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Dry Rot

Of all the problems that can occur within a property, the one which strikes dread into most owners is dry rot. There are various forms of rot which affect timber, all of which require specific conditions to exist, but all are essentially caused by fungal growth.
Dry rot favours damp unventilated conditions within an ideal temperature range of between 5 degrees and 26 degrees Centigrade, and is therefore well suited to the temperate climate in the UK.

Outbreaks of dry rot tend to begin in quiet and concealed areas of buildings, such as below a timber floor, and will easily spread, undetected, behind skirtings and plasterwork and even through masonry in search of further timber on which to feed. The rate of growth, in suitable conditions, is about l metre per annum. Dry rot propagates itself by producing a fruiting body (or sporophore) which can discharge spores at a rate of around 800 million a day for up to two weeks, enabling the commencement of new growth locations in surrounding areas.

As dry rot is sometimes difficult to locate, and is very often expensive to eradicate, it is important for a surveyor to look carefully for any warning signs indicating where conditions for its growth may exist. Springy suspended timber floors may appear relatively innocuous to the untrained eye but may well be the first warning sign of an outbreak of dry rot to the supporting timbers of the floor. The presence of an outbreak of dry rot can sometimes be detected by its characteristic mushroom-like smell, even though visible signs may not be present. An experienced surveyor will have a sensitive nose.

The effect of an outbreak of dry rot should never be underestimated as it will inevitably cause considerable disruption to both the property and its occupants.