You’ve heard that wood rot is a common problem in older homes, but what is it? How do you identify it? Most importantly, how can you treat it?
Wood rot starts when moisture seeps into the walls or floors of your home from outside sources. This causes the wood to dry out and eventually decay. If left untreated, wood rot can cause serious damage to the structural integrity of your home.
Preventative measures can save you thousands of dollars in repairs and replacement costs. Read on to learn some ways to prevent wood rot before it begins.
What Is Wood Rot?
Wood rot is caused by fungi (molds) that thrive in damp conditions. The fungus grows slowly over time, causing the wood to weaken and break down. Once the wood rots away, water can enter the wall cavity and cause further damage.
Wood rot is a common problem for homeowners who live in areas where trees naturally grow. The fungus responsible for wood rot attacks the tree’s vascular system, causing the sapwood (the inner part) to dry out. This makes the wood vulnerable to decay.
Can wood dry rot? Or can it only wet rot?
Yes, wood can dry rot. Wet rot and dry rot are both possible in wood; the difference is really how much moisture is in the wood. Dry rot can occur in wood with far less moisture in it than wet rot. You can identify dry rot by the smell; if you notice a damp, earthy, musty smell, that’s dry rot smell. The best way to prevent both wet and dry rot from happening is to keep wood clean and free of mold.
Which kind of rot is worse for my home?
Of the two, wet rot is less problematic for homeowners than dry rot. Wet rot can spread but needs constant exposure to moisture to do so. As such, it often remains pretty close to the source of moisture. On the other hand, dry rot is the most serious form because dry rot spreads rapidly and aggressively. Dry rot spores can even spread through thick walls in search of new timber to infest
Where should I look for wood rot?
Really, this hazard can strike any part of the house that is made of wood, both on the interior and exterior but, like all fungi, it particularly loves places with poor air circulation that are often damp and dark. Here are some of its most commonly affected areas:
Frequently damp areas (like near bathtubs, showers, household appliances, and water heaters)
What are the signs of wood rot?
Even if you can’t see the surface growth of these fungal species on the wood in and around your home, there are other ways to identify wood rot. As you go about your regular home improvement projects, keep an eye out for these telltale signs of wood rot.
Whenever you spot cracks or holes in the home’s exterior, it should be cause for concern. Damaged siding, roofing, window and door frames – even those made of vinyl or aluminum – creates the opportunity for water infiltration. Not only does this lead to water damage, but it creates the perfect breeding grounds for wet rot fungus.
Look for signs of wood damage around the home. Rotten wood comes in many forms: discoloration, shrunken size, cracks, and splintering. As rotting progresses, it breaks down the cellulose in the wood. This causes the wood to become soft and dark in color; it also gets smaller in size as the cellulose is consumed. With time, the material will lose its ability to hold together, leading to cracking and crumbling apart. At this point, the strength of the affected timber has been compromised.
Fungal Growth & Spores
A cottony texture or a silky gray growth along the surface of the wood is a clear sign of fungal activity. Spores may be visible as yellow, purple or white patches around the rotting area. In general, try to identify the symptoms of mold, mildew, and other fungal growth.
Smart homeowners know that they should trust their nose. Water damage, mold and wood rot give off a telltale odor. Fungal decay produces a musty, earthy smell as it breaks down wood into organic materials. The smell of wood decay is more easily detected in areas that lack ventilation. Again, dry rot smell is particularly pungent.
If you see signs of paint damage, it may be a sign that there is underlying wood rot. Pay attention to the surface of siding, frames, exterior doors, baseboards, flooring, and drywall. Any bubbling, blistering, cracking, or flaking paint should be a warning for you.
Because water is a necessary ingredient for wood rot growth, any signs of extra moisture are worrisome. Humid rooms, such as the bathroom and laundry room, are more likely to be threatened by water damage and rot. Leaking pipes, appliances, or fixtures can be a source of wood damage. Excess condensation around windows can also lead to water accumulation, mold, and rot.
Finding termites and carpenter ants around your home is problematic for a number of reasons. First, because they cause wood damage and can infestations can be difficult to control. Second, insect activity indicates the presence of an opening in the house envelop which can also allow water infiltration. Third, the damage caused by these pests can create a new entry point for moisture and rot.
How can wood rot be treated?
If you find a wood rot infestation in your home, it can be treated. Treatment is especially effective if you’ve found the rot in its early stages.
To treat the affected timber, you’ve got to first dry out the rotting wood entirely. Use a dehumidifier to dry out the affected wood. Then, apply a wood preservative to keep future fungal infestation at bay.
If the wood affected by rot is soft, it may be too late to treat. At this point, you may have to consider removing and replacing the timber affected altogether (especially if it’s structural timber). This process can be incredibly costly and time consuming. That’s why prevention is key to the health of your home.
How can wood rot be prevented?
Being aware of the possibility of wood rot and actively looking for common signs of wood damage is the first step in keeping this problem under control. You can work to eliminate the threat by using a dehumidifier or exhaust fan in rooms or areas of the house with a high moisture content. Increasing ventilation in these areas is helpful, too.
When it comes to the exterior of your home, regularly cleaningit and addressing any wood, paint, or roof defects immediately are key in preventing rotten wood. Similarly, installing awnings over windows and exterior doors to decrease the impact of precipitation should be done. Take extra care with your gutters, making sure they aren’t clogged and forcing water to run down the sides of your home. Don’t allow rainwater or snow to accumulate or sit around exterior wood like on a deck, either.
Finally, make sure you’ve sealed windows and doors and replaced caulk when necessary.
Wood rot should never be ignored. Whether it’s wet rot or dry rot, identifying it and treating it as soon as possible is crucial to maintaining your home’s health and preventing structural damage. Dry out affected wood as quickly and thoroughly as possible, then preserve that wood to prevent further moisture absorption, and ensure moisture entry-points (like window frames, gutters, doors, etc.) are properly maintained to keep wood-destroying fungus from making a home in your house.
Trotta’s Power Washing is here to help.
If you suspect your home may have a wet or dry rot infestation, reach out to schedule your free wood restoration consultation today.
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