If you own a property or you’re thinking of buying a home, it’s essential to know what dry rot is and what does dry rot look like. There are many different types of issues that can affect the safety and stability of a building, and dry rot is one of them.

Although dry rot can be treated, researching what dry rot looks like and what the early signs are will help you to determine whether your current or prospective property is affected.

What Causes Dry Rot?

Dry rot is caused by a fungus, also known as Serpula Lacrymans, that attacks timber, commonly in residential or commercial buildings.

Although dry rot doesn’t require a significant amount of moisture to be present in order to spread, it does thrive in spaces where humidity levels are around 18-30% and poor ventilation is present.

Once the airborne spores come into contact with timber, the fungus is able to replicate and cause extensive damage.

What Does Dry Rot Look Like?

If you want to keep your own property well-maintained or identify any issues before buying a new home, it’s important to ask, what does dry rot look like? However, the appearance of dry rot varies, depending on what stage the infestation has reached.

At the first stage, dry rot may look like a fine and fluffy white coating on the timber, typically occurring in patches. Following this, you’ll notice a slightly thicker ‘skin’ covering some of the timber. This is usually white or grey in colour, although it may be flecked with lilac or yellow patches.

dry rot on door frame ( Serpla lacrymans )

If dry rot has reached the third stage, it’s likely to be very noticeable. Here, you’ll see the soft and fleshy body of the fungus, which may resemble a pancake spreading across the wood. Usually, rust coloured in the centre, the surrounding edges may be white or orange and you may also notice red particles in the air.

Now you know what dry rot looks like, you’ll be better able to identify any patches of dry rot when you’re viewing properties. If you want to ensure you’re able to identify dry rot when you see it, it’s well worth taking a look at dry rot pictures to see the fungus in various stages. 

What Does Dry Rot Look Like

What is the Difference Between Wet and Dry Rot?

Both forms of rot are caused by fungi, but wet and dry rot are caused by different types of fungus. Knowing the difference between dry rot and wet rot in timber is important because dry rot is typically more destructive. Although wet rot can cause structural damage, it’s typically slower to spread, less invasive, and more common.

Wet rot can be white or brown in colour and it’s usually identifiable because it forms in patches and the timber will appear wet where the fungus has attacked it.

What Are the Signs of Dry Rot?

Although dry rot becomes visible when it’s more advanced, it could be attacking the timber in a property for some time before it’s detected by a visual inspection. Due to this, it’s important to know what dry rot early signs to look out for. Before you can see the fungus, you may notice:

  • Dark patches on timber
  • Crumbly, dry or brittle timber
  • Splitting or cracking of timber
  • Timber shrinking

In addition to this, you may notice a particular dry rot smell if the fungus is present in a property. Many people liken this to a soil-like smell or an earthy smell.

If dry rot affects timber beneath the floor, it can be hard to detect. As you can’t generally view these areas, you may be unaware that dry rot is attacking the structure until a significant amount of damage has been caused. However, if you notice any of the following, it’s advisable to contact a dry rot specialist for advice:

  • Floor moves away from skirting boards
  • Floor has a bouncier feel
  • Floorboards creaking more often

Can it be Treated?

Dry rot can be treated but the extent of the repairs will depend on how much damage the fungus has caused. Firstly, it’s necessary to identify what is causing excess moisture in the air and resolve this issue, so that future fungal outbreaks don’t occur.

Next, a dry rot specialist will determine how much timber needs to be cut out due to the dry rot infestation. All signs of dry rot and spores will also need to be removed safely from the property. Following this, pre-treated replacement timber will need to be installed to maintain the building’s structural integrity. Finally, all of the wood is subject to further treatment with specialist fluid that should kill any remaining spores.

What is the Treatment Cost?

The cost of treating dry rot varies significantly, as the total cost of repairs will depend on how much damage has been caused. If dry rot is caught early and only one, small patch of timber has been damaged, for example, it’s going to be cheaper to repair then if dry rot has spread throughout the property and into the masonry. In severe cases, it’s not unusual for dry rot to cost tens of thousands of pounds to fix.

Should You Have a Dry Rot Survey Carried Out?

If you’re buying a property, it can be extremely beneficial to have a dry rot survey undertaken. This will tell you whether there are any signs of dry rot in the property and, if so, how extensive it is.

Similarly, if you’re thinking of selling your home and you want to have this information to hand, it’s advisable to have a dry survey carried out. It can be particularly difficult to sell a property if dry rot is present, so accessing this information in advance can streamline the sales process and identify any potential issues early on in the process.

Given the high costs that are associated with dry rot repair, a dry rot survey is a savvy and sensible way to protect your interests and your future assets.

Read more useful property guides and advice in Cobb Farr’s The Knowledge.