Wood rot is a problem that many homes face, but not many individuals realize how big of a problem it can become if left unchecked. Whether it’s the doors, window frames, or wooden siding, rot can slowly eat away at your home—increasing your energy bills and decreasing your home’s overall value. It’s for this reason that knowing how to repair rotten wood is a necessary skill set for any homeowner.
Wood rot around your home is a big issue that often goes under a homeowner’s radar—until it’s too late.
A leaky window or cracking sill is an indication of wood rot around windows, but it’s also a sign the problem has escalated. Here’s what you need to know to head off the issue of wood rot before it destroys your window sills or foundation and becomes an expensive problem.
Wood rot often comes as an unpleasant surprise. Perhaps you’re having your roof shingles replaced, and the roofer announces that the decking, rafters, or ridge board are rotted.
Or maybe you’re preparing to paint an exterior window sill or trim board, and you notice the wood under the old paint is soft. Worse is when you’re in the basement or crawlspace and notice rot in structural beams and joists!
Left untreated, with the right conditions, wood rot can spread and eventually weaken the structure of your home. Of course, a home with significant rot will also lose its resale value, so it’s imperative to take action.
At Hitch Property Constructions, we offer timber repairs work from simple timber repair to almost new structures, renovations, and extensions.
What is Wood Rot
Leaks, mould, mildew, and insects are the leading causes of wood rot around your home’s exterior. When it comes to rotting wood, you should always avoid simply patching the problem with exterior house paint and instead focus on eliminating the issue. A paint job is not enough to fix the matter; the only real solution to wood rot that ensures additional structural damage will not occur is to have the wood replaced by a professional.
Exterior home wood rot is commonly found around decks, roofs, wooden window frames, and exterior doors. Often, moisture that has been on the wood long enough to encourage fungi to grow will cause the wood to deteriorate. Without proper maintenance, in the world’s ever-changing climate, wood rot is ultimately inevitable.
What Causes Wood Rot?
The short answer is that moisture causes wood to rot. While windows are built to withstand and protect your home from the effects of weather, improper window or siding installation, poor roof replacement or roofing damages, or gutter issues can lead to water seeping into your window sills by not flowing out away from home correctly.
Along the top of windows, flashing protects the window frame from moisture and leakage, allowing water to drain over the top of the window. If the flashing is damaged or missing, water sits on the top of the window casing and gets into the frame over time. When not adequately drained, water may also leak into the walls or posts of the house and lead to an even more significant issue.
Where there is moisture, carpenter ants, termites, and other bugs find these cool, damp areas ideal for setting up their own homes. When these critters get into your woodwork, you often need professional assistance to address the problem, as they tend to eat away at the wood. If you treat the infestation soon enough, you’ll prevent lasting damage to the woodwork in your home.
When combined, pests and water lead to the perfect storm of wood rot and damage around windows, vents, and doors. Any area of your home with wood trim may experience this problem. Still, the frame surrounding many windows is made of wood and regularly exposed to moisture, making it extremely susceptible to rot and damage. Challenges with your siding (away from windows) can also create an escape zone for water to seep into, creating similar challenges.
Unfortunately, wood rot may go on for years before a homeowner notices the problem. When you realize there’s an infestation or wood rot problem, it may be too late for a small intervention. You may need to replace your windows and tear out the sill and frame entirely, replace full siding, or even worse, need structural changes and updates.
If you’re worried about the issue of wood rot around your home–in your windows, siding, or doors– take a few moments to examine your home for the early signs of wood rot.
Knowing the Signs of Wood Rot Around Your Home
Recently, we worked with a homeowner who had a big problem with wood rot in their door and windows that were recently replaced. When we arrived prior to replacing their door and windows, we noticed some paint peeling and chipping in the corner (very minimal) but generally, that is a sign that there is an underlying issue. Upon further exploration, we found that the issue was stemming from a faulty gutter with multiple seams as well as a poorly constructed, flat rubber roof that was allowing water to pool. Water was leaking in behind the siding and running into the frame. Carpenter ants feasting on the rotting wood had compounded the problem. As we investigated, we were amazed the corner of the roof was still standing, seeing as there was so much rot.
