Two common problems experienced by home owners are dry rot and wet rot. Both can cause serious structural damage to timber elements like joists and floorboards, causing them to feel spongy to the touch and eventually to crumble away to nothing.
It’s fair to say that both dry rot and wet rot are two problems can strike fear into the hearts of most home owners when they are diagnosed. After all they can be both expensive and time consuming to eliminate in all but the lightest cases. However as with many infections, early identification can be a key weapon in the battle. That said, the similarities between these two problems can make telling them apart a challenge for many people. Indeed, the correct (and early) identification usually requires the assistance of a professional property surveyor if the problem is to be treated before it gets out of hand.
The ability to spot and identify problems with dry rot or wet rot can enable eradication before more serious consequences are experienced. A successful identification also ensures that the right treatment is given as soon as possible, rather than risking the problem getting worse while the wrong treatment is being provided. Both wet rot and dry rot are caused by specific fungi attacking the timber elements of your property. Dry rot is always caused by an infestation of the Serpula lacrymans fungus. In contrast, wet rot may be caused by a number of different moisture-loving fungi, though one of the most prevalent is Coniophora puteana. You may be surprised to hear that the names of these two different problems arent entirely accurate.
While wet rot certainly requires a moist environment to proliferate, dry rot is most certainly not a problem that occurs in completely dry environments. Even dry rot requires a moisture content in the timber of 20% or more. Consequently dont assume that just because your home isnt dripping in dampness that the problem must be dry rot. Possibly a more accurate way to tell the difference is to consider the possible causes of the moisture that is necessary to allow the fungus to grow.
Minor problems like household condensation may be more tempting to dry rot fungus while more serious water ingress as such as from a leaking roof are likely to be more appealing to wet rot. Another easy way to tell the difference between dry rot and wet rot are the appearance of the fungi themselves. Most commonly dry rot looks like a sheet of thin white strands. These strands are the hyphae of the fungus that it uses to extract moisture and food from the surroundings.
In contrast wet rot fungi rarely display these white filaments. Instead wet rot is more commonly characterised by mould or fungi that are dark in colour. Most will be brown or black and may appear to be growing on walls or across untreated timber. While both forms of rot are serious problems it is generally agreed that dry rot is the more serious of the two as it can survive is dryer environments and reproduces rapidly, filling the air with millions of microscopic spores that may settle throughout your home. And while both forms of rot ultimately affect your homes timber, dry rot is particularly rapacious and is capable of working its way across masonry or even steel structures as it grows.
If you are in any doubt, you are strongly encouraged to contact a professional who will assess the severity of the problem and suggest suitable remedial work. For best results, act as soon as you see any symptoms of rot; remember that the sooner the infestation is treated, the better the end result will be.
Author: Paige Hawin currently works with London damp proofing experts Tapco Homedry.