One of the reasons why it can be difficult to detect wet rot is, there are often not any signs you actually have it, because, it just gets progressively worse in concealed areas, such under the floor voids. This is why, what started as a minor problem, can escalate into to a much large one before you, home owner, even know it is there. For this reason it’s good to know what some of the basic signs of wet rot are.
Spotting the signs of wet rot
There are two categories of wet rot fungus – brown rot and white rot. With the exception of the worst brown rot of all, Serpula lacrymans, commonly know as dry rot, all the other types of are known as wet rots. Wet rot can be easy to spot if you know what the common signs are.
One of the key signs of accessible wood, is timber will have a splits and cracks, due to a breakdown of its structure. The wood is also likely to change colour, darkening from its original shade. Another key sign is floors feeling springy when you walk on them or weakened, breaking floorboards. Because wet rot often occurs in places you can’t see or reach, it can be progressing right under our feet.
Cracked joinery timbers may also mean there is a problem with wet rot. Skirting boards of door frames that cracked or have a cuboidal or linear pattern, depending on the type of fungi attacking it. A characteristic damp smell is another way that you can tell there is a problem. This comes from water ingress that leads to dampness that has caused the wet rot in the first place. If you notice a damp, musty smell and the air feels damper than normal, this means that the conditions are prime for an attack of wet rot .
Obviously, the easiest way to know that wet rot is in your home is to see the rotting timber, but we don’t always recognise it for what it is because there are different stages of the fungi lifespan.
Often, wet rot wont have fungus, but if it has, it will be grey, brown or black in colour and create patterns that look like fern leaves. They are flexible when dry and can create an olive-brown fruiting body. The most likely place to find this is in a dark, damp cellar.
Cellar fungus (Coniophora puteana) has bright white strands known as mycelium that spread across the wood and surrounding areas. Wet rot, unlike dry rot, doesn’t spread through masonry, although it is often found growing over the surface of damp walls. The fruiting bodies of most wet rot look like mushrooms, because they are in the same family.
Get expert advice as soon as possible
Wet rot requires a higher moisture level than dry rot and doesn’t spread to other building materials. But it can still cause a large amount of damage to your flooring and joinery and is often accompanies by woodworm. You also need to find out what caused the moisture in the first place. If you see any signs of what you think is wet rot, it is important to get expert advise as soon as possible.