Spot the Rot: How to Detect Dry Rot in Your Home

February 28, 2019


If you own a home, you’ve probably seen a serious condition affecting your wooden beams, siding or roof.

It’s called dry rot, and most people don’t know where it comes from or how to fix it. It causes your wood to become brittle and dry. It can also affect the structural integrity of important parts of your home.

You could be at even greater risk if your home is older or has had fire damage.

The sooner you find out you have a problem, the sooner you can get started on dry rot repair. Ready to find out how to detect dry rot in your home? Keep reading for its signs and how to spot them.

What Is Dry Rot?

Dry rot is the name for what happens when a buildup of fungus affects the wood in your home. The rot essentially breaks down the affected area. The buildup affects the wood by softening it and basically destroying it from the inside out. 

Where Does It Come From?

The dry rot phenomenon usually occurs in an area with poor ventilation. Attics and basements, for example, are common areas to find dry rot.

Another cause is when there has been a flood or water damage in the home.

In the majority of cases, once you dry out an area and fix the water problem, you’ll be fine. It’s when the water has been allowed to remain undisturbed for a long period that you start to run a risk of dry rot.

What Are Its Signs?

The first sign of the fungus, called mycelium growth, will show itself as a white or gray fuzzy layer on the wood.

Other signs include a deep red growth in a round shape. Experts often describe the growth as looking similar to pizza. This indicates the next stage after the mycelium growth is occurring.

In some cases, this growth can affect plaster and other materials such as your paintwork. Look for a red or brown “skin” on surfaces if you suspect that the wood in your home has been compromised.

As its name says, the dry rot actually dries out the wood it affects. Sometimes the wood will crack and shrink. This leaves the easiest sign of dry rot, a brittle and warped appearance. The wood may also become darker in color.

However, a change in the wood could also be caused by other reasons, so it’s best to get a professional opinion. An expert who deals with these conditions all the time will be able to eliminate other common causes of the signs you’re seeing.

By far the biggest sign of wood rot, however, is its smell.

You may first have become suspicious after a musty or damp odor appears in certain spots in your home. The fungus that causes dry rot has a distinct odor. Though damp itself is a separate issue, it can lead to rotting if left unchecked. 

What It’s Not: Dry Rot Signs vs Wet Rot

Understanding where dry rot comes from, you’re probably wondering why it’s called “dry” instead of wet. Wet rot does, in fact, occur too, and it’s common for homeowners to confuse the two.

The difference is, dry rot can only affect wood that has been milled and treated. Wet rot affects uncured wood, i.e., wood in its natural state. Wet rot affects trees as well. It can be seen in nature if you visit a forest, usually in the shade.

With wet rot, the affected wood will have a spongy feel. This is a sure sign that it’s damaged. Unlike the grey or white signs of the dry rot fungus, wet rot usually appears as a black fungus.

It also damages the paint on the affected wood. Similar to dry rot, the wood can become brittle and cracked. The cracks are usually smaller and more superficial and happen only because the fungus is affecting the inside of the wood.

Dry rot, however, causes cracks in wood that go deep, further distinguishing it from wet rot. The cracks are usually in a cube shape, and the wood shrinks in size.

Dry rot also affects a larger area, and can spread more easily. This is why it’s important to catch rotted wood early as it can cause structural weakening.

The Spread Of Dry Rot

Are you wondering if to deal with dry rot now? If you think it’s present in your home, you need to act since it’s a living organism that can grow and spread.

As a living thing, its food source is the wood in your home. Environments that are wet or humid are perfect for it to grow and flourish. Eventually, it could overtake your entire property.

How Dry Rot Is Treated

The treatment of dry rot depends on the extent of the damage.

The first step, however, is usually treating the area with a fungicide. If it manages to kill the fungus, you’re in the clear.

In the most extreme cases though, you may have to completely remove the affected wood. The only thing to remember is that the wood you replace it with should be treated with a fungicide to prevent future occurrences.

To completely eliminate the issue, get an expert to tell you if there are other parts of your home that need treatment.

Many people don’t know an important aspect of this problem. If the dry rot has passed through other materials, you’ll need to sterilize the masonry as well. Otherwise, the fungus could return.

Fixing Dry Rot in Your Home

Getting dry rot fixed is best done as soon as possible. Putting it off could mean serious damage and hefty bills for repairs later. The first step will be getting a survey done to make sure that you are in fact dealing with dry rot.

Whatever the conclusion you’ve come to after reading this, you’ll need professional help. Get a quote from Good Life Construction today and see how we can identify and eliminate dry rot in your home.