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Does Homeowners Insurance Cover Rotted Windows?

Damp Rotten Window Frame

Rotting windows on your home can be the result of many a problem or even no problem at all and simply due to age and exposure to the elements. Your external window frames and walls are your first layer of protection from the elements and without regular maintenance, you will start to see visual examples of wear and tear.

Homeowners insurance often won’t cover rotted window frames that are simply caused by age or issues with humidity and this will fall to the homeowner to replace the frames. Rotted window frames that are caused by a water leak or burst pipe may be covered by your insurance if you have protection against these types of water emergencies but may not be covered in all plans as standard. In some policies, the pipe or area that the water leak occurred will be covered but you will need to check the fine print on whether extended damage can be repaired under the insurance.

Why are my Windows Rotting?

Your windows provide a portal to the outside world, letting the sunshine and warmth in and keeping the cold and pests out. They are your protection against the wet and damp but that doesn’t mean that your window frames are indestructible. On the contrary, if moisture builds up over time or is allowed to sit without drying on the frames, you can soon start to see the effects. If you have a leaking roof or a burst pipe in your walls and moisture is collecting around your windows as a result, this can also lead to issues with rotting and the source of the problem needs to be fixed as a priority before addressing the damage.

Mould spots and damp patches are usually your first visual indication of a problem but sometimes you might not see any obvious signs that your window frames are rotting. Instead, carrying out regular inspections can ensure you catch any potential issues before the damage gets out of hand. Keep an eye out for;

  • Wood frames that feel soft to the touch. Wood should be strong and durable, if it’s spongey or has some give under your touch, the wood has become well saturated with moisture and needs to be replaced
  • Peeling paint. Wood that is painted and then becomes oversaturated with moisture will have an imperfect surface as wood fibres swell and shrink, this will lead to flaking, peeling paint that can be easier to spot
  • Gaps in the joins. Look carefully in the corners of your windows, if you notice a gap that is larger at the bottom than the top, then the wood has been saturated and frozen
  • Discolouration of frames. Fungus, moss and mould can all grow on window frames and cause discolouration, it might not be noticeable from a distance so give your windows a thorough check over between every season and clean away any growth
  • Distortions on the window sill. A window sill is a place that moisture is likely to collect and will start to distort when water is left long enough to cause damage. It is recommended to check your window sills more frequently, especially after heavy rain

Why Should I Worry About my Windows Rotting?

Rotting wood around window frames will compromise the energy efficiency of your home, allowing damp air in and your expensive warmth out. Additionally, wood that has been allowed to become moist or damp is an attraction for mould and fungus spores such as wet and dry rot. These are two major concerns in a property as moisture can spread easily throughout an inefficiently insulated property, causing structural weakness and potentially leading to very expensive repair work.

Not to mention, damaged and decaying wood can be an attractor to nasty pests and wood that has warped and distorted can often leave enough of a space for unwanted home invaders such as bugs and rodents.

What is Dry Rot?

Dry rot is categorised as a type of brown rot that loves to settle itself in slightly moist wood (only 28% moisture saturation required for dry rot to take root). Unlike the name suggests, dry rot spores will only implant themselves into moist wood, although once established, they can remain dormant should moisture levels drop but only to around 22%.

Dry rot can rapidly spread through a building with damp problems and cause serious destruction to timber and wooden structures. It can be identified by the vegetative part of the fungus which often displays silvery-grey with yellow and lilac hues or as a broad white, cotton wool-like skirt in environments with greater humidity. Dry rot has a reddish-brown fruiting body with white borders and distinct orange patches and will happily spread across the surfaces of masonry and timber.

While you may not see dry rot in a home if the fruiting body hasn’t sprouted, there are signs to look out for that can indicate a dry rot infestation in your home that needs attention. Signs of dry rot in your home include;

  • Crumbling timbers, particularly skirting boards and door frames that disintegrate under your touch
  • Musty, damp smell that spreads throughout the space
  • Spore dust that appears in patches on the walls often coloured red, brown or orange
  • Grey strands that extend between decaying timber beams and deep cracks that appear in the surface
  • Wood is almost squishy to the touch or feels soft and weak

Is Dry Rot Covered by Home Insurance?

