Structural Wood Rot

How do you fix structural wood rot?

Home repairs can cause stress and heartache to any homeowner. While it might be tempting to look the other way when you see a potential issue, the out of sight, out of mind approach might lead to disaster when it comes to wood rot.

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.

Wood rot inside walls is typically caused by water leaking in during severe weather or leaks in plumbing. It is essential that you first solve this problem before engaging in rot repairs. This will ensure that moisture does not continue to build up and damage the new repairs. Removing all rotted lumber and other materials is important, as dry rot will spread to surrounding wood and the rotted wood will attract insects and other pests, causing even greater damage.

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

What is Wood Rot?

Wood rot is the deterioration of wood due to the growth of fungi. These fungi eat up the structure and integrity of the wood, leaving it weak and vulnerable. 

Structural Wood Rot

Why Fix It?

Spending the money to replace rotted wood can be frustrating. Most wood will be hidden behind walls or underneath floors, never to be seen. Even if you can’t see the damage, it’s far better to take care of it.

Your Structure Could Fail

Wood rot in your pergola outside might not be life-threatening, but rot in your floor joists and framing could be. If wood rot in these places advances to the point of failure, you could find your living room furniture sitting in the basement. 

Your Home Sale

If you are selling your home now or might want to in the future, wood rot could eat away at your resale value. Inspectors will be searching, and buyers will be wary if they find your home isn’t safe. Get your home inspected before you put it on the market or get wood rot fixed as soon as you see signs.  

It Could Be Affecting Your Health

While actual wood rot fungus isn’t harmful to health, the presence of rot could point to a larger problem. Wood rot isn’t the only fungus that thrives in moisture, and much more dangerous things could be growing alongside it. 

How to Find It

Locating wood rot before it gives out can save you money down the road. Wood rot can be spotted easily if you look for a few key clues and engage your senses. 

Look at the Color

The colour of healthy wood should be pretty uniform. When wood becomes rotted, it will start to darken in colour. Compare wood to healthy pieces to decide if it’s headed down a dark path.  

Check the Texture

Even if the wood is painted and you can’t see the colour, you can check the health of your wood by the texture. Rotted wood will feel softer than it should and will have a squishing quality when you touch it. When dry, rotted wood will also flake and crumble. 

Find a Smell

Smelling your wood might seem odd, but it can be an easy way to identify rotting wood. Instead of the “nature woodsy” smell, rotted wood will give off a musty, damp odour. 

Check for Fungi

The most glaring evidence of wood rot fungus is the actual fungus itself. If you see any growth, it might be time to change out the wood. 

Get it Inspected

If you see any of these signs, get your home inspected by a professional. They will be able to determine the damage done fully, and the repair needed. 

How to Treat It

Once you’ve identified rotted wood, your next steps are simple. While you might wish to paint over the problem, taking the proper precautions is important.

Find the Source of Moisture

Wood rot fungus begins to grow due to a moisture source. That moisture seeps into the wood, beginning the rotting process. To save your wood and prevent more rotting in the future, find the source of moisture and get it fixed. 

Repair Small Areas

If the rotted wood is only a small part of a structure, the infected area might be able to be repaired. Fill in small gaps with wood filler and remove and replace larger portions with new wood. Make sure get fungi treatment applied to all new areas and the parts that you didn’t replace. 

Replace the Damage

If wood rot gets to a certain point, or it is in an important structural place, like a floor joist or beam, the entire area might have to be removed and replaced. If the integrity and strength of the wood are damaged to the point that it can no longer support, get professionals to swap out your damaged wood with fresh and safe replacements. 

Types of Wood Rot Explained

Brown (Dry) Rot

This type of rot occurs as it penetrates 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 discoloured white spots in the wood and overall sickly colour.

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.

Soft Rot

The rarest of the three, soft rot is typically found in places where brown or white rot cannot grow.

This rot starts very deep in the fibres 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.

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

Fixing Decayed (Rotted) Wood Using an Epoxy Penetrant and Filler

When you come across rotted wood in your old house projects, instead of replacing the damaged wood, you also can repair it with specialty epoxy penetrants (also called consolidants) and fillers to make repairs. Not only is this faster, but the fixed wood is stronger than the original. For example, if you are fixing an old window and you strip the wood, paint on an epoxy penetrant. This will not only strengthen the timber but also give it complete protection from moisture for decades once it is primed and painted.

About Epoxy Consolidants (Penetrants) and Fillers.

These products restore rotted, severely damaged windows, columns, frames, broken furniture, structural and decorative wood components. They are especially valuable for parts that cannot be replaced because of size, shape or other reasons. The objects restored with these products become fully functional parts often stronger and far more durable than the original.

The penetrants. Reinforces, rebuilds, water- and insect-proofs wood by hardening after penetrating. Regenerates rotted windowsills, frames, structural and decorative parts, furniture, boats, columns, floors.

Epoxy fillers are a structural adhesive putty and wood replacement compound. They are a high-strength no-shrink adhesive paste to fill, repair and replace wood and other materials in structures, walls, floors, furniture, sculptures. They are unaffected by water and insects.

