Owning a home, whether for investment or personal use, is one of the biggest responsibilities most people will make in their lifetimes. The upkeep for those dwellings is a job that is rewarding, yet expensive and time consuming. Keeping those homes in tip-top shape is extremely important. One concern that homeowners must be aware of is the presence of water throughout the walls and framework of the home which can, potentially, cause costly damage and compromise its structural integrity and safety.
Once water damage has been discovered in the home, fungal decay in the form of dry rot or wet rot becomes an immediate concern. It’s important to understand the differences between both forms of fungal decay in order to properly identify the presence of these issues, and take steps to protect the integrity of your home, in order to eradicate these issues before they cause extensive damage and have costly effects on your wallet.
Contrary to the name, dry rot does require the presence of moisture in order to grow. The moisture content can be around 20%, and the water source does not have to be in the immediate area of the rot. In most cases, dry rot will occur in places that cannot be seen by those living in the home. These areas include underneath flooring, in attics, around window casings, and behind wall panelling. One identifying feature of dry rot is the fact that it can be present on masonry, stone, and brick walls. Most often, dry rot is not identified until these areas are weakened and extensive damage has occurred, or when these areas are pulled away and replaced for aesthetic reasons. Dry rot can occur in all types of wood and masonry surfaces, and can grow and spread due to higher humidity levels both within the home and the outside environment.
Identifying dry rot is a very important first step in clearing up this nasty fungus. In addition to a musty, wet odour, dry rot will have brown, brittle timbers that may crumble or flake off when touched. The timber will appear to be dry to the touch. White or grey strands, growing in an outward direction, are responsible for spreading the fungus. Often, there is also a rust coloured dust that is present around the general area where a dry rot sporophore has formed.
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The presence of wet rot is most commonly seen in areas of consistent moisture as it requires a significantly increased moisture level in order to grow. As a result, wet rot can often be present in the immediate area of the leak or water source. Wet rot usually occurs in areas caused by a leaking roof or pipes, window sills that are not sealed properly (thus pooled water is allowed to remain), washing machines that have not been plumbed properly, or moisture access points around timbers in roof voids. These areas have a steady amount of moisture that is allowed to remain for an extended amount of time. Typically, once the moisture is removed – that is the leak is repaired and moisture levels drop – wet rot will not continue to grow. The damage will still need to be repaired, of course, but the fungus itself will stop growing.
Wet rots have a very distinctive look and feel. The appearance of wet rot will be that of a black, brown or white fungal occurrence that has a musty smell. Wet rot is usually soft and spongy to the touch and can easily be pressed in with a finger even through several coats of paint. There may also be the presence of flaking layers of wood or paint and cracks may form along the grain of the timbers. In areas of continued water prescence, the timber or wall boards may be compromised to the point of breakage causing severe structural damage and an unsafe environment for habitation.
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Discovering rot in the home can be unnerving to most owners. Identification of the type of rot that is present requires knowledge of the two most common types of fungal decay – dry and wet rot. These occurrences have features that are often confused, but by carefully examining their distinctive attributes one can correctly identify the type of rot and successfully treat the problem. Home ownership can be a roller coaster of events, but correct identification of fungal types can make water damage an easier problem to solve.