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What is Wet Rot | Know the Causes, Impact, and Solutions

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Key Takeaways:

  1. Understanding Wet Rot in the UK: Wet rot is a common issue in the UK, particularly in damp climate areas, causing wood to soften over time under prolonged exposure to excess moisture. The most prevalent type of wet rot is Coniophora Puteana, which feeds on moisture and nutrients in wood.
  2. Types of Wet Rot and Their Characteristics: Wet rot manifests in various types, with Coniophora Puteana causing Brown Rot and Serpula Lacrymans leading to White Rot. Brown Rot results in cracked, darker wood, primarily affecting poorly ventilated basements.
  3. Causes and Conditions for Wet Rot Development: Wet rot thrives in rainy, damp, and poorly ventilated areas. Defective plumbing systems, faulty roofing, and gutters, as well as condensed structures with poor ventilation, contribute to the development of wet rot.

In the United Kingdom (UK), wet rot is a common issue that affects buildings, especially in damp climate areas. It is a form of decay that causes wood to soften, especially under excess moisture exposure over an extended period.

Although many other forms of fungal variations result from wood rot, Coniophora Puteana is the most common type. Wet rot sustains its existence and development by feeding on moisture and nutrients present in woods. 

Sometimes, wet rot decay can occur on carpets, wallpapers, and plasters.

It can systematically spread to different points through wood feeding and the production of spores to the atmosphere, which land on new wet wood surfaces and start feeding on this environment.

The optimal and ultimate conditions for the initiation and development of wet rot conditions are moistened surfaces and the presence of feeding material.

As compared to dry rot, wet rot is not much destructive because a wet surface must be present for the condition to exist.

Although it is less destructive, it is crucial to treat it because if left to grow and develop, the condition can lead to structural destruction of buildings.

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Types of Wet Rot

There are several types of wet rots caused by distinct fungal species. It is essential to accurately identify and understand the type of rot to apply the most effective treatment.

For instance, in damp climatic conditions in the UK, homeowners and housing managers must know different wet rot types for better maintenance services.

See related: Woodworm Treatment

1. Brown Rot

It is caused by a cellular fungus called Coniophora Puteana, which results in the affected wood becoming cracked and darker with a brownish appearance.

The brown colour appears due to the inability of some wet fungi to digest lignin on some wood types and instead feed on cellulose and sugars.

Brown Rot can impact significant damage to building structures within a short period. It is common in basements, especially in poorly ventilated buildings.

2. White Rot

It is caused by a fungus called Serpula Lacrymans which appears as a white mycelium resembling cotton wool when young and turns grey with maturity.

It occurs when the fungus completely digests cellulose and lignin, disposing of the dark colour and leaving the wood with a soft and spongy look.

It has the unique feature of developing from wet surfaces to other areas without direct moisture contact. It can also grow through building materials while searching for moistened surfaces.

Causes of Wet Rot

Wet rot is more prevalent in rainy, damp, and poorly ventilated areas.

Some of the common causes include defective plumbing systems with leaking pipes that drips water and makes the surface wet and conducive for wet rot development.

Poorly maintained and faulty roofing and gutters lead to improper drainage, seeping water into building structures necessary for fungal to thrive.

Condensed structures result in poor ventilation creating a damp environment ideal for wet rot. Cellars and basements are prone to dampness due to their proximity to the underground water table hence becoming vulnerable to wet rot.

In some cases, external cladding and contact between wood and soil impact the build-up of wetness on the wood from the water drawn from the soil, leading to wet surfaces that support fungal growth.

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Identification of Wet Rot

The earlier the problem is detected, the cheaper it becomes to eliminate and prevent further structural damage. Some signs to identify wet rot include a change in wood texture to soft and spongy, a considerable decay symptom.

Infected woods may also develop some form of cracks as the fungi progress with feeding and making the wood weak.

Affected woods appear discoloured or darkened depending on the type of fungi responsible, accompanied by a stinking odour. The existence of some insects within the building can also be a sign of wet rot since the wood decay attracts some insects like woodlice.

It is also possible to see some visible fungal growths on wood and walls signalling wet rot.

Wet Rot Treatment

Since moisture is the main cause of wet rot, the initial step in the wet rot treatment process should involve rectifying any moisture-laden surfaces.

The second step should be replacing all the affected wood to limit spreading. Addressing wetness sources involves replacing leaking pipes and faulty roofs and gutters. Besides, ensuring adequate ventilation in condensed buildings such as basements is crucial.

It is necessary to take proactive measures on exposed wood surfaces, such as applying wood preservatives to protect them from future wet rot. Regular inspection for any defects and maintenance is also a basic preventative measure.

It is always advisable to seek professional expertise during damage assessments from qualified contractors and specialists for effective guidance on repair.

With frequent rains and damp climatic experiences in the UK, wet rot threatens many buildings. Therefore, homeowners and managers need to understand the causes, signs and remedies for safeguarding their structures from wet rot.

Addressing the cause and source is moisture is the primary step towards eliminating the problem. Similarly, the replacement of affected areas and the application of preventative measures is key to future protection.

Picture of Jake Fitzgerald - Damp Surveyor

Jake Fitzgerald - Damp Surveyor

Surveyor of Timber & Dampness in Buildings (CSTDB) & ( MRICS ) Chartered Quantity Surveyor

Jake is a qualified chartered quantity surveyor and experienced damp specialist with a unique skill set in thermal imaging. With a focus on effective solutions, Jake combines his expertise in quantity surveying and thermal imaging to accurately assess and address damp-related issues. He utilises advanced technology to identify hidden moisture sources and develop targeted strategies, ensuring comprehensive and cost-effective solutions for his clients. With a commitment to open communication and client satisfaction, Jake delivers cutting-edge solutions that tackle damp challenges head-on.

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