Rotting Wood

Can rotting wood be saved?

The rotting wood situation is a serious one, especially when it comes to the flooring and doors. Does anyone like to come across such a situation? When the wood is exposed to the water or is affected by insects, it is likely to rot. You must be thinking about how expensive it would be to replace the entire thing? Isn’t it? Luckily, there are ways to repair rotting wood before it’s too late. The rotten parts can be removed, filled, primed, and painted. To ensure that it does not require any further repair, try not to expose the wood to the water. If you fail to fill the wood properly, then the problem can get worse. So, let’s learn how to save the rotting wood by filling it in the right ways.

The majority of us have seen rotting wood, whether it be a tree that has fallen over because of a storm or a small twig slowly decomposing into the soil. The decomposition of wood is a natural and everyday occurrence that contributes to a healthy ecosystem. Although this discussion quickly makes a 180 when the rotting wood is in our homes!

Rotting wood in a home can lead to significant structural problems, from deteriorating support posts and beams to a destroyed roof decking.

Homeowners are often caught between a rock and a hard place when they are forced to confront a tough question with rotted wood: Should the rotting wood be replaced or repaired?

To backtrack a bit first, it should be noted that there is a difference between rotted wood and rotting wood.

If the wood is fully rotted, it is most likely too late, and the wood must be replaced. However, if the wood is rotting, but not yet fully rotted, chances are, it is salvageable. Continue reading to learn about the causes and signs of rotted wood and when it can be saved.

Nobody wants to come across any rotted wood, but this situation is made worse when the wood is used for something important like doors and floors. You can replace the rotten wood, but you can also repair it by filling the rotted areas. This isn’t a job that is hard to do, but there are some things to keep in mind when trying to fill rotted wood. Failure to do so can cause the problem to become much worse. The following article will share with you several tips on how to do-it-yourself and properly fill rotten wood in.

At Hitch Property Constructions, we offer timber repairs work from simple timber repair to almost new structures, renovations, and extensions.

What causes rotted wood?

Rotted wood is normally caused by a combination of conditions, with the two main characters being moisture and fungi.

For the fungi to survive grow, the wood must remain continuously damp. Generally, fungi will not grow on dry wood.

While wood rot can take place virtually anywhere there is wood, wood rot most commonly takes place at the bottom of porch posts, as it is often exposed to water.

Window sills are also particularly susceptible to wood rot, although they have limited structural importance.

Rotting Wood

What are the signs of rotted wood?

As previously mentioned, if the wood is caught while it is in the process of rotting, rather than completely rotted, it can still be salvaged and repaired, but if the wood has already completely rotted, it must be replaced.

Begin your home’s inspection by examining any areas of your home their may be wood, such as siding around and beneath your home’s windows, walls and floors near sinks and bathtubs, attics, and basements.

From there, take note if there are any signs of rotted wood. Here are a few signs to look out for:

  • Signals of fungus. Keep an eye for spotty white patches that resemble chewed up mushrooms or a white film on wood.
  • Waterlogging. Waterlogging occurs when the wood expands to the point where water can no longer be stored anymore. The wood is completely saturated.
  • Odour. As the wood begins to rot, it will take on the scent of general mustiness or something comparable to faint body odour.

Fight Wood Rot

The first step is to determine if you have rotted. A wet or damp location is easy to spot; other areas require a bit more effort. The term “dry-rot” has been bandied about for years, but it’s a misnomer. Wood doesn’t rot if it’s dry. But in the final stages of rot, wood can appear dry. It’s also important to determine whether the deterioration is caused by termites or rot. Wood rots due to a fungus that attacks damp wood. The rot will be visible throughout the wood. Termites eat out the softer, early-wood ring portions of wood, often leaving the harder, late-wood rings. Rotting wood, even in the dry-rot stage, has a mottled, dark to greyish-white appearance. The difference between the two is fairly easy to see if you examine closely. Some lumber, Douglas fir in particular, also contain soft “white pockets” that at first glance may appear as rot, although perfectly dry. These appear as tiny white “pin-holes” with white filling. This is still dry wood, although not particularly strong.

Wood rot is one of the most insidious problems homeowners can face. Although sometimes called “dry rot,” all wood-rot problems are caused by moisture, humidity or condensation.

