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Looking at what dry rot is, what causes it and what you can do if you find it in your home...

Studies have shown that selling your home is one of the most stressful times in your life, and this is without factoring in organising house viewings, deciding where to relocate to, and house surveys. The last thing that you need is the additional stress of discovering you have a dry rot problem.

Dry rot can cause a whole host of problems for any potential seller, with damages caused by the fungus ranging from minor to major.

In this article, we will be looking at what dry rot is, what causes it, what to look out for, what treatment is available, and how to sell a house with dry rot.

What is dry rot?

Dry rot is a fungal growth that occurs naturally in timber and causes it to rot. The fungus uses timber as its food base to help grow and spread. The most common type that is found in the UK is sepula lacrymans, a brown rot fungus that is the most damaging destroyer of indoor wood.

Dry rot can only thrive if the moisture content of the wood is above 50% however it can still spread amongst wood with much lower moisture content. It is typically found in wood with a moisture count as low as 20% to 30%.

Dry rot shows very few signs of visible damage but can cause problems ranging from minor to major to the structural integrity of the property if left untreated and can even spread through the entire building.

Whilst it typically only destroys timber, it can spread to other materials within your home, such as brick, stone, plaster, and even steel.

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What are the causes?

Dry rot occurs when timber is exposed to dampness. This can happen for a variety of reasons, such as if you have broken or blocked gutters, leaking pipes and drains, a faulty roof, a condensation problem, or if you have been flooded.

What are the signs of dry rot?

Regardless of if you are buying or selling a property, dry rot is an issue that demands to be taken seriously. It can not only cause costly damage to the structure of the property, but it can also decrease the value of a property dramatically and even in some cases render the house unsellable.

Unfortunately, dry rot is often not visible until it has already caused visible damage. Below are some of the common signs:

  • A musty smell – The first sign of the presence of dry rot is usually an unpleasant musty smell within the property that some people have described as smelling ‘mushroomy’.

  • Dry rot growth – Dry rot growth is fairly easy to identify as it is white or grey and has a fluffy texture. This is one of the early stages of dry rot development and can spread up to several millimetres every day.

  • Fungal growth – The fungal growth can be a rusty colour and have a sponge-like texture. This fungal growth appears in the later stages of dry rot.

  • Timber – The appearance of the timber changes dramatically when infected with dry rot. Wood that is infected with dry rot appears darker in colour and looks dried and cracked.

  • Grey skin – During the final stages, infected wood can develop large mushroom-like structures.

Wet rot VS dry rot

Wet and Dry rot are both fungal infections, though they are caused by different types of fungus. Dry rot and wet rot both occur when wood has been exposed to dampness, however dry rot gives the wood a dried-out appearance, whereas wet rot gives the timber a wet appearance and turns the wood soft and spongy.

Wet rot fungus tends to be black, white and yellow whereas dry rot is a rustier colour. The main difference between the two types of rot is the moisture content needed to cause them. As we have already discussed, dry rot needs a moisture content level of more than 50% whereas wet rot only needs 20%.

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How can you prevent it?

There are a couple of ways that you can check your home and prevent it from becoming a breeding ground for dry rot.

  • It is a good idea to routinely check your home for any problems that may increase the risk of dry rot. Things to look out for are broken or missing roof tiles, damaged lead flashings, blocked or leaking gutters, leaking pipes and missing pointing to roofs, chimneys and walls.

  • Making sure that your property is kept well ventilated and dry is a good way to decrease the risk of dry rot developing.

  • Another way to reduce the risk of dry rot is by checking the inside of your property for damp. Good places to check are walls, ceilings, in the attic, behind furniture and inside cupboards.

How do you treat dry rot?

Once your property has become infected with dry rot, it can be a very pricey and difficult fix. If you think that this is an issue that your property is suffering from, the best course of action is to call in a professional to properly check out your property.

In order to properly access the situation, a specialist treatment company or a surveyor will perform a dry rot survey on the property.

If your dream is to sell your home on the open market, then treatment is your best option. However, you need to be properly aware of the hassle and the expense that comes with it.