How to fix wood rot
Exterior wood siding or trim faces constant exposure to the elements, thus making it a prime candidate for wood rot. The longer the wood is exposed to the elements without being properly taken care of, the greater the chance of extensive damage. Before painting your exterior, rotten wood must be thoroughly replaced. Wood rot can be easy to miss, and spreads rapidly, causing irreversible damage to the structure of your home. Experienced painting professionals should be able to identify and repair wood rot ASAP, ensuring all rotting wood and its traces are removed in order to prevent the problem from returning. Once the wood is replaced, protective paint can be applied to improve the area aesthetically while simultaneously increasing longevity. Ideally, after wood repairs, your home’s entire exterior should be sealed with a long-lasting exterior sealant for protection, followed by a long-lasting primer and quality exterior paint.
Where to Inspect for Dry Rot & Wood Rot
Armed with an awl or a small screwdriver, inspect locations where rot often gains a foothold. Use the tool to poke into areas that are suspects (blistered or soft) to see how extensive the rot is. Rot is likely to occur in:
- Exposed framing in a basement or crawlspace
- Exterior window sills and door thresholds
- Exterior window and door casings (trim)
- The underside of roof decking (if accessible from the attic)
- Roof framing (if accessible from the attic)
- Fascia (trim to which gutters are often attached) and rake boards (trim on the gable end of a roof)
A solid roof can help prevent dry rot damage.
Stop the rot. Without excess moisture, rot cannot gain a foothold in your home. Properly maintained gutters and reduced moisture infiltration at the windows are good preventative measures.
Most of the strategies for fighting dry rot throughout the house begin with your roof. If your roof is not sound and your gutters are clogged or misaligned, tremendous amounts of water can enter your home and saturate the ground around your foundation (which can also allow water to seep into your home). So, the first rule of home care is to make sure your roof is leak-free and in good repair. As a leading national roofing contractor, we offer comprehensive roofing services, including a variety of roof repairs to help you maintain your roof’s condition.
We also understand that the roof is more than a barrier to rain and snow. It is also where your home exhales! A properly vented roof also expels much of the water vapour that builds up in the home and plays an important role in keeping the moisture content in building materials to safe levels.
Vent openings are typically located along the roof’s ridge and soffits at the eaves. These roof vents are usually continuous in order to maintain adequate airflow.
Warm, often humid, air naturally rises (warm air rises) through the ridge vents and replacement air is drawn in through soffit vents to replace it.
Called convection, or the “stack effect,” replacement air may also be drawn from wall cavities that surround the lower levels of your home – and even from your basement. The stack effect normally helps maintain low moisture levels throughout your home.
Check out our range of timber repairs Melbourne at Hitch Property Constructions.
Simple Steps to Repair Rotted Wood on Your Home
Remove the Rotted Area
Before you can fix the damaged areas of your home, you have to be sure to remove the already rotted pieces. You can easily accomplish this process with the clawed end of a hammer. Using the claw at the base of the rot, you’ll be able to dig out the tainted wood by applying pressure to the hammer as you pull back toward yourself. Make sure that you’re only scraping away the rot, as not to harm the healthy wood underneath. The amount of time it will take to complete this task depends entirely on how much rot you’re trying to remove.
Patch Area with Epoxy
After sanding away the rest of the rot and applying a wood restorer to the afflicted areas, paint over the revealed wood with a bonding agent. This will help fill in any of the gaps in the wood and make it easier for you to fill in the removed area. If the rotted area is small enough that you don’t need to replace it with wood, one method is to make a replacement out of a mixture of 2-part epoxy. Using a gun applicator, you can dispense the epoxy into the needed areas with perfect precision. Once the epoxy is fully dried, shape it to fit the surface by scraping off the excess with a putty knife.
Sand and Paint
Once the epoxy has had a chance to sit for at least 24 hours, you can go about the process of making the new section match the preexisting wood. Sand down any of the remaining epoxies so that all of the edges match up. After making sure that the gap is filled, you can then coat the area with a fresh layer of primer and repaint the surface to fit your taste.
