The dry rot fungus, (Serpula Lacrymans) is a curious and clever beast with a voracious appetite. The fungus is a common plague to structures because of its debilitating decay of wood and vast growth. Dry rot starts when a spore finds untreated timber in unventilated, damp areas. It grows a body called the hyphenium, which resembles a small bit of raw liver. The body feeds on the moisture and cellular material of the timber, drying it out until it becomes a crumbling mass of sawdust.

Meanwhile, it grows undetected in floorboards and cellars.

In structures, the infected wood is often in direct contact with bricks or concrete, as a result, the fungus spreads through the porous masonry with gray tentacle thread like tubes called hypha. The hypha creep through the pores until it finds more wood, often in dry areas away from the body source. It seeps the moisture and nutrients from the wood, forcing decay. A mass of the hypheahypha grows into a white wooly mass called the mycellium, which includes Rhyzomorphs hyphea, the thick tubes that transfer the nutrients back to the body. The mass looks like oozing meringue.

Infestation of dry rot can become dangerous if untreated. The integrity of the wood is compromised beyond repair and can collapse under structural weight. Early detection and treatment of the fungus is vital.

The body, or hyphenium usually starts off as a small yellow smudge, growing into a rust color with grey and white edges until it grows the sporophore, a growth on the undeside of the body that produces spores. The spore rupture produces bits of rust color flakes that will litter and infest the surrounding area (visible infestation). Usually this rupture still hasn’t destroyed the wood and immediate procedures are necessary. The prescribed prophylactic is ventilation and isolation. Isolate the damp area and use high ventilation and heat (at 40 degrees Celsius) to destroy the fungus. If the fungus has spread, more drastic measures are used. The infected wood and all wood within a meter area must be removed and replaced with treated lumber and a ventilation source should be installed. Fungicidal treatments can be used but are often unnecessary if the other measures are implemented. Depriving the fungus of food and water will kill the fungus.

The best preventative is to use pretreated lumber when building and to keep areas dry. Waterproof membranes should be used around door and window frames in contact with masonry and exposed wood should be painted. Rainwater should be deflected away from the foundation of the house and eaves should be clear of obstruction. While these aren’t absolute solutions, they will provide substantial and adequate prevention of dry rot.

Good luck against dry rot and if it gets out of hand, be sure to put the hurt on it with a specialist.

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