How to Repair Wood Rot in Walls

Locating the Problem

Look for wet or soft spots along the wall where there is suspected damage. Mildew or mould on the surface of the wall near the rotted area is another clue to rot. Investigate sagging, cracking and breakage in plaster and drywall as well.

Cutaway drywall or plaster to expose the frame of the wall anywhere you suspect rot. This gives you a visual inspection area and improves circulation, drying the dampened area. Set up a fan to blow through the damaged area if excessive moisture is present.

Probe suspected rot with a fine pointed tool, such as an awl. Solid pieces may exhibit some signs of water damage without needing replacement. Replace any wood that the probe easily pierces into over 1/8-inch deep.

Resetting the Wall

Reset the position of the wall before removing or replacing any parts. Place a level against the face of the wall vertically to determine if the wall is plumb. If not, tip the top or bottom out to centre the bubble in the level. Measure the distance between level and wall. A measurement of less than 1/2-inch in either direction is acceptable.

Support the overhead weight of the roof or floor above with a wooden beam, supported on posts fitted into screw jacks. Raise the jacks until the beams are snug, then raise just a bit more to take the weight off the wall.

Cut angled wood blocks at 22-1/2 degrees from 4-by-4-inch posts. Nail them to the floor about 4 feet from the wall. Set screw jacks on the angle cut blocks to move the wall in the desired direction until it is level. Leave all jacks in place.

Replacing the Rot

Remove the rotted boards completely wherever possible. Cut out the rotted sections from boards that cannot be removed. Smaller sections of the rotted wood can be cut out with a rotary tool and an attached saw blade accessory.

Cut boards of the same thickness and width as the boards you cut rot from. Make them long enough to span the cut section and extending onto good wood 12 inches above and below the cut. Nail it to the face of the damaged board.

Cut and install new boards of the same dimensions as the original boards you removed. Toenail them in place, with framing nails angled through the top and bottom ends of the board.

Reinforce the wall at the top and bottom by installing aluminium hurricane brackets at the top and bottom of replaced or repaired pieces. This will help to keep the wall from shifting back into its old position.

Finishing the Wall

Release the jacks slowly, allowing the wall to settle into its new position gradually. Lower them at a pace of one turn per hour and watch for new cracks or other signs of stress in the surrounding walls and surfaces.

Replace the drywall or plaster over the repaired area. Float the seams around the repair with drywall patching compound. Sand and paint the repaired area to match the surrounding wall.

Watch the area closely for the next few weeks for signs of shifting or new water damage. Investigate and make repairs quickly should new damage occur to prevent undoing your original repairs.

Things You Will Need

  • Fan
  • Awl
  • Level
  • Screw jacks
  • Posts
  • Angle cut blocks
  • Hammer
  • Pry bar
  • A rotary tool with saw blade accessory
  • New lumber
  • Nails
  • Screws
  • Hurricane tie brackets
  • Drywall
  • Drywall patching compound
  • Drywall float trowel

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 decay.
  • Spore dust is a common occurrence in 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 fibres (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 mould it into the desired shape with a putty knife. Give this time to cure according to label directions (often overnight). After that, sand the wood down to achieve the desired shape and texture.

Then. 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. Moisture Barrier & Subfloor Replacement 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.

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.

Around the House

It’s not that necessary to determine what kind of rot you have. Rot is rot. That said, white rot damages the structural integrity of wood more slowly. Wood infected with white rot is often still usable in the early stages of decay, not so with brown rot. Even a small amount of it can have a significant effect on wood’s strength.

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

Tool Chest

Borates are chemicals derived from boron, a naturally occurring mineral.

It’s important to determine the extent of the damage before you begin to repair and replace the wood. You can do this with a sharp-edged tool like a screwdriver or awl.

Remove as much rotten wood as possible (and economically feasible) before beginning repairs. In structural wood — columns, beams, girders, and the like — it’s important to cut back to sound wood; if possible, the cut should be made at least one foot beyond the last evidence of rot. 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. For repairs in hard-to-maintain areas or in wood that’s constantly exposed to the elements, you’ll want to treat existing wood, too.

Borates are the chemical of choice for treating and stopping rots and have been used for this purpose for many years. They are water-based, low in toxicity, environmentally friendly, and they last a long time. Since they are water-based, they use the water in wood as a carrier. When wood is dry, borates stay in place. When wood gets wet, the borates move through the wood. As they do, they both kill fungi and protect the wood from future infections.

Borate products are sold under a number of brand names, including Bora-Care, Guardian, Jecta, Tim-bor, Shell-Guard, and IMPEL Rods. All of them both protect and treat wood and wood-foam composite materials against fungi and wood-destroying insects (more about these in The Trouble with Termites). Some are solutions that you spray or brush on. Tim-bor is available as a cloud of dust that you inject into cracks and hard-to-reach spaces. IMPEL Rods, as the name suggests, are rod-shaped devices that slip into holes drilled in wood.

Choose the product that best suits your needs, and follow the label directions for mixing and application.

While it might be more fun to spend money on new countertops or a stylish wall hanging, spending those dollars on your home’s structure will be much more beneficial, and work to preserve its value.

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