How to deal with dry rot

Dry rot is a serious problem that can cost thousands of pounds to remove. Understand how to prevent it and what signs to look for to stop it taking hold in your home.

Dry rot is a serious problem that can cost thousands of pounds to remove. Understand how to prevent it and what signs to look for to stop it taking hold in your home.

Chris King
Home insurance expert
3
minute read
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Posted 9 MAY 2022 Last Updated 9 MAY 2022

What is dry rot? 

Dry rot – otherwise known as Serpula lacrymans – is a fungus that causes wood to decay, causing structural damage to your home. The fungus feeds off the cellulose in timber, causing it to become weak and brittle. If it gets bad enough, dry rot can be dangerous as it can damage wood and masonry enough to make a building collapse.

What causes dry rot? 

The fungus that causes dry rot thrives in dark, damp, poorly ventilated conditions. In fact, it attacks timber with a moisture content of over 21%. So, if there’s damp in your home or high levels of condensation, or if there’s a leak coming from a washing machine or broken roof tiles or drains, there could be a risk of dry rot developing.

Where are the most common places for dry rot to form? 

One of the things that makes dry rot so tricky is that it’s most commonly found in areas that you can’t easily see – including under the stairs, in lofts and attics, in flooring and behind plaster.

How do I know if my home has dry rot? 

Dry rot has a few tell-tale signs. Watch out for: 

  • Shrinking and warping timber
  • Cracks in wood
  • A damp fungal smell
  • Red, orange and brown-coloured dust
  • Grey stands on timber
  • Dry, brittle wood that crumbles when you touch it
  • Flat, orange fungus.

How to prevent dry rot 

Prevention is better than cure when it comes to dry rot. Here’s a few things you can do to stop it before it starts: 

  • Get your roof checked once a year to identify and fix any problems
  • Clean your gutters regularly to stop rainwater from overflowing and getting into the walls
  • Check beneath cabinets, the bath and around toilets for any plumbing leaks. If you find a leak, get in touch with a plumber (if you’re unable to fix it yourself) and get it repaired as quickly as possible
  • If you have damp in your home, find the source and get it fixed. If it’s condensation, deal with it by improving ventilation, especially in your bathroom and kitchen, by using extractor fans, dehumidifiers and opening windows.

How to fix dry rot 

Dealing with dry rot might involve removing structural timber from your home, which is best left to the professionals. Trying to do it yourself might cause even more damage.

The first step is to have a survey done to see if you have dry rot and where it is. A professional can then remove the damaged wood and treat any remaining structural timber and new wood with fungicide to stop the problem from arising again.

Does my home insurance cover dry rot? 

Unfortunately not. Dry and wet rot will be excluded from most home insurance policies. The exception might be if the rot is caused by a specific incident, like a leak, that’s covered by the policy. Check your home insurance policy carefully to see what’s covered.

How much does it cost to remove dry rot? 

The average cost of removing dry rot runs into the thousands and can be very high depending on how much of your property has already been damaged.

The cheapest ways to deal with dry rot 

Removing dry rot isn’t something you can skimp on. Unless you really know what you’re doing, you’ll need to call in an expert. Shop around and get quotes from reputable specialists.

Frequently asked questions

What is the difference between dry and wet rot?

One of the main differences between wet and dry rot is how far it spreads. Wet rot tends to stay near the source of the problem, whereas dry rot can spread all over your home through damp masonry and timber. 

Wet rot also needs more moisture to grow than dry rot.

Is dry rot dangerous to health?

Dry rot spores aren’t a health problem in themselves, but the damp conditions they need to grow can impact your health.

Can I sell my home if it has dry rot?

It’s possible, but you’ll more than likely get a lot less than you hoped for, and your buyer may pull out altogether if dry rot is discovered when they have a survey done. If you have dry rot, it’s advisable to get it fixed before you put your house on the market.

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