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Whether you own a period home or a contemporary home timber is likely to be used in several elements of your property. This could be anything from timber casement windows to external timber doors.

While timber is a durable material, if not treated correctly it can succumb to rot, eating away into what was once a solid structure.

Read on to find answers to common questions about window rot, and to discover how you can guard your home against this home maintenance problem.

rotten window

What is timber rot?

Timber rot is divided into two categories dry rot and wet rot, with the former presenting more of a significant problem for your home for the latter. Both forms of rot normally occur where timber has in excess of 20% moisture content.

Dry rot

Dry rot (Serpula lacrymans) is a wood-destroying fungus that can penetrate structural timbers, skirting boards and other timber and wooden elements in your home, potentially wreaking havoc throughout your property.

Thriving in moist, unventilated conditions, if not treated dry rot can cause timber to weaken and in the worst case scenario make it unsafe.

What to look for: There are several indicators for dry rot including:

  • 'Cuboidal' shaped cracks in the timber
  • Fluffy, white 'cottonwool' fungus on timber surfaces
  • Wood darkening or shrinking
  • A damp, musty odour that indicates that the timber is decaying

How to treat dry rot: Chemical fungicide treatments can be used to treat the affected and surrounding areas and in some cases affected area will need to be removed. It’s important that you contact a member of the Property Care Association (PCA) or alternatively contract a local building surveyor via the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors to carry out the work or to offer professional advice on next steps.

If timber needs to be retained, preservative treatments, such as the application of preservative paste for dry rot can be used.

Wet rot

Wet rot is also caused by wood rotting funguses, though less pervasive ones than dry rot. These two key funguses are Coniophora puteana (also known as cellar fungus) and Poria vaillantii (also known as white pore fungus).

While wet rot is general confined to areas of dampness, if not treated some structural damage can occur.

What to look for: There are several indicators for wet rot including:

  • Timber which has a spongy feel
  • Timber that easily cracks and crumbles when dry
  • Timber which looks darker than the other healthy timbers surrounding it

How to treat wet rot: The first step to stopping wet timber rot in its tracks is to identify where the source of water is coming from that has caused dampness. This could be anything from rainwater coming through gaps in doors and windows to leaky plumbing. The second step involves removing the affected timbers as above.

How do I prevent timber rot?

As with many things prevention is often better than cure, and taking measures to create a dry environment in your home is key to preventing both types of window rot. This means being vigilant of the following causes of dampness:

  • Condensation
  • Damaged or ‘bridged’ DPC (damp proof course)
  • Missing cladding, flashing or roof tiles
  • Leaky/blocked guttering or pipe work

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