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Wood Rot: Causes, Types, Signs, and Solutions

Wood rot occurs when building timber or wooden supports get exposed to moisture, which attracts destructive fungi.

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What Is Wood Rot? 

Wood rot is a phenomenon that affects many homeowners. Left unchecked, it can weaken wooden structures and lead to structural collapse. Let’s take a closer look at what wood rot is, various types of wood rot, and then how to protect your wood. 

Wood rot or decay is a natural process through which wood decomposes. Wood rot is a nightmare for homeowners because it leads to many structural problems such as deteriorated roof decking, destroyed support beams and posts, and unstable ceiling joists and floor panels. 

Wood repair is a costly undertaking. That’s why, as a homeowner, you need to know the signs of wood rot so you can take appropriate measures to protect your vulnerable wooden structures and supports. 

Causes of Wood Rot 

Wood can rot for several reasons. The most common causes of wood rot include: 

  • Exposure to moisture: Any time wood comes into contact with water or water vapor, it will start decomposing. 
  • Lawn sprinklers or drain pipes: If you place your sprinklers or drain pipes such that the water they discharge reaches the wooden parts of your structure, rotting will take place. 
  • Allowing plants to grow against your building: Plants hold moisture that they can transmit to your building. 
  • Poor ventilation: This prevents water from evaporating fast enough from wood surfaces.  

Poor drainage and plumbing, water under your building, and a leaky roof are other factors that can instigate wood rot. In short, anything that allows water to contact wood will cause it to rot. 

Types of Wood Rot 

There are three types of wood rot. Let’s look at each of them so you can know what to expect. 

Brown Rot 

Brown rot occurs when monilinia (M. fructicola and M. laxa) fungi attack wood and break down its cellulose, making its surface parched or dry. Once the fungi destroy the cellulose, the wood will shrink and turn brown. Eventually, it will disintegrate. Brown rot can spread from one part of timber to the next as the fungi grow and will thrive at temperatures from 65-90°F.  

White Rot 

Anytime fungi attack lignin and break it down, the wood becomes spongy. The deteriorating wood usually has a light yellow or whitish shade. The white-rot-causing fungi thrive at temperatures of from 65-90°F.  

Soft Rot 

Similar to brown fungi, the soft rot fungi attacks and breaks down wood cell-wall carbohydrates (cellulose), leaving the timber looking like a honeycomb. It’s common in fallen trees and logs. But it can also occur in residential homes if the conditions are conducive. These fungi survive at temperatures between 0 and 110°F. 

Typical Signs of Wood Rot 

As you move around your home, you should always keep an eye out on the following signs: 

  • Exterior damage 
  • Wood damage 
  • Spores and fungal growth   
  • Earthly/musty smells 
  • Flaking paint 
  • Presence of insects in the house 
  • Spongy/softened texture  
  • Warping/shrinkage 
  • Spore dust on wood 
  • Darkened appearance on wood 
  • Cracks and crumbling 

If you notice any of the above signs, call your local basement waterproofing contractor to check your basement or crawl space and advise you on the next step.  

Ways to Prevent Wood Rot 

When it comes to dealing with wood rot, prevention is better than a cure. Don’t buy time as you may end up spending money on repairs or replacement. Implement these preventive measures and you won’t have to worry about what fate will befall your wooden supports. 

Prime Your Wood 

Apply two coats of oil-based primer on all six sides of the wood before you nail or bolt it to your structure. Remember that the end sides of timber are spongy and, if not primed, can draw in moisture. 

Make Wooden Surfaces Slope 

Water is timber’s biggest nemesis. When building any wooden structure, make sure the exposed surfaces are sloped so they can shed water quickly. Handrails, window sills, and porches all need to slant so they can stay dry.  

Plug Fasteners and Waterproof 

Nails and screws need plugging. Otherwise, they’ll act as entry points for water. If you are building an outdoor structure, use galvanized or stainless steel fasteners. Any fastener that can rust is a no-no.  

Additionally, when fastening or nailing wood on a horizontal surface, make sure you countersink then plug all the fasteners. Waterproofing is another excellent way of protecting wood from rotting.

Contact Foundation Recovery Systems to schedule a free inspection and quote. We’ll assess your basement or crawl space then recommend long-lasting solutions that’ll keep it dampness-proof.

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