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What Is Dry Rot?

Dry rot is a highly destructive fungal growth which affects timber. The fungi spread swiftly by feeding off the wood cells, which makes the timber brittle and extremely vulnerable. Dry rot spores can even penetrate other materials such as brick or steel to reach wood in another part of the structure.   

Because of its ability to move through a variety of building materials, dry rot can cause serious and widespread structural damage with alarming speed, so it’s essential to recognise dry rot early signs and treat the infestation as quickly as possible. 

How Can I Tell If I Have Dry Rot?

Dry rot can affect timber in any part of a building, and it can be found in modern or older structures. During the early stages, there may be no visible dry rot early signs, but you’ll notice an earthy, musty, damp smell that’s quite unpleasant. Any hint of this and you must investigate further. 

Dry rot begins as a tiny spore which flourishes in damp, dark and unventilated conditions. Consequently, the problem often begins in hidden areas – under floorboards or in attics and basements, for example. By the time dry rot becomes visible, it’s probably well-established already, so it’s a good idea to be aware of dry rot early signs.

What Does Early Dry Rot Look Like?

Dry Rot develops in four stages. 

Stage One: Red Dust

The first dry rot early sign is a red or orange dust composed of numerous microscopic spores. These spores are present in the atmosphere all around us and at this point they are harmless. 

Stage Two: Hyphae

If there’s excess moisture in the atmosphere the spores begin to germinate. You’ll know this has happened as they start to put out fine white or grey strands that look like spiders’ webs.  These fine tendrils are hyphae, and the fungus uses them to penetrate timber and suck up moisture. The wood then dries out and begins breaking down. If you spot these dry rot early signs, you can be sure an infestation is underway. 

Stage Three: Mycelium

Once moisture is extracted from the immediate area, the hyphae continue to grow. They form whitish clumps which look very much like cotton wool. These fluffy clumps are called mycelium and if these appear it’s vital you act at once. 

This is the point at which dry rot can travel through masonry and bricks to cause huge structural damage. You also want to prevent the fungus from reaching stage four of its development. 

Stage Four: Fruiting Body

At this stage, the mycelium forms a mushroom-like structure (the fruiting body) where new spores are produced. They’re easy to spot as they are a distinctive red colour. The fruiting body then pumps spores into the atmosphere in order to reach new timber, and so the damage spreads.  

How Does Dry Rot Affect Wood? 

The affected timber tends to grow darker when dry rot sets in. It dries out, shrinks and cracks. Sometimes it has a spongy texture. Eventually, the wood disintegrates into small, crumbly cubes of timber. In some cases, wood retains its surface veneer during the early stages. This conceals the underlying damage until the problem becomes too severe and the wood begins to fall apart. 

If you suspect you have a dry rot problem and you have wooden floorboards, this can be a good place to begin your investigation. The problem often starts under the floor so you won’t see it but there will be clues. The floor can begin to feel bouncy, and you may notice it creaking as well. This is one of the dry rot early signs that there’s trouble below. 

Does Dry Rot Go Away on Its Own?

Unfortunately, it isn’t that simple. The spores need moisture to germinate so you might imagine that removing the water source stops them from doing so (fixing a leaking pipe, for example). That may halt the spread for the time being. However, if the spores run out of damp wood, they simply remain dormant – ready to germinate again as soon as conditions are right. 

In addition, dry rot weakens timber so even if the spores become dormant you still face the prospect of structural damage. Waiting for it to go away will lead to further problems in the end. 

Can You Stop Dry Rot from Spreading?

Yes, you can but once dry rot sets in you’ll need professional help to stop the spread and repair structural damage. 

What Is the Best Treatment for Dry Rot?

At Atlantis Damp we know that each situation is different, so we tailor our approach to your specific requirements. Our surveyor carries out a thorough investigation to identify the source of the dry rot. Then we implement an appropriate treatment plan. 

 We always aim to use environmental controls by fixing leaks and improving ventilation. However, it may be necessary to do more, depending on the circumstances. Here’s a general overview of the process.

Step 1: Pinpoint the Source 

Identify the water source that’s causing the excess moisture and repair the leak. 

Step 2: Isolation and Ventilation

Where possible we use environmental controls to decrease humidity to prevent dry rot from recurring. 

Step 3: Assess the Extent of the Dry Rot

This may involve removing floorboards and plaster to reach the affected areas. 

Step 4: Remove Damaged Timber and Fungal Growth

Rotten wood is cut back and replaced with new timber. The entire area is cleaned to remove all traces of the dry rot – visible spores, hyphae, mycelium and fruiting body must all be removed. 

Step 5: Fungicide Treatment

It may be necessary to treat the area with a chemical fungicide to guard against outbreaks in the future.  

Contact Atlantis Damp 

We are a family-run, Cheshire-based business. We pride ourselves on exceptional customer service and expertise. Talk to one of our friendly team for a reliable solution to your damp and timber infestation issues. 

Contact us today