The very phrase can send shudders down homeowners’ spines… Dry rot isn’t just unsightly, but it can also be unhealthy, and seriously damage your home’s structural integrity.

Once it sets in and takes hold, dry rot – caused by the serpula lacrymans fungus eating away at wood – can ruin wooden features such as beams and floorboards, reducing them to a crumbling mess. The spores can spread to other nearby areas too, affecting other moist timbers.

Often there’ll be an unpleasant damp, musty smell too, and a home with a dry rot problem could be harbouring other types of moulds too, which can sometimes be associated with health risks, particularly to people with allergies and lung conditions.

As the experts at Rentokil Property Care point out, the main cause is moisture in timbers, so good ventilation is important, as well as addressing any damp issues that may arise, such as rising damp and condensation.

[Read more: 5 common causes of damp and how to fix it]

So how can you spot dry rot in your home? Here are Rentokil Property Care’s 10 top tips:

- There’s a distinct mushroom smell in your home.

- If the air in your home isn’t overly humid, you will notice white fungal growth with yellow and lilac tinges. If it is humid and still, you may notice it is fluffier, like cotton wool.

- Deep cracks appear within the timber.

- Both soft and hardwood timbers can be damaged. They may break easily or crumble in your hand.

- One major sign to look out for is shrinkage. If you have dry rot, wood will shrink and crack, usually in a rectangular pattern.

- Fruiting bodies (mushrooms). These can range in size and look like flat, fleshy pancakes. They are brown to orange in colour, with a white lip.

[Read more: How to get rid of condensation in your home]

- While most properties contain dry rot spores, these are harmless without moisture to grow. If you notice large, concentrated patches of fine orange/brown dust, this suggests that a dry rot outbreak is in progress.

- Fine greyish strands, not unlike cobwebs, that develop from the spores are known as hyphae. This stage in the dry rot lifecycle allows it to spread and grow by extracting moisture from damp areas and feeding on timber.

- Mycelium are silky cotton wool-like cushions, varying in colour from grey to pure white, that dry rot produces when it needs to spread to nearby timber.

- Don’t rule dry rot out just because your property is a new build. If you notice any symptoms of rot in your home’s timber, it’s important to identify the source of moisture and what additional treatment may be required.

Have you had issues with dry rot? Tell us in the comments below.