It’s important to note that if more than just small sections of your home are falling victim to wood rot, you may need to replace those sections completely. Replacing full doors and window frames can greatly benefit a home that suffers from continuing rot.
Steps to Dry Rot Cleaning and Repair
Remove Damaged Wood
All wood that shows decay or visible fungus should be removed, as well as all wood within one meter of the visible decayed material.
Remove Materials Near Damage
Plaster, panelling, linings, and ceilings around the dry rot areas can also contribute to the damage and should also be removed.
Wire brush Affected Area
Using a wire brush, loose material is removed from all surfaces within 1.5 meters of the furthest edge of the infestation, including metal, masonry, and pipes. Resulting dust and debris is removed as well.
A disinfectant is applied to all wood, masonry, and exposed soil in within 1.5 meters from the damage.
Substantially rot-damaged beams, joists, and posts are replaced with pressure-treated wood.
Preventing Dry Rot in a Basement
Remove all standing water sources, then install a plastic vapour barrier on the walls and floors. Install a self-draining dehumidifier powerful enough to dry the area. (At least a 100-litre model)
Preventing Dry Rot in a Crawl Space
Seal off all crawl space vents and door covers. Encapsulate the crawl space with a crawl space liner, then install a self-draining crawl space dehumidifier.
We have a wide range of Melbourne timber repairs for your home renovations. Check out Hitch Property Constructions.
Minimizing Wood Rot Repairs Around Your Home
How can you save money? Wood rot is caused by wood-destroying fungi that break down the wood cells, which are a food source, producing wood rot or decay. When you repair wood rot, you are essentially removing the fungi which is causing the damage and replacing or repairing the damaged sections of wood. Until the fungi are gone along with the conditions (moisture and temperature) needed to support the fungi, more damage will occur.
Wood rot repairs requiring a new window your home’s exterior is exposed to the weather year-round, and many homeowners don’t realize the most important role of exterior paint is to protect the wood from water damage. The wood trim that bumps out from your home is vulnerable to wood rot because it takes a beating from the weather. If you don’t paint frequently enough, water finds its way into the wood where it can support wood-eating fungi and yes, carpenter ants which we frequently found in my handyman business.
Don’t let this problem happen to you! It’s a big expense, and often, homeowners must replace their windows, doors, or siding entirely. If you do not fix the root cause of the issues (gutters, roofing, framing issues, etc.), these issues will likely occur again. Wood rot is one problem that is best addressed early on, at the first sign of an issue.
To check for signs of wood rot around your home, inspect the windowsills and frames. Are there any cracks or degraded looking areas? If there are holes or spots where the wood is crumbling, then there’s a problem.
Watch for signs of mildew as well. While most windows get condensation, it should accumulate on the inside of your windows. It may be necessary to prevent condensation with a dehumidifier, fan, or proper ventilation. If your windows accumulate a lot of condensation, it can lead to rotting of the surrounding wood. Condensation or fogging should never build up between windowpanes; this indicates seal failure.
The primary cause of wood rot around windows, doors, and siding is water running toward your home. If you notice gutters dripping water on your windows or at the base of your doors, or even down your siding, paint bubbling, or a window frame that seems constantly damp, it’s time to investigate. Improper flashing, older siding, and leaky gutters result in water pooling and buildup beneath the exterior trim of your house. Water should never, ever leak into your home, either.
Another indication of wood rot is carpenter ants or termites. If you start to see ants in your home, it means there’s a hole somewhere. Follow these visitors to their origin and address the problem head-on. Ants can do a great deal of damage before you even realize they’re living in your wood trim.
Lastly, if you see a spot that looks discoloured, take a pencil, pen, or object to poke with, and press on the spot. If it seems soft to the touch, that is an indication that there is likely soft wood underneath from water damage and rot.
If homeowners watch for the signs and address them early, the remedy is often simple. You may need to repair a gutter, fix the flashing, or hire a professional to exterminate the pests. It’s imperative to correct the issue asap. Wood rot is a concern that shouldn’t wait.
Unfortunately, wood rot in one window or spot is rarely an isolated case, so stay diligent when watching for wood rot around your home. If you notice even small areas of decay, call us right away. Don’t wait!