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Eradication of Dry Rot in a Large Grade 11* Listed Building

Oct 8, 2013

Environmental Building Solutions are currently inspecting a large Grade 11* Listed building for dry rot (Serpula lacrymans) outbreaks. It had most recently been used as a bingo hall and since then been vacant for about 6 years.  During this time its flamboyant interior has deteriorated badly.

Compounding the issues of neglect, much of the lead work on the roof was stolen.  This caused considerable water penetration and saturation to the fabric of the building.  Over time this has resulted in extensive dry rot decay throughout.

Originally built as a theatre in the late 1800s, it has an impressive auditorium, with numerous Rococo embellishments that still survive today despite frequent alterations and this period of neglect.

About a year prior to our survey, repairs had been carried out to the roof to prevent further water penetration and to allow the structure to dry out.  However after the building was sealed, with little ventilation, the residual moisture was locked in the building providing ideal conditions for dry rot and mould growth.

Environmental Building Solutions were asked to provide an assessment of the amount and distribution of dry rot decay in the building.  We were also asked to recommend a proposal for management, eradication of the dry rot decay and provide a plan to enable the building to be refurbished as a new music venue.

Dry Rot Fruiting Body

The First Stage

The first stage is to ensure all water ingress is stopped. Any other actions to remedy dry rot infestation and damage and deterioration to internal finishes will be ineffective and a waste of time and resources if this is not carried out first.

After establishing the extent of the decay, ventilation should be introduced into the building. This has to include unventilated voids and it will be necessary to remove the modern plasterboard finishes, floor coverings and false ceilings.

It is crucial to identify the structural timbers that are damaged by the dry rot and repairs carried out to isolate the timbers from the damp masonry.

Continuous assessment of the building using data loggers will enable monitoring of the drying out of the structure, in particular damp masonry and allows changes to be made to the drying regime as necessary.

Most importantly the repairs must be thoughtfully and competently carried out.  This approach should ensure the life of the building is extended indefinitely.

Environmental control of Dry Rot

EBS scientists’ lead by Dr. Jagjit Singh discovered the origin of dry rot in the Himalayas and this has given us a unique understanding of the biology and pathology of dry rot.  Based on sound scientific principles EBS established that if one can starve dry rot of the conditions it requires for growth and proliferation, dry rot will desiccate and die. This can be achieved without the need for toxic and environmentally damaging chemicals.

Successful case studies for chemical free treatments, control of dry rot and timber decay include; Windsor Castle, Westminster Abbey, Dover Castle, Royal Hospital Chelsea, Hampton Court Palace, Kew palace, Oldham Town Hall, Trinity College Library Dublin, Stormont Building Ireland, Somerset House & William Kent House.

Dry Rot Fruiting Body

For the general conservation and preservation of buildings, various remedial works are required as follows:

  • Emergency measures are essential to make the fabric watertight and to stop further water penetration into the building. 
  • A full investigation into the extent of infestation and timber decay. 
  • Carry out moisture mapping and profiling to determine residual moisture in the fabric of the building.
  • Encourage natural or accelerated drying of the wet fabric by increasing ventilation where possible.
  • Carry out repairs and restoration of decayed structures to encourage drying of the building and establish a regime for a long-term conservation policy.
  • Schedule continuous long-term monitoring and preventative maintenance of the building. 
  • No Chemical treatments will be used to eradicate the dry rot saving both considerable cost and environmental impact on the building and future occupants.

This is an ongoing project and we will keep updating our news page to show how the project is progress.

Extensive Dry Rot Mycelium