Damp & temperate climate causes UK houses to suffer some of the highest levels of risk from insect and fungal attack to structural timbers. It is considered 'good practice' in building design to pre-treat timber with preservatives as a lifetime precaution against dry rot or woodworm.

Unfortunately, most traditional buildings do not have the benefit of such protection and this, combined with poor maintenance, leads too many cases of timber decay being identified during housing surveys.


Woodworm isn’t confined to one particular species; it actually refers to the larvae of any wood-boring beetle. The most common form is the Common Furniture Beetle (Anobium punctatum) but Deathwatch Beetle (Xestobium rufuvillosum) and House Longhorn Beetle (Hylotrupes bajulus) may also be present.

Typically beetles prefer damp conditions, specifically timber with a moisture content of 18% or more. Having found a nice damp spot, beetles lay their eggs and it’s their larvae that do the damage, burrowing beneath the surface of the wood eating their way up and down the timbers until pupating and hatching out, boring their way into the open air through “flight holes”. So the presence of holes actually indicates that there has been an infestation, not that there is still an infestation

To determine whether your woodworm are still active look out for the following activity around the holes in your woodwork:

  • fine powdery bore dust coming out of holes
  • adult beetles emerging from the holes (particularly during the April-September period when they emerge from the wood to breed) or present in your house
  • presence of larvae when the surface of the wood is scratched away.

Dry Rot

One of the biggest threats to structural timber is fungal decay. Both wet rot and dry rot, united in their love of damp, can cause serious structural damage to your home. In this article we look at the differences between dry rot and wet rot, their causes, symptoms and treatment.

Dry Rot (Serpula lacrymans) can reduce beams, joists and timbers to crumbling, hazardous structures. In spite of its name dry rot needs moisture to thrive, in fact it needs wood with a moisture content of at least 20%. It loves damp, warm, unventilated conditions so it’s often found in areas that aren’t easily visible such as roof trusses, the underside of wooden floors, beneath stairs and behind skirting boards.

The nightmare scenario with dry rot is that its spores travel quickly, always on the lookout for more timber to feed on. And not just timber – masonry and plaster can be affected too. Within a matter of months the entire structural integrity of a building can be compromised so it’s vital to act quickly if you suspect dry rot.

To determine if you have dry rot please look out for the following.

  • Matted whitish growth tinged with yellow and/or lilac patches
  • Growth resembling a pancake with a russet colour at the centre. If you see this you’ll know the fungus has really taken hold. That russet colouration is in fact millions of spores of dry rot – approach with caution!
  • Distinct and quite acrid mushroom-y smell
  • Splitting, shrinking or crumbly wood. Try poking timbers with a screwdriver; if it sinks into the wood you’ll know it’s decaying.

Wet Rot

More common than dry rot, wet rot is caused by a fungus called Coniophora puteana, aka the ‘cellar fungus’. This type of fungus is only attracted to very damp wood or plaster and unlike dry rot, remains confined to the wet area only. It’s generally deemed less destructive than dry rot but serious cases can prove hazardous to a building’s structure.

To determine if you have wet rot please look out for the following.

Wood with wet rot has a typically soft and spongy feel and often looks darker than surrounding healthy wood. If the wood is painted it can mask the decay and appear quite healthy; it’s only by poking with a screwdriver you’ll discover if it’s affected. On walls the fungus manifests with brown/black strands in a fern-like pattern.

If you are experiencing any of these problems or require help or advice please contact us for a survey & quotation.


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