Fungus, the saga continues

In my post on October 1st, Friday is omelette day, I reported that the fungus had reappeared on the back staircase, and referred to an early post on the subject, Fungus on the stairs. We had thought that the problem had been solved but this is now seen to be far from the truth.

I had arranged for someone to come and inspect the premises today and the inspector duly appeared this afternoon, an energetic and enthusiastic young man who soon got to the bottom of the problem. As a result, I learned two things, both of them unpleasant.

The first item of information was that the fungus was the result, not of damp, but of a fungal infestation. This type of fungus (which I think probably belongs to the same family that you see preying on diseased and dead trees) feeds on wood. It is well established on the staircase and has already started spreading to other areas. If left unchecked, it could even invade our flat.

Access to the staircase is prohibited
Access to the staircase is prohibited

The second unpleasant discovery concerns the staircase. I had thought that they had replaced it but I had noticed that one stair was springy and that struck me as odd. While talking to the inspector this afternoon, I trod on that step and it collapsed under me! It turns out that far from renewing the staircase, they had merely nailed a few fresh planks on top the old rotten one.

General view of the staircase
General view of the staircase

Fortunately, I didn’t put my whole weight on the stair and did not fall, but it is clear that someone could have fallen, had the stair collapsed under them.

The inspector immediately summoned carpenters, saying that he could not leave the staircase in that dangerous condition. The carpenter, however, took one look at it and said it was impossible to repair. The whole thing will have to be renewed. In any case, in order to halt the spread of the fungus, all the affected wood needs to be stripped out.

Access to the staircase was prohibited by fixing red and white tape across the top and bottom and adding a notice, written by me, reading “DANGER – DO NOT CROSS”. My neighbour who lives in the basement flat has a door leading to this staircase but he also has another door in the “area” at the front. He was not in while this was going on so I have left a note taped to his front door to let him know what is happening.

Close-up of the rotten stair
Close-up of the rotten stair
It was fortunate that no one fell

That anyone would think to “repair” a staircase by nailing planks onto a rotten structure seems to me little short of criminal. Someone could have fallen and a fall on a staircase can lead to serious injury. The Council is fortunate not to find itself being sued for damages by an injured tenant.

What happens now? I wish I knew. From experience I suspect that whatever happens will happen slowly and will be punctuated by long intervals of inactivity. I would be happy to be proved wrong. If I do not hear anything within a few days I will call and ask what is being done. After all, my position as unofficial concierge should give me some rights!

Copyright © 2010 SilverTiger,, All rights reserved.


About SilverTiger

I live in Islington with my partner, "Tigger". I blog about our life and our travels, using my own photos for illustration.
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4 Responses to Fungus, the saga continues

  1. AEJ says:

    Wow, what an awful mess. How is it that the growth got so big without anyone seeing it before? Is it in an area not often accessed, or is it simply fast-growing? We have fungus like that growing in our gardens here in North Carolina, right on top of the mulch. It appears overnight and then the sunlight kills it during the day, and then the process repeats itself. It’s quite disgusting.

    • SilverTiger says:

      The stairs lead down to the basement. The occupant of the basement flat can exit by these stairs or by a door at the front. It is also fairly dark down there. Either he doesn’t come up that way or didn’t take any notice of the fungus. I don’t think he could have missed it.

      The house dates back to Georgian times and this may even be the original staircase.

  2. WOL says:

    Yep, a can of worms. One hopes that when they replace the wood on the staircase, they will use lumber that has been pressure treated with retardant chemicals. I would invest in some dust masks to wear while coming and going– especially during the demolition phase — which will no doubt throw all sorts of dust and noxious particles into the air. Not something you’d want to be breathing, especially with the extra stress the cold weather puts on the lungs.

    • SilverTiger says:

      They called me this morning to ask for access on Monday to look at the problem. They showed that they still didn’t really understand what the problem was but I explained in great detail! I will also stay with them on Monday to make sure the see exactly what the situation is.

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