If you are a property owner, there are lots of things you need to watch out for to protect the integrity of the structure. Your building is constantly exposed to the elements, so you want to take precautions and do regular inspections to make sure that it remains safe for occupancy.
Buildings with wooden parts can be vulnerable to wood rot, especially if it is located in a cold or humid place. It can open up your structure to more issues, weaken its foundations, cause safety hazards, and ultimately cost you significant amounts of money.
Equipping yourself with the right knowledge can help you minimize the damage and restore the integrity and safety of the edifice. Here’s every essential thing you need to know.
Different Types of Wood Rot
The main culprit of wood rot is moisture, which makes it conducive for fungi to grow. This material becomes a breeding ground for these microorganisms when it is exposed to dampness for extended periods. This is why wood rot is more common in places where leaks are present.
Now, there are different types of wood rot namely brown, white, and soft rot. You need to be aware of how each kind looks, as well as what causes it so you can promptly take action.
The first type is brown rot, which you might know as dry rot. This name comes from its appearance, which looks dry and takes on a certain brown color. It is caused by a type of fungi that destroys the wood, creating cubical breaks in the material. It also creates crack patterns.
The name brown or dry rot can be misleading because all kinds of wood rot are caused by the presence of fungi that are attracted by moisture.
Another type is white rot, a kind of wood decay characterized by its white color. It is caused by types of fungi that can consume a wide range of trees. Keep in mind that the rot will not be a pristine white color, but more of an off-whitish or light yellow one. It also creates a porous texture.
The last type is soft rot, which is a kind that creates small, hollow patches inside the wood, just like a honeycomb. This can be very deceiving as it can look fine on the outside but is actually severely damaged on the inside.
Fungi that cause both brown and white rot thrive in temperatures that fall between 65 and 90 degrees Fahrenheit. However, the fungi that cause soft rot are more conducive to temperatures that can be too cold or hot for these types, specifically 0 to 110 degrees Fahrenheit.
What are the Vulnerable Parts of Your Building?
Now that you know what conditions make wooden materials conducive to wood rot, you will be able to look for warning signs that can indicate such damage. To further help you detect rotting in your structure, you should inspect parts of the building that are more vulnerable to these fungi.
Of course, the first places to check are those made of wood. However, some are more at risk than others, especially those that are exposed to the elements. Here are some of them.
Exterior Doorways and Doors
Doorways and doors that lead to the outdoors are more susceptible to rot if they are made of wood. Now, don’t get us wrong. Most doors today are built with technology that helps minimize gaps that lead to moisture build-up.
However, there are instances in which they are not made up to standard. Temperature changes can also cause the wood to expand, creating room for dampness and fungi to thrive.
Windows and Window Sills
Windows typically open to the outdoors, making them vulnerable to the elements. Again, modern construction practices and treatments typically protect them from dampness, but under the right conditions, fungi can make a home out of your windows and sills.
Doors and windows create an opening for wood rot to spread to different parts of the building. When this happens, it can be harder to control.
Wooden Decks and Patios
If you have an outdoor space made with wooden materials such as a deck or patio, you want to be extra observant about them, especially as you place furniture on them and people walk on them.
What makes these structures more at risk of wood rot is the way they are built. They are made of wood planks with slats to drain water. This may be better compared to letting water buildup on top of the deck or patio.
However, this can make the underside more conducive to rot-causing fungi. This is why you should also keep an eye on your patio, and especially on your decks because they typically go without a roof.
Speaking of roofs, these are your first line of defense when it comes to the elements. They are the first to receive rainfall and snowfall, so they are more likely to fall victim to wood rot if they are damaged. Any broken parts of the roof can make wood rot possible, especially if it leads to leaks.
Attics and Basements
Leaks are often found in attics and basements. Attics are directly affected by leaks in the roof, while basements are underground, which makes them pretty damp in the first place. Moreover, the lack of proper waterproofing can make them at risk of leaks.
Wet spaces like bathrooms, kitchens, utility rooms, and laundry areas are also in danger of developing rot because they are exposed to dampness. These are fixed with plumbing. Pipe leaks and drainage issues can create the right environment for fungi and wood rots.
Most Basic Wood Rot Signs and What to Look For
Knowing where to look is only half the battle. You should know exactly what to look for in these places and how to find them. Check out the most basic signs of wood rot and how to detect them even when they are not that obvious.
Soft Wooden Parts
The primary indicator of wood rot is softness especially as these fungi eat away at the material. The thing is, this can be difficult to detect in some cases because rotting can happen inside, but may look good on the surface.
To check for unobvious rots, what you need is a flashlight and a screwdriver. Simply go to the vulnerable or wooden parts of your home with these two tools and perform an inspection. Look for discolored and swollen parts.
Now, they might look solid, especially under coats of paint. You can verify by poking it with a screwdriver. If the tip sinks or deteriorates under the pressure, then you definitely have wood rot.
Aside from softened foundations, another tell-tale sign of wood rot is discoloration. Remember, there are types of this damage named after colors, specifically brown and white rot. So, you need to look for deep brown or white wood stains using the flashlight, especially in the attic, basements, and undersides. After spotting discoloration, use your screwdriver to verify.
Exposure to wetness is the number one cause of wood rot. When you find leaks and dampness, you need to perform the screwdriver test. You need to particularly inspect wooden materials, especially corners where they are connected, such as those observed in sills and casings.
Another thing you should look for is physical damage. When you see obvious signs such as broken-down wood and holes, you definitely have a problem.
Presence of Mold and Mildew
Mold and mildew are fungi that form on the organic matter when moist. They are microscopic fungi, so they share several attributes with wood rot. Once you find mold and mildew, the screwdriver test comes in handy.
Wood Rot Repairs, Treatment, and Prevention
If you detect any softness, swelling, discoloration, exposed damage, mold, and mildew, you need to take action immediately. Just keep in mind that there are different ways to address the problem and you should take the right step for your building.
Softwood rot is no longer repairable, so what you need to do is to completely remove the affected area and replace the material. Make sure to treat the remaining good parts to prevent the fungi from spreading and eradicate them.
However, if you only saw swelling, discoloration, mold, and mildew without softness, you can still try to salvage it. First, make sure to address the source, such as leaks, problematic drainage systems, poor ventilation, and other similar causes.
Then, dehumidify the place by placing a dehumidifier or running a machine dedicated to this purpose. Once the place is rid of humidity, treat the wood with a wood preservative and anti-fungi substance. Painting over the material can also help preserve it.
The Bottom Line
Building owners need to watch out for wood rot as it can cause a huge problem in terms of safety and finances. Now that you know what causes wood rot, what to look for, and how to detect it, you can take the necessary steps to address the issue.