As the owner of an older home, you don't want to hear "timber decay." Finding rot or wood beetles eating your woodwork is never good news, and many homeowners panic and take drastic measures to save their home.
Chemical treatments, insecticides, and preservatives aren't always the best solutions. Before shelling out cash for a quick fix, it may be worth paying a small fee for a specialist timber survey to diagnose your building's problems and prescribe a more reasonable solution. Long-term, these are often cheaper and save your home work.
Timber decay is something you don't want to hear from a surveyor. It suggests costly repairs and treatments. There must be a better way to prevent timber from needing repair or replacement and panicked calls about dry rot or woodworm, right?
Home and business owners can prevent invasive insects and rot by controlling moisture.
At Hitch Property Constructions, we offer timber repairs work from simple timber repair to almost new structures, renovations, and extensions.
What is Dry Rot?
Dry rot, also referred to as brown rot, is a type of wood decay that is caused by fungi and has the potential to destroy any wooden structures found inside or outside of your home. Fungi are responsible for the development of dry rot, a process in which the wood's cellulose and hemicellulose, the components that give the wood its strength and resilience, are decomposed. The wood is left weakened and brittle, and it frequently takes on the appearance of being blocky.
Only wet wood, typically with a moisture content of more than 20 percent, can be infected with dry rot. Dry rot can spread quickly. As a result of this, the elimination of the dry rot's source of moisture ought to be at the centre of any strategy for its elimination. Continue reading for additional advice on how to avoid dry rot.
How Does Dry Rot Spread?
The dry rot fungus produces spores, which are spread through the air. They will germinate if they land on wood that's been exposed to a high level of moisture from one of these three sources:
- The wood was not properly kiln-dried before being used in construction, to lower its moisture content below 20 per cent.
- The location of the wood is an area of the home with excessive humidity.
- There has been direct contact with large quantities of water, for example, flooding from a burst pipe.
To grow, the spores need not only moisture, but also a food source (wood), oxygen, and preferably warm temperatures (between 71 and 77 degrees Fahrenheit is ideal).
If not stopped, dry rot will weaken the wood to the point that it could disintegrate.
How to Identify Dry Rot
- Inspect the wood. Initially, the fungus looks like cotton wool and may have surface water droplets if the surroundings are very humid.
- Check for hollow or shrunken wood.
- Notice darkening and cracks in the wood structure
- Look for affected wood that has flat skin-like growth which may resemble the outside of a mushroom with shades of silver and grey. Often patterned with patches of light purple or yellow, it peels easily.
Causes of Timber Decay
Timber decay can be caused by age, but most often by an increase in moisture or dampness. Damp and timber decay are linked because moisture spreads fungal infections like dry rot and wet rot and encourages mould growth, both of which damage wood.
Sub-floor timbers need a dry, well-ventilated environment, which is generally provided by sub-floor vents (airbricks). Unobscured and unblocked vents reduce damp and wood decay.
Leaky roofs or wall damp can cause timber decay by over-saturating wood fibres with water, which attracts wood-boring insects. Not only is bowing or bending wood structurally unsafe, but it can also attract wood-boring insects, so be aware.
Dry rot or wet rot?Dry Rot Exposure survey
Dry rot is a type of wood decay caused by airborne spores germinating on damp wood. It's one of the worst property problems. Its aggressive spread from one wood area to another compromises structural integrity.
Dry rot needs moisture to grow, despite its name. It's hard to spot because it grows in places people don't look, like under floorboards, behind panelling, in lofts, or behind plaster away from light. Affected wood will have a white growth of fungal strands (mycelium) on its reverse side and large cuboidal cracks across the wood grain. When the fungus produces a fruiting body (mushroom), orange/red spore dust may be present. Dry rot can spread metres from its source.
Wet rot isn't as damaging as dry rot, but it can still cause damage. It attacks wetter timber, causing structural defects if left untreated. When timber absorbs excess moisture, fungal spores can germinate and produce enzymes that break down cellulose, causing the wood to lose strength. Wet rot is characterised by a damp, musty smell, grain cracking, wood softening, and discoloration. Wet rot only happens where there's moisture.
Tackling both dry rot and wet rot
The primary action is to locate and cure the cause of the moisture ingress. Dry rot and wet rot survey
Because dry rot can spread behind wall plaster and move along with other construction materials like steel, "exposure work" is required to determine the full extent of the outbreak. The affected wall plaster needs to be removed so that the mycelium, which is the fungal growth that is occuring on the walls and timbers, can be treated.
A masonry biocide is pumped into holes that have been drilled into the wall around the affected masonry's perimeter after holes have been drilled into the wall. After that, a surface application is applied to each and every exposed portion of the masonry. The treatment "sterilises" the masonry, which stops further mycelium growth of dry rot and eliminates the risk of further damage.
Both the decayed timber and any decayed sections need to be repaired, and the decayed timber needs to be cut back to what is called "sound" timber, which is wood that remains in a safe condition and structurally intact. In the end, the timbers need to be treated with a fungicidal spray that is HSE-approved, has a low odour, is non-flammable, and dries quickly.
Treatment for Dry Rot
Treatments with epoxy. Epoxy treatment should be used to fill in any channels that exist within the damaged wooden structure. This will not only prevent the rot from spreading further, but it will also fortify the structure of the wood.
Commercial antifreeze. Antifreeze can be used to treat dry rot, which will kill the fungus and stop any further spread of the disease.
Compounds containing copper Remove the rotten section of the wood before attempting to splice in new wood to repair the damage caused by dry rot. Then, before adding the new wood, saturate the surface of the existing wood with a copper compound until it is completely covered.
Check out our range of timber repairs Melbourne at Hitch Property Constructions.