More often than not, no. Dry rot is not covered by your home insurance as standard. You are likely to have water leaks and burst pipe coverage (although some policies will require these as additional terms) but insurers are very good at getting out of covering any damage that occurs from these incidences. Many a homeowner has been a victim of dry rot due to poor ventilation, sharing a structure with another property that has a bad leak or burst pipe or simply ageing materials and it can be a costly issue to have fixed.

Depending on the age and location of your home and the materials used in your property, you may want to talk to your insurer about including a dry rot clause that covers repair costs up to a certain amount. This is particularly important in buildings over 10 years that are located near the coast where the air is much damper than it is inland. By ensuring your policy covers dry rot or at least the damage caused by dry rot that has occurred through no fault of the homeowner, you can save yourself a lot of stress and expensive repairs.

What is Wet Rot?

Another issue that homeowners run into with their timber and wooden structures is wet rot. Wet rot is a term used to describe multiple species of fungus that take root in wood. Unlike dry rot which has a distinct appearance, wet rot covers a number of different fungi that can appear differently. You can usually identify wet rot from the following indicators around your home;

  • Wood that appears in a different colour to neighbouring timber (can be darker or lighter; darkening too is found in dry rot)
  • Bounce or movement in wood and timber floors
  • Wood that appears to be shrinking
  • A damp, musty odour in the affected area
  • Flaking, peeling or crumbling paintwork
  • Wood that cracks in a cuboidal pattern (This too is found in dry rot)

Wet rot fungus can be categorised further into brown rot and white rot, which both cause similar issues within the property leading to structural weakness but are different in their appearance. Both types of wet rot will rarely be identified by the fruiting body, instead, they are recognised by the vegetative part of the fungus that will grow over the surface of timbers. Brown rot grows in a sheet-like manner with fine brown threads that extend from the affected wood, whereas white rot will display itself similarly but is much lighter in colour.

If you are worried about any type of rot in your home but can’t see any visible indicators, take a sharp object and poke this into the suspicious area. Wood that is healthy will show resistance while infected wood will have no resistance and the sharp tool is likely to pierce easily into the timber.

Is Wet Rot Covered by House Insurance?

Unfortunately, much like dry rot, wet rot and the damage caused by wet rot is unlikely to be covered as standard in your home insurance policy. You may have a water damage clause for covering the cost of repair from a leaky roof or burst pipe but insurers are reluctant to cover extensive damage that occurs as a result of increased moisture in the home. If you notice damp or mould in your home, it’s important to act as soon as possible. Otherwise, your insurance provider may consider wet rot and the damage that occurs from wet rot a result of homeowner negligence and refuse to cover it.

Similar to dry rot, every homeowner would benefit from having some kind of coverage but depending on the age, location and materials used in your home will influence how important getting coverage is. Talk to your provider about including a wet and dry rot clause in your house insurance and save yourself the hassle of trying to fight for covered repairs if the worst cause should happen.

Treating Wet and Dry Rot in the Home

If you have an incidence of wet rot or dry rot in your home, it’s important to get the source of the moisture fixed first, whether this is a burst pipe, a leaky roof, blocked guttering or other cause. Then you can start to repair the damage left by wet and dry rot. This is a multiple-step process that can be time-consuming and potentially expensive depending on the extent of the damage caused.

Timber and wood beams that have been heavily affected will need a complete replacement and cannot simply be left as the wood is now weakened and very unsafe.

If the wood hasn’t been thoroughly affected by the rot and it is only surface-level, the superficial rot can be removed without too much concern for the health of the timber.

Seeking Professional Help for Damp and Timber Problems

Not everyone will be easily able to identify issues with damp, rot and moisture in their home but that’s where professional services can help. If you are worried about damp in your home or think you may have a type of rot that will require professional repair, Garratt's Damp and Timber are here to help.

We offer surveys with no obligation to take up services, but will at least satisfy that worry in the back of your mind that the problem in your home will require additional work and repair. Whether it’s identifying damp, treating wood rot or tanking a basement, our dedicated and experienced team will be happy to get your home back to full health. Give us a call now on 0208 535 7536 or book your damp survey in London and the Home Counties.

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