enough structure, appearing as a cotton-wool like white substance, it can grow far and wide to find new timber food sources. It can even spread through bricks, mortar, plaster and paintwork, making its way around an entire home if not caught quickly enough.

Dry rot signs

Dealing with the cause of the damp in your property is considered the best way of preventing dry rot from returning. Ideally, catching it before it spreads is the best method, but it can be difficult to spot for the untrained eye. Some potential signs may include:

  • A distinct mushroom smell.
  • Cracking, splitting, shrinking or darkening of timbers around your house.
  • The presence of a musty, damp, mushroom smell close to where these signs have appeared.
  • A cotton-wool like, white fluffy growth will then appear at the site, which may be followed by a mushroom-coloured skin over the surface of the wood.
  • Eventually, the fungus will release rust-coloured dust spores, which will become visible once enough are produced.

 

If you’ve noticed these signs within your home, it’s time to call in an expert who can identify the problem. While many of these signs are not unique to dry rot, it’s better to be safe than sorry.

What causes dry rot?

As mentioned earlier, dry rot spores are always present. However, this fungus can only thrive under certain conditions according to experts. Dampness and high levels of condensation are thought to be the main consequences, with the damp enabling the fungus to spread.

Common problems that allow dry rot to grow in your home include:

  • Condensation. If your home isn’t ventilated properly, condensation can begin to build up, creating the damp conditions that enable the rot to grow.
  • Penetrating damp. This is when water can breach the exterior of your home, usually as rainwater leaking through cracks in brickwork or a damaged roof. Once it reaches the internal timbers, it can soak them to the point that dry rot can thrive.
  • Rising damp. This is where moisture can breach your home through its foundations, often because the damp proof membrane is insufficient or has deteriorated.
  • Plumbing leaks. These are very common, and could be anything from a leaky washing machine to a damaged pipe somewhere you can’t see.

 

Why does it impact property values?

Dry rot can affect property values due to its ability to affect the structural integrity of a building. The property could therefore be at risk, resulting in a potentially costly and time-consuming amends process. In this case, it may give potential buyers enough reason to reconsider their options.

If you're selling your home

Homeowners are required to inform potential buyers of the situation, as the problem will eventually be uncovered during the surveying period. Would-be buyers may even be refused their mortgage owing to the presence of dry rot – much like is often the case for Japanese knotweed. The best course of action is to get your dry rot treated before you move forward with selling.

For more advice about selling your home, take a look at our top ten tips.

If you’re buying a home

Before entering into the house buying process, you should have a survey conducted of any property in which your offer is accepted. If dry rot is discovered in the building, deciding whether you’d still like to go ahead with the purchase may be your call, but you might find your mortgage lender withdraws their offer.

How do you treat dry rot?

If you suspect dry rot in your home, you should contact a specialist for the best results. Professionals such as Rentokil will send a surveyor to undertake a five-step treatment service, which includes:

  1. Stopping the source of the moisture
  2. Removing the damaged area
  3. Treating the dry rot
  4. Replacing any timber

Before any work can begin, a qualified surveyor will conduct a thorough inspection to determine the extent of the issue. This will typically involve checking for associated problems such as signs of damp, as well as highlighting other areas of the property that may be at risk.

Once the inspection has been completed, they will be able to provide you with a full report and advise you on what steps to take next.

On the hunt for a new home? Get an estimate of how much Post Office could lend you, when you take a look at our mortgage calculator.