A specialist or surveyor will decide the best course of action for your property depending on the severity of the dry rot. If the dry rot has caused real structural damage to the property, then it may be a case of having the infected timber removed and replaced entirely or if it is a milder case, it may involve cutting out infected timber and treating what remains.

The price of treatment depends on how extensive the damage is. A mild case can cost anywhere from £1,000 to £2,000 but a more severe case could cost upwards of £20,000. However due to the difficulty of spotting dry rot, more often than not what people are left with is a more severe case.

Can you insure against dry rot?

A lot of home insurance policies do not cover dry rot, most will actually have a clause in them that specifically excludes dry rot.

Some companies may insure against it in the event of a burst pipe or a flood but nothing more than that.

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Can you sell a house with dry rot?

If you do not have the time or money to treat your dry rot problem, then don’t panic. You will still be able to sell but you will need to understand that once buyers find out that the property has a dry rot issue, no matter how severe, a lot of them will be turned off the property by this.

Potential buyers may walk away immediately or may offer you a much lower offer for the property as they will have to spend more money on treating the dry rot once they have bought the property.

If you still wish to continue with selling your house with dry rot, then you can do this by either going through an estate agent, taking it to a property auction or using a genuine cash buyer.

Estate agent

When it comes to selling a house, the first way that most people think of is through an estate agent. However, selling what can be referred to as a ‘problem property’ presents its own set of challenges and a dry rot property is no different.

If you are selling a ‘problem property’ the best kind of estate agent to go through is a specialist one. A specialist estate agent will have experience with selling homes with structural problems.

One huge positive of going down this route is that they will do all the hard work for you, such as creating a listing and advertising it for you.

However, with selling your home through an estate agent, you will need to book house viewings at your home for potential buyers. This can be a lengthy and inconvenient procedure. It means taking time off from work, making sure any other issues with the house are fixed and at the end of the viewing you still may not have a buyer and you have to repeat the process again.

Another downside that comes with selling your home through an estate agent is that it can be months before you find a buyer on the open market. Finding a buyer through the open market is not guaranteed even if your home is dry rot free, which if you are looking for a quick sale is not ideal.

Selling through an estate agent also means after paying for the estate agency fees and having to take time off work for viewings, you still have other fees to pay such as legal fees and removal costs. These extra costs add up and can eat away at the final profit of your house sale.

Going through auction

An alternative route you can take with selling your problem property is to sell it through an auction. A huge bonus to selling a house this way is that sellers will be aware of the dry rot issue and won’t be put off by it.

At an auction, you agree on a minimum reserve price for your home and if a buyer bids on it, it will sell.

In the best-case auction scenario is that multiple buyers will be interested in the property and will be outbidding each other, raising your final profit.

Another positive to selling your property through an auction is that auctioneers have a lot of experience with selling a broad range of properties, including ones with problems such as untreated dry rot.

However, there are a couple of issues that come with selling through an auction. One of the issues that come with selling through a property auction is that it involves a lot of waiting. Once you have listed your property for sale, you will have to wait for the next auction which could be weeks or months away. Waiting for the next auction is not ideal for sellers who are looking for a quick and hassle-free sale.

Even after the auction is complete, you will still have to wait for paperwork to go through which can take a month or more once again adding to the delay.

Furthermore, auctioneers charge a commission to cover the cost of marketing and selling your home, and this can eat away at the profit made from your house sale.

Cash buyer

The third option for selling a problem property is to sell it through a genuine cash buyer. A cash buyer is the best way to guarantee a sale on your house, even if it is structural damage from dry rot. Unlike other buyers on the open market who would be discouraged from buying a dry rot infected property, a cash buyer would not mind.

Another positive to selling through a cash buyer is that it means a guaranteed sale in a time frame that suits you.

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So, if dry rot treatment is not an option for you, give us a call or fill in our online form for a free, no-obligation CASH offer which we could have in your bank as soon as you choose…

Alexandra Ventress

Alexandra is a Content Producer who enjoys writing articles, finding out about the property market, keeping you up to date with the latest trends.