Dry Rot Prevention
Preventing dry rot is pretty simple. Do your best to limit exposure of wood in your home to moisture with these steps:
- Siding: Have wood siding sealed properly and installed by a skilled siding installer.
- Painting: Make sure any wood for outdoor use is primed on all six sides before painting.
- Roofing: Have your roof checked once a year to identify and prevent and potential water damage, mould, or dry rot. Install gutters to direct rainwater away from your home's walls and foundation.
- Plumbing: Plumbing leaks commonly cause dry rot. Check underneath vanities and cabinets and around toilets for leaks. If you find any, have them repaired ASAP.
- Ventilation: Make sure your bathrooms, attic, and kitchen have proper ventilation installed to remove excess moisture from the air.
- Deck: Have your deck properly sealed. If you hire a carpenter to install a new deck, have it built at a slight slope so water will shed easily.
- Landscaping: Position lawn sprinklers so that they do not spray onto your home's exterior trim.
Dry Rot Control and Treatment
Dry rot only affects damp wood, usually over 20%. Remove the source of moisture to eliminate dry rot.
Why does wood get damp? Leaking washers, shower trays, baths, condensation, etc. are common causes. Outside sources of dampness include leaking roofs, rising dampness, and damp walls. Dry rot can be controlled if the source of dampness is fixed and the wood is allowed to dry out.
Long-term timber drying isn't always possible or practical. To prevent re-infection, take secondary measures. Replace any affected wood with pre-treated wood. Any dry rot-prone wood should be treated with a fungicide. Dry rot should be isolated using physical containment and masonry sterilisation.
External wood should be treated with waterproof paint or damp-proof membranes to prevent water infiltration. Pay attention to seams and other water-prone areas. To prevent water on external walls, clear gutters of leaves and debris and check connections and rubber seals.
Replace inefficient or broken bathroom and kitchen extractor fans to remove warm, moist air from wooden surfaces (like window frames). Modernizing humidistat fans may eliminate the need for dehumidifiers in problem properties.
If your home is prone to condensation, instal modern sub-floor vents (air bricks). Close doors while bathing or showering to prevent moist air from spreading.
Moisture levels of 20% and above cause timber decay, so it's important to consider how moisture moves around your property.
By taking preventative measures, you can protect your home from timber decay.
How serious is dry rot?
Localized dry rot is easily treated if caught early. Its ability to spread through buildings can quickly exacerbate a breakout, and an accurate cost for remedial work requires inspecting the damage beforehand. This may require stripping the property before treatment.
Correcting the damp source should prevent fungus from germinating, drying it out and killing it. Improve ventilation in dry-rotted rooms (a dehumidifier may help) and fix the moisture source. If the rot has spread, badly damaged timbers may need to be removed and remaining woodwork treated.
Decayed or weakened wood must be replaced. Most vulnerable timber sections are those that bear into the wall structure because they absorb moisture there.
This means only the wood's ends need to be replaced. Traditional method: splice in new sections with steel plates or bolts and timber connectors. If the timbers are exposed, the steel plates can be unsightly. Check ventilation under wood floors. Blocked airbricks cause timbers to rot at their ends and mid-span when moisture condenses on them.
Epoxy resins can be used to repair large damaged beams. This is an aesthetic and economical method because repairs can often be made quickly, without cutting out large areas of existing timber and with minimal disturbance to the surrounding structure and unsightly steel plates.
We have a wide range of Melbourne timber repairs for your home renovations. Check out Hitch Property Constructions.
What is the Best Dry Rot Treatment and Repair Method?
There are several ways to repair dry-rotted wood.
If you suspect a damp problem in your home, treat it before treating and repairing dry rot damage.
Any new damp will dilute your treatment chemicals. These chemicals are water-soluble and can enter damp masonry and wood.
If your home has Dry Rot, use the Fugenex sensor sticks to determine how far it has spread.
If the rot is only in exposed timber, such as joists, you must treat the timber and any masonry the joists touch.
If rot has severely damaged your timber, replace it (or get it replaced by a building professional). The Timber Trade Federation website has more information on wood applications.
Once this is done, treat the surrounding masonry and wood as fungal strands may have already entered – they can be invisible to the naked eye if small.
If you see signs of dry rot on your wall, or your sensor sticks indicate it, you'll need to strip the plaster and treat the bare wall before replastering.
Timber plays a structural and aesthetic role in most buildings, so it needs care to prevent damage and maintain value. A professional survey determines the extent of wood rot or woodworm damage.
With proper care, timber decay doesn't have to ruin your home or bank account. In winter, keep your home well-ventilated and watch for problems.
FAQs About Wood Rot
Lab experiments have recorded that dry rot spores can germinate approximately seven to ten days after the wood has become damp enough. Older spores can take longer to germinate. As mentioned earlier, though, it can take a long while for signs of dry rot to appear after germination.
Bleach can be used to effectively kill wood rot and stop its spread. It attacks the fungi that causes rot and stops it from growing. Bleach can be applied as a spray or directly on the rotten areas with a cotton swab.
Wood rot can cause a variety of issues, including serious structural damage and costly repairs. The most common types of wood decay fungi are brown rot, white rot, and soft rot. Learn more about the three different types of wood rot and how to spot them
If a piece of wood is rotted, don't burn it in your fireplace. Rotten wood is less dense than solid, unrotten wood. And with a lower density, it won't produce as much heat when burned. Furthermore, rotting typically occurs from exposure to water or moisture.
Wood rot looks like decay, whereas mold on wood usually looks like a discoloration. While mold is by no means good, it is better than wood rot for homes. However, as both wood rot and mold form in damp and humid environments, the presence of mold can signal that wood rot is soon to follow.