Where to Inspect 

It’s important to inspect for both termites or rot if purchasing an older building. You should even check regularly with a home you’ve owned for some time. Even new construction can develop rot problems quickly under some conditions and in some locales. Use a strong flashlight to examine crawl spaces, attics, basements and other rot-potential areas. Crawlspaces, especially low-to-the-ground spaces, are typically bad rot areas. Look for wood discolouration. Take an ice pick, awl or sharp screwdriver. If you suspect an area, use the tool to punch into the wood to determine if it is still solid, or if the wood is soft and punky. The next step is to feel any suspect spots for dampness. If you feel any dampness at all, you probably have a problem. But, you should also check for termite tunnels. As with termites, wood rot begins first in damp parts of the building, then proceeds to other portions of the house.

Again, the first place to look is any place that touches the ground or is near the ground. If the wood touches the ground at any location, there’s the chance for not only rot but termites as well. This is a common problem with poorly designed slab buildings, as well as with older buildings with low foundations that have settled over the years and allow ground contact. Crawlspaces without proper ventilation can also be a problem. This also includes areas under unventilated porches and steps.

Damp basements are another common problem. Dampness usually begins in the floor or walls, then can spread to the basement ceiling beams, and eventually even into upper-floor walls. The interior air can absorb the moisture from the basement, and the vapour than can spread throughout your house, even up into the attic. This is a fairly common occurrence. Other problem areas include unventilated attics, especially over the walls of a bathroom where moisture may occur due to cracks around the tub and shower. Another common moisture problem occurs around, behind and below kitchen sinks and bathroom vanities. Rot may also be created by direct moisture flow from ice dams, poorly installed roof drip edges, badly installed gutters or soffits. Decks and patios fastened directly to a house without provisions for water run-off can also cause water-collection problems. Even the splashing of rainwater on uncovered decks and patios can cause rot problems.

Rainwater splashing down on a deck or patio can ruin siding. Porches and awnings can prevent some of the problems.

Check out our range of timber repairs Melbourne at Hitch Property Constructions. 

The Source of the Problem 

Do not attempt to replace or repair rot-damaged wood without first determining the source of the problem and correcting it. Begin at ground level. Make sure there is proper drainage away from the foundation or floor slab. If water collects in one particular area, you may have to do some grading work on the soil around the foundation. In many instances, groundwater will also collect in porous areas. This often shows as long-time dampness of basement walls, or even cracks or water seepage. In this case, you must first dig down, expose the foundation, apply waterproofing material to the outside, add a drain tile next to the foundation and down on the footing, then add a layer of coarse gravel to help drain water away. Make sure the soil is graded properly to drain surface rainwater away.

Another common cause of ground-level dampness is rainwater from the roof. Good gutters and downspouts are a must to direct rainwater away from foundations. In many instances, however, splash blocks must also be used to direct the flood further away. A properly installed drip edge is also important. Suppose the drip edge isn’t installed properly or is missing. In that case, water seeps back around the edge of the roofline, runs back over the top of the soffit, and causes unseen damage in the soffit area and even in the roof sheathing until suddenly you notice watermarks on the soffit, or worse, your ceiling.

Obvious areas of possible direct water infiltration resulting in rot are around windows, doors and any other openings in the house siding. This also includes broken, cracked or split wood, aluminium or vinyl siding. Close and seal any openings. Replace vinyl or metal siding wherever necessary. Some minor wood siding problems can be corrected with caulking. Replace the areas with more extensive damage. Once a year, preferably in early spring or late fall, inspect around all doors and windows and caulk any suspect areas.

Another obvious area for possible rot is old, poor or damaged roofing materials. Sealants around chimney flashings, vents and other roof openings can become hardened and cracked, creating potential water entryways and rot. An uninsulated roof overhang can often cause the buildup of ice dams, which also results in water seeping back under the overhang, into the siding, down the walls and into the ceiling by osmosis. Watermarks on ceilings and walls usually indicate this.  


A lot of moisture problems aren’t as obvious. These more insidious problems are caused by condensation. This can be more of a problem in today’s new homes than in older homes, due to the total closure vapour-barrier methods used in much of today’s construction. This type of construction often creates a closed air-circulation situation. The problems with mould inside homes and its related health concerns have increased greatly in recent years.

