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Will Dry Rot Spread Without Water?

Dry Rot on Wood Flooring

If you’re a homeowner, you’ll be aware of the many issues that can crop up and affect your home, be it roof issues, pipe issues or the dreaded damp. It’s something we all fear not just because of how destructive it can be, but also because of how common it is. 

There are so many types of damp, each one with different characteristics and traits. Of the most damaging is dry rot. 

Despite its name, dry rot is a form of damp and requires some level of moisture to establish itself. It’s one of the most detrimental forms of damp if left untreated, and it can cause immense damage within your home, so knowing the symptoms and being able to effectively treat it are essential. 

In this handy guide, we’re going to explain what dry rot is, if it spreads without water, how it can be spotted and how it can be treated. Knowing all of this will equip you with the knowledge you need to know to protect your home from unwelcome problems that can occur from dry rot. 

What is Dry Rot? 

Starting with the basics, dry rot is a form of fungal timber decay that can be harmful to the structural integrity of your home if left untreated. Dry rot is different from wet rot in the sense that it extends further and can cause more damage because it doesn’t require as high a level of moisture. 

Starting off as a form of wood decay, dry rot can infiltrate and affect masonry as it migrates to find fresh timber sources to feed uponThis means you might not notice it in the wood timbers of your home, but you might notice it when it’s in its more advanced stages because it may appear on your walls. 

Like all wood rotting fungi, dry rot requires water, although what makes it particularly common and destructive is that it can survive in moisture levels as low as 22%. It’s common to have a level of dampness in your home (8%-16% is considered normal), but excess moisture will result in damp. The issue is, dry rot requires such little moisture to make an impact, and it doesn’t stop with the damp patch. 

How is Dry Rot Caused? 

In order for any form of damp to occur within your home, there needs to be a level of excess water or moisture. Even though dry rot requires far less humid conditions to come to fruition than other types of fungus, if you do find you have an issue with it, there will be a reason for it. Whether it’s a leak in your gutters, bad ventilation, or a side effect from another problem like rising damp or condensation, dry rot will be present as a result of a deeper issue. 

What Does Dry Rot Look Like? 

Dry rot has four stages which all look different. The first stage is spores which can sit dormant on wood until there’s enough moisture within the wood to activate them. The spores won’t necessarily be noticeable in their singular form, but a group of spores will have an orangey/brown dusty appearance on the wood. If you notice them at this stage, dust them off. 

The second stage is the hyphae stage which is more easily identified thanks to the white/grey strands and patches that can appear on the wood. If you don’t notice it on the wood, you may notice it on brickwork. It’s far easier to treat dry rot in this stage than in the later stages, so it’s well worth keeping a regular eye on any timber/masonry within your home. 

The third stage of dry rot is the mycelium stage. This can look like cotton wool in humid conditions. This stage occurs when the fungus has successfully eaten through the timber it originally infected and is looking for another source to invade. This means there has already been considerable damage to the surface. 

The fourth and final stage of dry rot occurs when there’s a change in the environment. Dark and damp is the preference for dry rot, but if something affects this, the fungus will attempt to preserve itself. It does this by encasing itself is a sporophore fruiting body which takes on the appearance of a mushroom. It’s typically silver or grey, but it can also appear yellow or purple. The fruiting body releases spores into the atmosphere which then settle on the timber to restart the cycle. 

Other symptoms to look out for include: 

  • Crumbling wood 
  • Deep cracks in the wood 
  • Musty/damp/mushroom smell 
  • Silver/grey skin on wood or masonry 
  • Sap settling within crevices surrounding skirting board and architraves 

Will Dry Rot Spread Without Water? 

Whilst it needs an initial source of water to establish itself, dry rot can sometimes spread without a water source because as it destroys the timber, it can generate moisture. This is what can make it so destructive. 

That being said, dry rot always requires a form of moisture to begin with, so if you’re trying to locate the source, you will need to identify any damp patches within your home. 

How to Prevent Dry Rot 

Tips for avoiding dry rot are similar to avoid any type of damp. Ensure there are no leaks in your guttering, pipework, insulation or roof. You should also check if your house has a DPC (Damp Proof Course) installed. Older homes may not have one, or it may not be to the same standard as modern DPC. 

Good ventilation is key to preventing damp. This means opening your vents and windows for a short period of time every day to keep the air circulating. Dry rot prefers areas with little to no breeze, so opening a window could make all the difference. 

Good sub-floor ventilation is essential for properties with timber suspended floors, and ensuring sufficient airbricks are present is a key consideration. 

How Fast Does Dry Rot Spread? 

Dry rot can spread quickly and its damage can be far-reaching. The issue is that is can take a while to identify, but once it’s got a grip on your timber, it could ruin it within a short period of time – especially if the conditions are humid. 

Treating Dry Rot 

The treatment for dry rot will depend on how far-reaching it is. If the fungus hasn’t completely destroyed your timber, it’s possible to fix the issue by sterilising the wood. If the fungus has severely decayed the wood and/or masonry, it will need completely removing and replacing. Depending on the location of the affected area, this could be a costly process. Areas surrounding wood or masonry that has been removed will need sterilising to eradicate any spores remaining on the surface. 

It’s essential that the source of the damp is treated, too. This means locating what has made your home damp and fixing it – be it pipework, guttering or poor ventilation. 

Get in Touch 

If you think you have a case of dry rot, contact our team to arrange a survey of the site. After this, we will liaise with you to come up with an effective plan of action moving forwards.

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