Wood rot is an eyesore and a health and safety risk. If wooden fixtures in your home or business are rotting, repair and replace them. You'll endanger yourself and others. Let's discuss four health and safety risks caused by rotting wood.
Serpula lacrymans is a destructive wood decay fungus in many countries. Serpula lacrymans is a destructive "building cancer"
It damages masonry. Fungus grows in dark, humid places with poor ventilation. It spreads widely before the damage is noticed. Dry rot fungus almost exclusively affects buildings.
It's a good coloniser of wood in the built environment because it has an efficient transport system that moves water, nitrogen, iron, etc. via root-like structures (rhizomorphs) and an effective solubilisation system that extracts metal ions from stone and plasterwork.
Dry rot fungus modifies lignin and breaks down cellulose non-enzymatically. Cellulose is degraded and metabolised using hydrolytic and oxidative enzymes. Myths about the destructive nature of dry rot fungus lead to harsh, destructive treatment that damages the building more than the fungus.
It's a common misconception that fungus is indestructible and that infected buildings must be demolished. The dry rot fungus cannot survive in dry conditions.
At Hitch Property Constructions, we offer timber repairs work from simple timber repair to almost new structures, renovations, and extensions.
What Are the Types of Wood Rot?
Both dry rot and wet rot, which are both types of wood rot, are caused by fungi. Wet rot can be caused by a wide variety of fungi, and it is more likely to occur when there is a lot of moisture present. The ideal substrate for this fungus is wood that has a moisture content of at least 50%. On the other hand, dry rot requires only about 20 to 30 percent moisture to begin the germinating stage of its development.
Fungi belonging to the genus Serpula Lacrymans are the sole agents of dry rot, in contrast to wet rot, and its effects are not limited to timber alone. This particular species of fungus is very aggressive, and it has the potential to spread across your fence. In the event that spores enter your home or land on other materials, they have the potential to spread the rot.
What Are the Signs of Dry Rot vs. Wet Rot?
Cracks in the wood are frequently accompanied by dry rot. After being exposed to the elements, the boards of your fence might begin to split, crack, or even shrink. On the other hand, there are some instances in which the damage is hidden beneath the surface of the fence, making it impossible to detect. It is possible for the mycelium to become yellow or grey as the fungi continue to spread. After some time, you might even see fruiting bodies, which are structures that can release even more spores.
The wood may shrink and crack as a result of wet rot, but in most cases, the wood will be damp and soft. There is also a possibility that you will detect a musty odour. Mycelium strands aren't as common as they are with dry rot, but if the condition isn't treated, they might start to sprout.
Which Type of Wood Rot Is Worse?
There is no question that dry rot is almost always more severe than wet rot, and it requires treatment as soon as it can possibly be administered. It's a good thing that one of the reasons dry rot is such a problem is not because it can make you sick. Dry rot is a terrible problem that can have a significant negative impact on your finances.
It is possible that the fungal infection will spread to other materials in addition to your fence because fungi can infect almost any substance. It is possible for it to damage your deck or patio, as well as your carpets or drywall if it makes its way inside your home. This results in costly repairs and replacements being needed throughout the entirety of your home.
How Can You Prevent and Treat Wood Rot?
The best way to prevent wood rot is to find the source of excess moisture. Your fence may be exposed to standing water if your yard doesn't drain well. By fixing this, wood rot may be prevented. Protect wood from rot by painting or staining it to create a moisture barrier. If you have wet rot, once you find the source of moisture, use a fungicide to kill the fungus causing the rot.
Dry rot may need more work. You may need to remove affected wood, which is expensive. Use a fungicide to kill any remaining spores. Wood rot affects any wood with moisture. Both are frustrating and need immediate attention, but dry rot can spread to your yard or home. Want to know more about root rot and other fence risks?
Wood Rot Fungi
What are the fungi that cause wood to rot? Wood is consistently recognised as one of the most important structural elements in both residential and commercial structures. Within a structure, one is unlikely to be able to avoid encountering something made of wood. In the absence of proper preservation, it is vulnerable to attack from organisms such as wood-rotting fungi and others.
Growth Requirements for wood rot fungi
For fungi to colonise wood, the following conditions are required:
- Favourable temperatures. Generally, wood colonising fungi have an optimal growth temperature at around 25 degrees Celsius.
- Adequate moisture. Moisture is the most critical requirement for fungi to colonise wood. Fungi will not attack dry wood (i.e., with a moisture content of 19 per cent or less). Decay fungi require a wood moisture content of about 30%.
- Adequate oxygen. Most fungi require (oxygen) for growth.
- Food source. Like every other living organism, fungi require nutrients for growth. These are readily available on wood surfaces in the form of dust. The wood itself is made of biodegradable compounds (cellulose, hemicellulose, lignin).
The wood-decaying fungi are the most damaging of all the wood-destroying fungi. These fungi are prolific producers of strong enzymes that they use to breakdown complex wood components (cellulose, hemicellulose, lignin) to simple sugars that they can utilise as food.
