Every week our experts come face to face with life forms that most of us would be more likely to associate with science fiction series such as HBO’s The Last Of Us than real life. The picture above however is not a fungus that risks turning your nearest and dearest into zombies, but rather a typical example of dry rot that if not treated effectively could eventually undermine the structural integrity of your home.
Dry rot is the most serious form of fungal decay that can spread in properties. It attacks the timber in buildings, eating away at the parts that provide the wood’s core strength. Once dry rot spreads, it has the potential to severely damage both the value and structure of your home.
Our world is full of different types of fungi, they help our bread to rise, brew our beer and even support the growth of our crops, but certain fungi can also damage our homes and even our health if they are not kept in check. It is estimated that by weight, globally fungi outweighs all of the animal kingdom, humans included, and yet many of us fail to recognise fungi when we see them. To help you sort your mushrooms from your ‘munch-rooms’ here are our top tips to help you identify the early signs of dry rot, understand what causes it, and the actions required to remedy it and repair any damage to your property.
What is dry rot?
Dry Rot (known by the scientific name, Serpula lacrymans) is a wood destroying fungi that feeds off the cellulose and hemi-cellulose in timber in order to grow and spread. This process leaves timber brown and in a dry brittle state with noticeable cracks running through it, making any affected material in your home very vulnerable to breaking.
It occurs in areas where the timber is damp and the affecting damp has a moisture content that is in excess of 20%, but less than 40%. When coupled with poor ventilation and the presence of dry rot spores, an outbreak may occur.
Dry rot spores are actually around us all the time and will be found in most houses without causing any problems, either to your property or your health. However, when these spores settle in a location with a food source (wood) and sufficient moisture to allow them to develop and germinate, they can spread and become a big problem.
The effects of dry rot
While, household dry rot is unlikely to destroy the majority of human civilization as in Last of Us, if your dry rot problem isn’t treated promptly then it could become a danger to your home and its occupants, and the picture you’ll face may well look a lot like the opening credits of the series.
Once a dry rot infestation has taken hold in your property then you will have to take action to remove the moisture source and ensure affected timbers are dried out, treated or replaced. Without an effective course of treatment, the dry rot will continue to spread and is likely to cause serious structural damage to your home, undermining the strength of timbers that support it.
In its search for timber to consume, dry rot mycelium (the root system) – unlike wet rots – are even capable of spreading through thick walls and over surfaces like steel or brick to attack another piece of wood.
When activated by light, a mushroom-style fungal body called a sporophore can form. These give off millions of spores in the form of red dust, which may find a suitable landing spot to spread and start to cause damage elsewhere. Dry rot’s ability to adapt and spread means that it requires specialist action to avoid extensive damage.
How to fix dry rot
Unlike the protagonists in the The Last of Us series, Joel and Ellie, the first step is not to panic and flee the chaos. Once spotted, a qualified property surveyor should be called in to carry out a dry rot survey to ensure that the right treatment is applied to the infected area. After that, the following steps should be followed:
Removing the source of moisture
Once correctly identified, effective dry rot treatment begins with removing the source of the moisture that created the conditions for the rot to develop.
If the dry rot has appeared underneath floorboards or in a below ground level room in your property, as it often does, this usually means there is inadequate ventilation.
Repairing damaged and defective timbers
Timbers infected with dry rot will usually need to be removed and replaced by a timber repair specialist. Repairs should be made to both structural and decorative timber where possible.
Fungicidal treatment to timbers and masonry
Any retained timber will need to be treated using the latest fungicidal chemicals to prevent future growth. It is also recommended that masonry receives a surface fungicidal treatment where timbers are still present, as dry rot can use it to spread throughout a property.
If left untreated, the growth hidden in the wall will continue to spread and will re-infect any new timbers that are put in place.
If you are not an expert yourself, we would suggest you contact an expert, such as a Peter Cox surveyor, to inspect your property and recommend the best course of action.
Peter Cox’s treatment plans are covered by long lasting guarantees, meaning that you can enjoy complete peace of mind knowing that the fungal infestation has been totally eradicated from your home.