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Property Problems, Listed Buildings

and Dry Rot

Timber framed Properties and Dry Rot

Timber Framed propertyTimber Framed property

If you are looking at buying a timber framed property be it Tudor, Jacobean or Elizabethan, the timber structural frame will usually form a key element of the building. If you are buying a Georgian, Regency, Victorian or Edwardian property then there is normally an element of the structure made of timber and you need to be aware of the problems that dry rot can cause.    





Why should you use a Chartered Building Surveyor?

Dry rot is the worst thing that can happen to a propertyDry rot is the worst thing that can happen to a property


Dry rot is said to be one of the worst things that can happen in a Listed building be it Grade I, Grade II* or Grade II. However with the right knowledge or experience the dry rot can be treated and resolved. The emphasis needs to be on using someone with the right level of knowledge such as a Chartered Building Surveyor or a Chartered Building Engineer.  





The Bitter End Pub and the Dry Rot problem

Dry rot in the roofDry rot in the roof

Many, many years ago we worked for a large property company that owned several properties, one of which was The Bitter End Public House.  After many years we decided it was time to refurbish the property as there was a lot of potential in the area.

The refurbishments began with a Building Survey to ascertain the condition of the property and the cost, whilst at the same time the Chartered Building Surveyor was able to look at the possible alterations and amendments, together with the interior design.                                                                           

During the course of the survey dry rot was discovered. The dry rot that was found in this case was so bad that we suspected it was also in the adjoining properties some of which were owned by the developer. The result was that the decision was made to sell all of them. This decision was taken by a professional developer who had access if so required to a fair amount of money. However the blank cheque book nature of dry rot can sometimes mean it is best to move on to another property or another project.


How do you identify Dry Rot?


Early stages of dry rotEarly stages of 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 the 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



Cubing of the timber when opened upCubing of the timber when opened up                                                      












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.











Dampness level is 60. This wall should be between 30 - 60. A Surveyor needs to be aware of how to identify dry rot.

 The dry rot in this skirting is relatively dry at the moment 


Dry rot at bottom of the skirting where cable curls roundDry rot at bottom of the skirting where cable curls round

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 air flow under the timber flow 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.





Conditions in this roof are ideal for dry rotConditions in this roof are ideal for dry rot











How is Dry Rot spread?

If you look closely at this photo you can see the spores starting to appear on the dry rot
If you look closely at this photo you can see the spores starting to appear on the dry rot


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.


                                                                                      There are no quick fixes with dry rot 
There are no quick fixes with dry rot

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.

We would then recommend that you phone us on 0800 298 5424 or another Chartered Building Surveyor that you know and trust and explain what you have seen. Ideally you should then provide any photos that you have of the issue, you can email these to us, no problem at all, it may well be something we can help with over the phone.   

We would generally then book an appointment to come and view the problem and prepare a report with our recommended course of action. If the problem is very severe we will recommend immediate work to limit any further damage subject to discussions, negotiations and agreement with Listed Building and Conservation Officers and in some cases English Heritage.


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. 








Dry rot found in the skirtings

could also be under the suspended floor  


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 put 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.        







Chartered Surveyors?

YES all our surveyors are Chartered Surveyors and members of The Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors RICS 

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