Wood-decay fungi colonise most tree sapwood and heartwood. Fungi grow in or on wood. Fan-shaped patches of fine, threadlike, cottony growths or rootlike shapes appear on wood. White, light brown, bright yellow, and dark brown are possible colours. Fungus fruiting bodies (spore-producing structures) may be mushrooms, shelflike brackets, or flattened crusts. Fine, threadlike mycelia grow in wood and excrete enzymes that digest it. By destroying wood's cellulose, hemicellulose, and lignin, its strength is lost.
Duration of fungal growth conditions affects decay rate and extent. When moisture falls below fungus requirements, decay stops. Too-low or too-high temperatures slow wood decay. Freshly exposed unseasoned wood is more prone to early decay than weather-discolored wood. Brown rot, white rot, and soft rot are the main wood decay fungi.
Check out our range of timber repairs Melbourne at Hitch Property Constructions.
Brown rot fungi such as Poria monticola and Serpula lacrymans break down primarily the cellulose component of wood for food, leaving a brown residue of lignin. Wood severely infested with brown rot fungi is greatly weakened even before the decay is visible. Advanced stages of brown rot infestation are characterised by:
- The dark brown colour of the wood
- Excessive shrinkage
- Cross-grain cracking
- The ease with which the dry wood substance can be crushed to a brown powder.
In North America, softwoods that are used in above-ground construction are susceptible to decay due to fungi known as brown rot, which is probably the most significant cause of this decay. When the wood is dry, the brown rot that has decayed it is sometimes referred to as "dry rot."
A small number of fungi, such as Serpula layman, are capable of decomposing wood that is relatively dry. These fungi do this by producing water-conducting strands, also known as rhizomorphs, which can transport water from wet soil to wood that is located in lumber piles or buildings. Fungi are able to cause decay in wood that, in the absence of these organisms, would be too dry for decay to take place. The term "dry rot fungi" or "water-conducting fungi" is sometimes used to refer to these organisms.
Both lignin and cellulose are decomposed in the process of white rot, which is caused by the fungi Phellinus megalopolis and Poria contigua. Because they have a bleaching effect, the damaged wood may end up looking much whiter than it normally would. Wood that has been affected by the condition will shrink normally and, unlike wood that has been damaged by brown rot, will not typically collapse or crack across the grain. However, the wood that has been infested will gradually become spongy to the touch as it continues to lose its strength. Fungi known as white rot typically infect hardwoods, but there are several species that can also cause decay in softwoods.
The growth of Penicillium on wood Fungi that cause soft rot, such as Chaetomium globosum, typically attack very wet wood. This attack results in a gradual and shallow (3-4 mm) softening of the wood from the surface inward that is similar to brown rot. The surface of the infested wood turns a darker colour and becomes very soft, giving rise to the condition that is known as "soft rot."
Wood-staining fungi are cosmetic, unlike wood-decay fungi. They grow on wood's surface. Ceratostomella and Diplodia are wood-staining fungi. These fungi discolour softwood sapwood. Sap stains can't be brushed or planed off, unlike mould stains. Sapstain fungi can grow in the sapwood of standing trees, sawlogs, lumber, and timbers soon after cutting and before drying. Strength is not affected, but appearance may be (such as siding, trim, furniture, and exterior millwork that is to be clear-finished).
Superficial Wood Colonizing Fungi
Fusarium spp and Penicillium spp cause green, yellow, brown, or black, fuzzy or powdery surface growths on wood. They can brush, wash, or surface off their coloured spores. Surface moulds can cause deep stains on open-pored hardwoods. Mold can discolour freshly cut or seasoned wood in less than a week in warm, humid weather. Molds don't reduce wood strength, but they can increase its moisture absorption, which invites decay fungi.
Is dry rot fungus dangerous to your health?
The dry rot fungus has not been linked to the production of any known toxic chemical compounds. Despite this, it has been established that exposure to this fungus can cause asthma in some people. It was determined that this fungus plays a role in sensitising individuals who suffer from asthma and atopic dermatitis through the use of skin tests as well as bronchial provocation tests. There have been reports of a few confirmed cases of hypersensitivity pneumonitis, also known as allergic alveolitis, which have been caused by the dry rot fungus.
How to detect dry rot fungus
Dry rot fungus is common in buildings with poor maintenance, especially old ones, and improper design or alteration. In early stages of infestation, dry rot fungus is difficult to distinguish visually from other wood-rotting fungi.
When the fruiting bodies have brown spore dust, the fungus is easy to distinguish from other wood rot fungi. Unlike other wood-rotting fungi, dry rot can spread through masonry. Dry rot fungus has a dangerous ability to spread.
How to control dry rot fungus
The dry rot fungus is easily manageable if the right combination of environmental manipulations and building considerations as well as the right use of wood and masonry preservatives are applied.
Other wood-rotting fungi in houses
Wet rot is another form of decay that can be caused by fungi on the wood found in homes. Wet rot fungi, in contrast to dry rot fungi, decompose both cellulose and lignin. This leaves the colour of the wood largely unchanged, but the texture of the wood is softer, more felt-like, or spongier, and there are no cross cracks. There are two varieties of wet rot: brown rot and white rot.
