Dry and Wet rot are types of fungal decay which attack timber. They can spread extremely quickly as the spores of the fungus settle on the untreated wood en masse before ‘branching out’ a network of threadlike branches which germinate and break down the wood for food.
Their growth rate can be phenomenal which is why they have such a destructive reputation. They can start in very similar ways – often from sources such as water ingress from external leaks, faulty plumbing, damaged guttering, poor stone pointing or leaking downpipes.
Many people try to treat dry or wet rot themselves, but if you don’t destroy all spores when you treat the rot, it will spread again quickly. It is always worth consulting an expert in order to clear all traces of the rot, as well as check the level of damage already caused.
Sometimes timber or masonry will need replacing, but you need to be confident that all traces of the rot are removed in this process.
There are significant differences between dry and wet rot though, so we have included some of the questions we are regularly asked on dry and wet rot which may help if you suspect you have rot in your home.
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Dry Rot is the most damaging form of fungal decay in a building which is why it’s Latin name of Serpula Lacrymans which translates to Creeping – Making Tears’ is so apt. We’ve all seen ivy cover a surface with it’s creeping tendrils.
Dry Rot is like this but in fast forward. It rapidly creeps its way across surfaces, it’s branches penetrating most materials in order to flourish and feed, weakening structures as it goes. The rot grows extremely fast and breaks down the materials it’s growing on, weakening everything in its path. The rate at which Dry Rot can spread and destroy is alarming, and unlike wet rot which prefers timber, dry rot can easily penetrate masonry and other materials too.
A different type of fungus altogether, wet rot is most often caused by Coniophora Puteana or Poria Vaillantii. Behaving slightly differently in their unique ways, there are some similarities to their general appearance which means their treatment is similar too. Wet rot tends to prefer timber which has a dampness level of over 50% whereas dry rot can spread well when moisture levels are only 20%.
Wet Rot is less severe than dry rot as it is usually confined to the area of dampness in timber due to its inability to penetrate masonry whereas dry rot can spread across a much wider variety of surfaces.
Diagnosing which type of rot you are dealing with is crucial, as the treatments for dry rot and wet rot differ significantly. You can start by looking for the following signs:
Wet Rot signs include:
Timber is distorted or discoloured
Visible fungal growths which are a black-brown colour.
A damp or musty smell
Timber is cracking
Timber is softened or spongy
Timber is weakened
Dry Rot Signs Include:
Timber is damaged or decaying
A damp or musty smell
The timber grain has deep cracks
Timber crumbles in your hand or is brittle timber
There are concentrated patches of orange-brown spore dust
There are grey strands on timber
Visible fruiting bodies which look like large mushrooms.