Regardless of whether yours is a new home, or tighter, older home, proper ventilation is important to prevent condensation. Crawlspaces must have proper ventilation. These consist of foundation vents covered to prevent pests from entering. You may wish to have a means of blocking them off during the winter in extremely cold climates, but make sure they are open the rest of the year. Eave or soffit vents are also extremely important, as are gable vents. Free air circulation must be allowed for all air spaces. Cupola vents are also used in some buildings. These days purchased metal roof vents, and ridge vents are commonly used. Regardless, the openings for ventilation should be at least 1/300 the total square footage of the ceilings. In addition, a vapour barrier should be used on the top story ceiling of the building. All vents must be screened to prevent insects from entering the building. Proper insulation can also prevent condensation buildup.

In the case of damaged structural members, you may need to consult professionals about how to repair. Temporary bracing of rotted floor joists is shown here before a full-scale bracing and repair job.

Mechanical movement of air with attic fans can also help prevent buildup of condensation, especially in extremely humid areas. Ventilation fans in basements, bathrooms, laundry rooms or any areas that constantly receive moisture can be a great help as well. A dehumidifier installed in a basement can cut down on some of the problems. 

Shrubs and vines are growing against sidewalls, and trees overhanging and fully shading a house can also create moisture problems and eventual wood rot. Trim them back to allow increased air circulation around the house.   

Sometimes wood that is infected with the fungus can be saved if you catch the problem quickly enough and the source of moisture is eliminated. Some damage may be fairly easily remedied, such as replacing rotted soffit, eave boards or fascia. Replacing rotting roof sheathing is a bit more of a problem, requiring tearing off the shingles, installing the new sheathing and then reshingling. Rotted window and door frames also normally require total window replacement. And then there’s structural damage, such as floor joists, subfloors, ceiling joists and even studs that may have their bottom ends rotted. In some instances, sound new boards may be “scabbed” or fastened to the rotted boards to provide strength after raising the supporting boards with jacks. But, make sure the moisture is gone before installing new boards, or you lock the moisture between the two, resulting in further rot problems. If in doubt about the structural integrity of the construction of the building, it is wise to have a building inspector look at the problem. Most often in case of structural wood replacement, it’s expensive and also often quite challenging, requiring professional help. 

Unchecked moisture and the resulting fungus can not only create structural and interior wood damage but also damage books, clothing, carpeting, wall coverings and furniture, as well as produce a musty odour. Don’t let it rot. Make it a yearly affair to inspect for possible rot problems and correct them as soon as possible.

How to Save Rotting Wood

Check How Deep the Rotting Wood Is

The rotting wood is quite dangerous. If the wooden flooring has started rotting, it becomes unstable to walk on as it might collapse at any time. When you find bits of rotting wood from tables, countertops and other structures, it is considered dangerous. Not just that – when the wooden doors start rotting, it also becomes a major security concern. So, take a ruler and insert to check the depth of the rotting wood. If it penetrates above an inch and also enters the other side of the wood, then it is better to replace. But, otherwise, if the original wood pieces are still intact, you may consider filling.

Remove the Parts of Rotting Wood

Do you find holes in the wood? It means the wood is rotting and you must remove the entire rotten area from the wood. According to the rotten area’s size, you can use your finger, hammer or a screwdriver to scrape the rotten wood. Try to remove as much deadwood as you can to avert further rotting and find the sturdy wood.

Use Wood Hardener to Fill the Exposed Area

When you fill the parts of rotting wood, you can find several kinds of fillings available in the market. Epoxy is one of the best that you may use to fill the scraped rotting wood parts. Working in a well-ventilated area is always advised as the wood hardeners might be flammable and toxic. Fill the exposed area with the wood hardener.

Screw for Patching Compound Support

Drive a few screws in the damaged area in an inch distance, drilling 1/4th-inch of the screw’s heads below the undamaged area. This can help in supporting the patching compound. Then, the patching compound must be mixed to a peanut butter consistency. When the mixture is ready, apply enough of the patching compound to fill the damaged area.

Fill the Damaged Rotting Wood Area

Once the patching compound is overfilled on the damaged areas, smoothen it by removing the excess for sanding in the next step. It dries within 5 to 15 minutes time.

Sanding the Compound, Primer, and Paint

Once the compound on the rotting wood hole dries up, sand it and smoothen the area. Finally, use primer and paint the filled in part.

We have a wide range of Melbourne timber repairs for your home renovations. Check out Hitch Property Constructions.


You don’t need to spend a big amount of money on replacing the rotting wood when you have an easier and cheaper option. Scraping the rotten area and filling it is the best thing to do when the wood is in a workable condition. You may also check one of the articles on how to maintain the wooden floors for more information on our blog. Take care of your wooden flooring and doors to avoid rotting wood.

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