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What is a Dry Rot Survey?

Adele MacGregor

Written by

9th Dec 2021 (Last updated on 9th Dec 2021) 6 minute read

Dry Rot is a type of fungal decay found in homes, caused by fungal spores in timber which grow and spread when moisture is introduced to the area. If left untreated, this can cause structural issues in the home. Dry rot can cause wood beams, floorboards and joists to crumble, potentially costing thousands in repairs.

Having a dry rot survey can be essential to safeguarding and maintaining your home. Surveys must be carried out by experienced and qualified surveyors, who can identify whether you have dry rot in your home and the best course of action to take if you do.

Compare My Move works with property experts to look into common house survey problems. In this article, we bring you everything you need to know about dry rot, including its causes, how to identify it and what you can do.

This article will cover the following:
  1. What Causes Dry Rot?
  2. What Does a Dry Rot Survey Include?
  3. What Can I Do About It?
  4. Buying a House with Dry Rot
  5. Selling a House with Dry Rot
  6. Does Home Insurance Cover Dry Rot?
  7. Dry Rot vs Wet Rot
  8. Learn More About Surveying

What Causes Dry Rot?

Any rot related problem within timber will have been caused by the wood becoming damp. Dry rot, known scientifically as “Serpula lacrymans”, occurs when airborne spores come into contact with damp timber. Dry rot requires approximately 20% moisture content within the timber to begin growing and will not grow in dry conditions, despite what the name suggests.

This happens in moist and damp homes and is also found in properties with high levels of humidity and poor ventilation. Leaks are also responsible for causing dry rot and in the case of a severe leak, can cause wet rot.

How to Identify Dry Rot

According to the Royal Institution for Chartered Surveyors (RICS), an early warning sign of dry rot is condensation on the windows. This suggests the home is humid and/or poorly ventilated.

Another indication is concentrated patches of orange-brown spore dust and “fruiting bodies” which often resemble mushrooms.

  • Other signs to look out for include:
  • Damaged and decaying timber
  • Damp, unpleasant and musty smells
  • Brittle and crumbling timber
  • Grey strands on timber known as “hyphae”
  • Mycelium - a grey/white substance that resembles cotton wool
  • Deep cracks in wood grain

For an accurate analysis, and to identify dry rot safely, it's recommended that you consult an expert if you suspect there is dry rot in your home.

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What Does a Dry Rot Survey Include?

A property survey such as the RICS Home survey Level 2 and Level 3 (formerly known as homebuyers and building survey) will be able to tell you a lot about the condition of your home. However, specialist surveys, such as a dry rot survey, will be able to give you specifics about a particular issue.

Dry rot surveys are conducted by experienced, qualified surveyors who specialise in dry rot identification and treatment. A dry rot survey will include inspecting the problem and the extent of the problem and damage. Your surveyor will also investigate the cause, which is key to resolving the outbreak.

Your surveyor will complete a detailed timber report which will include the cause of the dry rot, the source of any water ingress which has resulted in the issues and the recommended treatment and cost. It will also detail the work that needs to be carried out on the property to replace and repair any damage caused.

What Can I Do About It?

Dry rot can be treated, but the cost and overall result will largely depend on how bad it is and the damage it has caused to the timber in the home. In severe cases, where the timber has decayed or is damaged beyond repair, the wood will need to be removed and replaced with pre-treated timbers.

Depending on the severity of the spread and impact, treating dry rot can run into the thousands, sometimes costing thousands more to repair the damage it has caused to the home. As with many problems in the home, the sooner it is addressed the better. Furthermore, experts should always be consulted as they can quickly identify cases and suggest effective remedies and resolutions.

A dry rot survey is the best course of action, even if you’re previously had a RICS Level 2 or Level 3 home survey. These surveys can identify the dry rot, but a specialist will be able to advise you on what you can do, what type of dry rot treatment is required and give you an estimation of costs.

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Buying a House with Dry Rot

When buying a home, it is recommended that you have a property survey. The type, age and condition of the property will determine which type of survey you should opt for. If the survey finds or suspects dry rot, they may recommend having a dry rot survey completed.

If dry rot is found, it depends on the severity and the amount of damage caused. It can cost thousands to remedy dry rot - and even more to repair areas of damage. With this in mind, you must think carefully about investing in the property. With the evidence from the dry rot report, you may be able tonegotiate the asking price to account for the funds required to remedy the issue.

Selling a House with Dry Rot

If your buyer’s survey flags dry rot as an issue, or you are aware your home requires treatment, you have a couple of options. First and foremost you should be prepared to either spend money or lose money on the sale of your home.

You can negotiate your property’s price with the buyer, to account for the amount of money they will need to spend to rectify the problem. Your other option is to arrange to have the dry rot treated yourself, footing the bill for the remedy and repair of any damage to appease potential buyers.

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Does Home Insurance Cover Dry Rot?

According to property preservation firm Peter Cox, many standard home insurance policies will not cover dry rot, although it will vary from policy to policy. There may be exceptions if the dry rot is the result or related to an incident that is covered by the insurance policy, in which case it may cover the damages.

When taking out a home insurance policy, be sure to carefully read the details of the policy and what it includes to ensure it covers what you need in the home.

Dry Rot vs Wet Rot

Both dry and wet rot are forms of fungal decay that cause damage to timber and, as a result, the buildings which are supported and furnished with timber.

Wet rot is the natural decay of timber due to high moisture levels, caused by a fungus that is attracted to very damp wood and feeds off the timber. There are a number of types of fungus which destroys timber through this process, with the most common being cellar fungus.

While dry rot requires 20% moisture content in timber, wet rot needs 50% moisture or more to develop. This high amount of moisture will usually be the result of a leak or water ingress from downpipes, guttering and/or plumbing.

Learn More About Surveying

This has been part of our surveying guide. Next, we look at the problems that come with purchasing a flat roof house and how they are non-standard properties. To learn more read buying a flat roof house.

Adele MacGregor

Having written for PerformanceIN, WalesOnline, Grazia Magazine and The Olive Press, Adele now writes advice articles for home movers, first-time buyers and house sellers alike.