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Ask the Expert – What is Timber Decay?

When undertaking surveys on residential and commercial properties our clients often have concerns regarding Timber Decay. This blog aims to highlight the causes, symptoms, and the preventative/remedial options related to Timber Decay.

Causes of Timber Decay

Timber decay as its name suggests is the deterioration (decay) of timber components within a building, most commonly caused due to excessive exposure to moisture. Moisture within timber structural elements provides perfect conditions for the manifestation of fungal timber infections; more commonly known as ‘wet rot’ and ‘dry rot’. Dampness can also leave timber elements susceptible to invasive species such as the common furniture beetle (woodworm).

Sub floor timbers are particularly vulnerable to timber decay as they are commonly inadequately ventilated and exposed to high levels of moisture, particularly in older properties. Leaking roofs and penetrating dampness to a property can also lead to timber decay.

Symptoms of Decay

Dry Rot – Dry rot is a fungal infestation that occurs when viable damp timber comes into contact with airborne fungal spores’ symptoms include:

  • Fruiting body – Rust deep red in colour, with the outer part of the growth being light in colour
  • Mycelium growth – Grey cotton wool like substance
  • Cuboidal cracking across the timer – Appearing as though the timber has dried out
  • Smell – A distinctive damp, musty smell

Wet Rot – Wet rot is also a fungal infestation that occurs when viable damp timber comes into contact with airborne fungal spores’ symptoms include:

  • Appearance of the timber – Timber affected by wet rot will be soft and spongey
  • Fungus – Affected timbers will have a darker appearance, typically a black fungus
  • Decoration – Decorative finishes to internal components appear deteriorated

Preventing Decay

The most effective preventative measure to ensure Timber Decay does not affect your property is to ensure that structural timbers are kept in dry conditions, free from exposure to excessive levels of moisture.

This can be achieved by ensuring your property is adequately maintained and preventing moisture from entering the building. Ensuring gutters are not leaking, ventilation bricks are not blocked and maintaining roof coverings are simple preventative measures property owners can take.

Levels of moisture in excess of 20% will leave timbers within a property susceptible to decay. By ensuring your property remains weathertight and dry vastly reduces the risk of Wet/Dry Rot occurring.

Treating Decay

If you are unfortunate enough to be affected by timber decay there are a number of remedial treatments/methods available.

Firstly, in the instance that timber decay is diagnosed, the source of moisture must be removed from the area. For example, a timber purlin affected due to a leaking roof – the roof should be repaired to prevent further moisture ingress. Following the removal of the moisture source, the timbers should be rapidly dried and ventilated. Fungal spores can only survive in the correct conditions, by altering the conditions treatment can be successful.

If this option is not solely viable and the infestation has spread, the above method can be used in conjunction with fungicidal treatment.  This is achieved by applying chemicals to the affected timbers to eradicate the bacteria, thus killing the infection.

Finally, if the timbers have been affected to the degree that they are structurally un-sound, or are beyond repair they can be cut out and replaced with new.

How We Can Help

At Lea Hough & Co, we have a number of qualified and experienced surveyors that can carry out surveys on properties to identify and help treat issues such as the above. Pre-acquisition surveys, such as the RICS Homebuyer Survey and Building Survey Report, would highlight any potential property defects, prior to you completing on a sale. In turn, potentially saving you the unexpected cost and disruption of remedial works later down the line.

For more information, please contact us.

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“We had a Schedule of Condition carried out on a Commercial Property. From vacant possession to our proposed completion date we were really tight on time. Gary managed to carry out the inspection and write a very thorough report in the time needed to ensure we hit our completion date. The price of the report was also extremely competitive. I would recommend Lea Hough to anyone looking for a Professional Surveyors with excellent service & communication at a competitive price.”

Danny Ambler - Fuse Contract Furniture, Blackburn