Property Problems Listed Buildings Dry Rot

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How do you identify Dry Rot?

There are many ways to discover this, some say they can smell it, other times you can see the fruiting body, which is almost a flower like shape. However, in our experience the thing that you see most often is the cube-like decay of the timber which appears to have almost been eaten from inside, out. There are also fine root-like growths which can get behind plaster and other materials as it hunts out good timber. The irony of dry rot, of course, is that it does not have to be dry.

Why is Dry Rot such a problem?

We would say that Dry Rot is a problem because it can spread a considerable distance causing substantial damage as the timber loses its structural integrity. In some cases, there may only be dry rot in a skirting, but the real problem will be if it is in the suspended timber floor beneath the skirting as well.

We have heard stories where the floors have had to be completely removed and the timber burnt. Plaster has had to be removed to ensure that the dry rot has not travelled behind the plaster into the walls in the hunt for more timber. The most important thing to remember is that the timber cannot just be replaced and put back to how it was before as you would simply be recreating the problem that exists rather than resolving it.

Caveat Emptor

Of course, when you are selling a property, be it residential or commercial remember Caveat Emptor which means Buyer Beware. So please make sure that when you are considering buying a property that it does not have Dry Rot.

Example of dry rot within a floor identified from dry rot in the skirting

We thought that perhaps the best way to emphasise the problems that can occur from Dry Rot is to show some examples of dry rot in a skirting from which a good Chartered Building Surveyor should be able to establish if there is likely to be Dry Rot in the floor itself.

In this case, we were looking at an old property, not Listed, but it had a suspended timber floor construction, which we often come across in older and Listed properties and also in properties within conservation areas.

As in many older properties the flooring had been altered over the years. Parts of the suspended timber flooring had been removed and replaced with concrete meaning that both externally and internally the air vents that give airflow under the timber floor to minimise dampness had become blocked by plants, flower borders etc.

Equally, we have seen cases where brick pavers, slabs or decking have been used to create a patio and in doing so have blocked the air vents. This then creates the ideal conditions for Dry Rot which ironically is a wet, damp condition and relatively warm.

How is Dry Rot spread?

Dry Rot spores are in the air most of the time which then land on the timber and if the conditions are ideal the Dry Rot starts to spread. It is these conditions which are so important to remember and need to be changed to stop Dry Rot occurring again. As we mentioned earlier it is not simply a case of removing and replacing the problem as you will just be dealing with the effect and not the cause.

Woodworm specialists and chemical treatment

As with every industry and profession there are Good, Bad and Ugly. We always advise that when you employ our Chartered Building Surveyors we look at all the different options and effectively sell you a report to offer you a solution, as opposed to some companies that sell you a solution (often chemical solutions). These companies usually only have one solution which is the product they are selling.

We are well aware that reports do not often make pleasant reading and we do explain that some problems can take a long while to resolve, which is not what a lot of customers want to hear as many want a quick fix and do not understand why they cannot have one.

I think I have Dry Rot, what do I do?

Firstly, we would recommend you re-read this article. If you have a Listed Building and what you see looks like the photos we have included in the article then do nothing that will affect or damage the property.

I am buying a property, I think it has Dry Rot, what do I do?

Our Surveyors look at literally hundreds of potential problems in Listed buildings. We of course, look for Dry Rot as this can potentially be very damaging and of course in many cases can cause structurally significant damage.

Having said that, we rarely come across extreme cases of it and we would certainly not recommend that you go ahead with the purchase of the property if we feel the problem is difficult/impossible to resolve.

How much does a Dry Rot problem cost to resolve?

As part of all our survey reports we include a detailed analysis of the problem and the recommended action required. We also consider any criteria that you have with regards to the property and any future extensions and alterations and we also include an estimate of costs. Our Estimated Costs are based upon our knowledge of carrying out repairs on Listed and older properties.

Where we can see the problem, we can usually give an estimate of the cost involved. Where the problem is hidden, or covered up we can estimate the typical damage together with the associated costs. This of course is not as good as opening up the floor, roof or wall but it does give you a good idea. If we are carrying out a structural survey for you to purchase the property it then allows you to negotiate with regards to a reduction in the price of the property or indeed we are happy to negotiate on your behalf if you so wish.

Thoughtful advice

We would just like to say that any advice we give is thoughtful based upon experience. We do not wish to make a mountain out of a molehill but want to give you the benefit of our experience and knowledge.

We take care of your money

We give the best advice based upon the latest findings, thoughts and research that we are aware of to allow you to make the decisions that are best for you.

Examples of our Surveys on Listed Buildings

We are more than happy to give examples of our work on Listed Buildings. These range from churches, manor houses, hotels, pubs and period properties. We recommend that you start by calling us on 0800 298 5424