Everyone deserves to live in a warm, dry home, whether you live in a shared rental house or have invested in your own property. Unfortunately however, sometimes buildings are prone to damp, which can cause a whole range of structural issues and health problems for you and your property. From the growth of mould to condensation, structural damage and wet rot, damp conditions can cause havoc with your building.
Wet rot is one such problem which can cause a lot of damage to your building’s structure, especially if you live in a property with a lot of timber. Luckily, there are solutions to this issue, but it’s important to be able to identify and spot the signs of wet rot early so that you can take action. If you suspect you might have wet rot in your building, read on for our handy guide to signs, causes and solutions to wet rot.
What is wet rot?
Wet rot is the generic term for several different types of fungal species, such as Coniophora puteana. These fungi are highly attracted to damp wood as it allows their spores to germinate and grow. The fungus spores also feed off the timber and eat away at the wood, destroying it in the process. Wet rot is commonly found in timber with a moisture content of around 30 to 50%, but unlike dry rot, it stays in a localised damp area and does not spread. This does not mean it is not destructive however, and wet rot can do a lot of damage to the structure of your home.
If left untreated, wet rot can eat away at the timber beams of a building, potentially causing major structural damage and weakening the structural integrity of a building. Wet rot mainly affects timber, but it can also cause decay in plaster, wallpaper or carpets if they have a high moisture content due to damp.
Signs wet rot is present
Although wet rot cannot spread in the way that dry rot can, it’s important to identify the signs early so that the issue can be rectified before it gets worse. Wet rot can sometimes be difficult to spot, as it tends to be present in dark, poorly ventilated areas such as under stairs, in cellars, lofts or under floorboards. If your building has been prone to damp in the past, check these areas regularly for the following signs:
Clusters of fungus growing in one place is a telltale sign that wet rot is present (as the fungus doesn’t spread). Wet rot fungus grows in stages; at the earliest point in its life cycle it will form strands that look similar to spider silk that grow in fern-like patterns. The colour can range between brown and white, depending on the species of wet rot.
If this early stage is left untreated, the strands will develop a white or off-white coating and sprouting bodies that look like small mushrooms.
A damp, musty smell
Also a common sign of damp, a dank musty smell (especially in out of reach corners where wet rot is more likely), is a sign that this fungus could be present. Even if it isn’t wet rot, a damp smell should be investigated in case it indicates other issues such as black mould or a general damp problem.
Soft, spongy timber
Wood affected by wet rot will feel soft and spongy to the touch, even if there are no signs of external paint damage. If you’re not sure, stick a thin knife gently into the timber. The blade should meet resistance after a short distance – if it sinks in further up to the handle then this is a sure sign that the wood underneath is damaged by wet rot.
Cracked, crumbly timber
In some cases, the timber won’t be moist at all times, but it will crack and crumble easily when dry. It can also be susceptible to shrinkage, so keep an eye on your timber even if it isn’t damp.
Darker or lighter timber
Often, timber affected by dry rot will be darker or lighter in colour compared to the surrounding wood. Darkening or lightening will depend on environmental factors but it will be accompanied by other signs such as spongy wood.
Damaged or flaky paint
The high moisture content causing wet rot can lead to areas of localised decay, including peeling or flaking paint on areas like skirting boards, window sills or floorboards. As mentioned above, wet rot can still be present without damage to the top layer of paint, so use the knife test to check if it’s penetrated deeper into the timber.
What causes it?
Wet rot thrives in damp, moist conditions as the fungus spores are attracted to timber with a high moisture content. This moisture could be caused by general damp conditions in your home, or the moisture could come from a number of external sources, such as:
- Roof damage
- Leaking pipes
- Faulty or blocked gutters
- Excess condensation
- Penetrating or rising damp
It’s important to address the underlying cause of wet rot while seeking treatment, otherwise it could simply return again and again.
Treatments and solutions
Wet rot is an unpleasant and unwelcome addition to your home, but luckily there are many professional treatments and solutions out there which can help, as well as steps tenants can take to reduce the chances of wet rot returning. Before wet rot treatment can go ahead, you’ll need to identify the source of the moisture, whether that’s a leaking pipe, penetrating damp or a hole in the roof.
There are many professional damp specialists who will be able to do this for you, as well as repair any damage to your property caused by wet rot. First, the specialists will identify the specific type of wet rot fungus affecting a property and assess the level of damage and decay. They’ll also test any timber suspected to be affected by wet rot and remove and replace any wood that’s damaged beyond repair.
Once any damaged timber has been removed, the surrounding area of wood will be treated using a wood hardener and preservative. This will increase the strength of the timber and lessen the chances of damp or wet rot returning. Replacement timber is usually pre-treated with a fungicide to safeguard it from future wet rot decay and a professional can also advise you on how to safeguard your property in the future, including measures such as:
- Ensuring your property is well ventilated, especially while cooking or showering. This will prevent a build up of moisture which can lead to damp and wet rot issues.
- Regularly checking the exterior of your property for cracks or damage – this reduces the chances of penetrating damp affecting a building.
- Regular roof checks to spot any cracked or missing tiles, especially after a storm or heavy rain.
- Empty and clean gutters on a regular basis and check for signs of damage.
- Ensure bathroom and kitchen fans are fully functioning and working effectively.
If you have the time and budget, homeowners could also consider basement tanking or loft insulation to drastically reduce the chances of rising damp or penetrating damp from affecting your home. If you reduce the potential causes of damp, then you’ll reduce the chances of wet rot occurring.
If you’re looking for professional wet rot treatment throughout Ripon and Yorkshire, get in touch with the experts at North Yorkshire Remedials. With over 35 years’ experience in the industry, our damp specialists can identify the affected areas and work to provide you with effective, long lasting wet rot repair. If you’re suffering with other damp issues, not to worry, we also offer basement tanking, damp proofing, dry rot treatment, plastering and more, so we’ve got everything you need to ensure your home is comfortable and dry.
For more information about any of our services, don’t hesitate to give us a call today or find out more information on our website.