Fungi such as Donkiporia expanse, Asterostroma spp., Pleurotus ostreatus, and Phellinus contiguus are responsible for the majority of white rot diseases. Brown rots make the wood darker in colour and cause it to crack along and across the grain; very decayed wood will crumble to dust once it has had enough time to dry out. The fungi Coniophora puteana, C. marmorata, Paxillus panuoides, and Dacrymyces stillatus are responsible for the majority of the brown rots that occur as a result of wet rot.
Health and Safety Risks by Rotting Wood
Even though rotten wood is not directly responsible for respiratory issues, its presence is indicative of an excessive amount of moisture in the air and the growth of potentially harmful fungi such as black mould. Mold can quickly spread in these humid conditions, and as it does so, it releases spores into the air. Breathing in these spores can cause a variety of respiratory issues, including coughing, sneezing, lung inflammation, and other symptoms.
Irritation and Rashes
If mould is the cause of your wood rotting, then it may also be the cause of other health problems, such as skin rashes, eye irritation, headaches, and exhaustion. Once more, the rotting wood is not the direct cause of these problems. The warm and damp conditions that exist are the real threat because they encourage the growth of the fungi that cause the rot. Nevertheless, if you find areas that are affected by wood rot, there is a good chance that these areas will have a negative impact on your health.
Gaps, Cracks, and Open Spaces
Rotting wood can also make the interior of your home or building vulnerable to a variety of external factors, including insects, mice and other rodents, bacteria, and other organisms. A number of these unwelcome guests may be carriers of a variety of diseases. It is absolutely necessary to ensure that these forces do not penetrate your interior in any way, particularly around windows, doors, seams, and any other possible entry points.
Structural degradation is rotting wood's biggest safety risk. Wood is durable, flexible, and strong when properly maintained, making it a popular building material. Many homes and buildings have wooden supports. Wooden decks, patios, and balconies are also common.
Rotted wood becomes softer and weaker, making it less stable under weight and pressure. The wood foundation could collapse, bringing down the whole building. This can harm anyone on or under the structure when it collapses.
How Can You Prevent Rotting Wood?
Preventing wood rot reduces health and safety risks. Keep gutters clean, place dehumidifiers in basements and attics, invest in better insulation, and improve ventilation to prevent moisture from entering your building.
Protect wood from rot directly. Clean wood regularly. Paint, stain, or seal wood to prevent moisture absorption. If you don't know what paint or stain to use, hire a painting service.
Exterior wooden features are more vulnerable to rain, snow, and vapour. Before painting exterior wood, pressure-wash it.
Can dry rot make you sick?
Dry rot is one of the most dangerous types of timber fungi because it poses a threat not only to the structural soundness of your building but also to the underlying problem of excessive dampness that it represents. Even though dry rot on its own won't cause too many health problems, it can cause expensive structural damage that will eventually become a health hazard. This can be a problem.
Thereof, can dry rot affect your health?
Dry rot spores, by themselves, do not pose a threat to human health. However, this does point to an underlying damp problem within the building, which indicates that there is an excessive amount of moisture present there, which may be hazardous to your health.
Also, do you know if being exposed to rotten wood can make you sick? Blastomycosis is transmitted through contact with moist soil, and it is most frequently found in areas with decomposing wood and leaves. The lungs are the site of the initial infection because this is where the fungus enters the body. It is then possible for the fungus to spread to other areas of the body. The skin, bones, and joints are just some of the places that could be impacted by this disease.
We have a wide range of Melbourne timber repairs for your home renovations. Check out Hitch Property Constructions.
Thereof, what are the first signs of dry rot?
Typical indications of dry rot include:
- Wood shrinks darken and crack in a 'cuboidal' manner (see picture)
- A silky grey to mushroom coloured skin frequently tinged with patches of lilac and yellow often develops under less humid conditions.
- White, fluffy 'cotton wool' mycelium develops under humid conditions.
Dry rot is one of the most severe manifestations of dampness that can occur in real estate, and if it is not treated in a timely manner, it has the potential to cause irreparable damage to the structure. Due to the locations in which the problem is most likely to be, it is common for the existence of dry rot to go undetected for some time after the damage it caused has already been completed.
FAQs About Wood Rot
It's also the kind of issue likely to cause extensive damage, spreading far, wide and quickly. And because your property is likely composed of plenty of wood, rot can even threaten its structural integrity – meaning it might literally destroy your house.
Boric acid (borate) is one of the most effective fungicides for use in treating wood rot. It can be applied to wood during construction to prevent future rot, or as a treatment to stop an active decay fungus from growing.
Rotten wood is highly porous and must be sealed before painting. Before rotten wood can be painted, it must be treated with a wood hardener. The hardener absorbs into the rotted wood to provide a firm base for the paint.
You don't have to be as aggressive on things like window trim, but you still should remove as much rotten wood as you can. If you're replacing structural wood, keep the new lumber away from the old if at all possible, and be sure to use pressure-treated wood.
All the rotten parts will need to be removed and replaced. It might not be necessary (or even possible) to remove the entire piece, though. If only part of the piece is affected, it may be possible to remove just the rotted parts and fill the holes with epoxy or polyester filler.