Wood Rot is a natural decomposition process that happens due to moisture in the air, fungi or old age. Sometimes it is a combination of any of the three.
While this decay is a vital stage in nature, it is enough to send any homeowner into a panic.
Wood is one of the most common building materials.
Because of this, it is very important to understand what exactly wood rot is, how to identify it and what to do if you find it in your home.
Let’s get started…
What Is Wood Rot?
As mentioned above wood rot can result from things like fungi and moisture in the environment.
There are an estimated 5 million different types of fungi.
Many are beneficial to the world around us, but others can be harmful to manmade structures.
Wood rot can affect small pieces of your home like windows and siding, but it can also destroy foundational elements.
There are 3 major types of wood rot.
- Brown (Dry) Rot – This type of rot characteristically deprives the wood of any nutrients, causing the wood to become dry and crumble.
- White Rot – When wood becomes affected by this rot, it becomes yellow/white or grayish in color. The wood will also feel spongy to the touch.
- Soft Rot – This is the most uncommon of the 3 types of rot. It causes wood to become porous, while deep cavities form. Discoloration can also be seen.
While not technically a form of natural wood rot, deterioration of manufactured wood products (like OSB, chipboard, plywood, hardboard and MDF) can cause major problems.
It’s extremely important to note that wood rot is completely separate from mold and mildew.
Mold and mildew sit on the surface of the wood…
And they can typically be removed with a power washer or proper cleaning methods.
Wood rot, however, grows on the inside of the wood which causes it to lose structural integrity.
The longer you leave structural wood rot untreated, the more wide-spread the damage will become.
If you think there is a possibility of wood rot in your home or business, carefully inspect the affected area.
Then, call a professional to further inspect the wood.
What Causes Structural Wood Rot?
Wood rot is caused by one main thing…
With over 5 million different types of fungi floating in the air and in our soil, we just can’t avoid it.
We can, however, prevent it.
There are four key ingredients that must be present in order for wood rot to occur:
- Warm, moderate temperatures
In order for fungi to attack the wood, all four of these factors must be present.
If even one of them is removed, it is impossible for the fungi to grow and cause damage.
Areas where the home is typically at risk include: floors, chimneys, siding, windows, doors, outside decks, roofs, basements and walls.
It can be difficult to minimize the amount of moisture or oxygen present in these areas, and typically temperature is controlled by the environment.
But there are some easy ways to prevent wood rot from occurring, one of which is wood rot treatment.
Wood rot treatment is typically a combination of chemicals designed to deprive the fungi of its food source by making the wood inedible and offers a first line of defense to protect against wood rot.
Types of Wood Rot Explained
Brown (Dry) Rot
This type of rot occurs as it penetrates into the wood and breaks down its cellulose.
Over time this deprives the wood of all nutrients and causes dryness.
Eventually the wood splits and cracks into “cubical flakes”.
Brown rot can be called dry rot as well.
This is because this type of rot causes the wood to dry out and crumble.
White (Wet) Rot
Similar to brown rot, white rot also damages the cellulose of the wood.
Unlike brown rot, white rot also affects the lignin causing discolored white spots in the wood and an overall sickly color.
The main factor of white rot is its spongy and soft texture.
White rot also occurs where more moisture is present.
Please note that this type of rot is the most aggressive, and decomposition advances very quickly once it sets in.
The most rare of the three, soft rot is typically found in places where brown or white rot cannot grow.
This rot starts very deep in the fibers of the wood and the decomposition process is much slower than the other types.
Manufactured Board Rot
Manufactured board damage can ruin areas of floors, siding, walls, roofs, built-ins and other areas if they become exposed to water.
Water can infiltrate the particles or layers of these products and break down resins, cause the wood particles to expand, and leave spaces for further deterioration to occur.
Here’s an example of hardboard siding deterioration.
Signs of Wood Rot
Wood rot can be tricky to identify.
Typically, it hides within the wood where it is dark and grows uninterrupted.
Don’t worry though!
There are some telltale signs to look for when you suspect wood rot. Here are a few.
- Damaged or decaying wood should be the very first indicator that you might find. If the wood is crumbling or feels spongy to the touch, it is probably in the process of decaying.
- Spore dust is a common occurrence at most properties. However, if you see large patches of this dust concentrated in specific areas, this is cause for concern.
- Hyphae or fine hair like strands on your wood happen once the spores take root in the wood. These strands are capable of extracting moisture from the air, and they secrete substances that break down wood cellulose fibers (weakening the wood).
- A damp or musty smell can be one of the most noticeable factors of wood rot. A noticeable smell accompanies all types of active wood rot.
If you are worried about wood rot impacting an area of your home, contact a professional.
How to Fix Rotted Wood
First, analyze the affected area.
Some wood rot can be repaired.
But if it might threaten the structural integrity of your home, it is recommended that you contact a home repair contractor to have the affected wood replaced.
Once you have found the affected area, start by carefully removing the rot with a chisel or small hand tool.
Then, fill the newly exposed wood surface with a wood hardener or epoxy.
After the hardener has dried – fill the hole with wood filler product, and mold it into the desired shape with a putty knife.
Give this time to cure according to label directions (often times overnight).
After that, sand the wood down to achieve the desired shape and texture.
Paint the wood if desired.
Once painted, the wood will look flawless once more.
Hire a Wood Rot Repair Specialist
If you’re not comfortable tackling the problem, hire a professional contractor that specializes in wood rot repair.
The sub-floor below had completely rotted out, so it needed to be replaced with a new one.
If you have siding that has deteriorated, usually it needs to be replaced.
Damaged siding can be replaced with a new product that lasts longer.
Here, we’ve replaced decaying siding on a small shed with new vinyl siding.
A wood rot repair contractor can diagnose the problem, uncover the root cause of the wood damage and help you determine your best options going forward.
That may include maintenance, repair or replacement of damaged wood.
Need Help With Wood Rot Repair?
Wood rot is something that should not be ignored or simply painted over. Also, with moisture, you run the risk of mold affecting the health of your family. If you need help taking care any problems associated with mold, mildew or wood rot, contact a contractor experienced in handling these problems.
If you are located in or near Tulsa, Oklahoma, give us a call, and we’ll be happy to help with this and any other home repair you need.
918 Construction is licensed and insured for your protection. Call us at (918) 943-3063.