Wood Rot

How do you keep wood rot from getting worse?

The need for some home repair jobs is obvious. If your bathroom’s water system suddenly starts leaking gallons through your kitchen ceiling, you’ll know that something is wrong and needs fixing pronto. But, like a disease that displays no symptoms, rotting wood can lie unnoticed in your home for extended periods, only revealing itself when it’s too late. 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 destroy your house.

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

What is Dry Rot?

Some older decks will begin to show signs of dry rot. The symptoms include spongy and discoloured wood that may flake off and fall apart when wet. You can use a screwdriver to test the wood for soft spots. In certain conditions, even pressure-treated wood can rot and decay. Moisture and pooling water on decks can lead to rot and decay. Because dry rot is a fungus, it can spread like cancer throughout a deck. Dry rot is caused by microorganisms that eat the cellulose from the wood, leaving it brittle. Dry rot will also attract wood-eating insects such as termites, which will compound the problem.

Wood Rot

How Dry Rot Forms

Moisture is the enemy when it comes to your deck; it creates a breeding ground for mildew, mould and fungus. If your deck has been exposed to high levels of condensation or any continuous source of water, you may be in the early stages of dry rot. Under these conditions, it does not take long for wood-digesting fungi to invade and begin to compromise the safety and integrity of your deck.

To prevent rot, you must prevent – or at least limit – your deck’s exposure to moisture. You can do this through a regular cleaning and inspection schedule. An annual cleaning will keep your deck looking aesthetically appealing on the surface. Still, more importantly, cleaning can help forestall repairs, such as rotten decking, by ridding early signs of dirt, mildew and bacteria buildup. And, having your deck professionally inspected every two years will help ensure you are aware of and know how to remedy any source of moisture that may develop before it has a chance to do serious harm to your deck.

Rot-Resistant Woods And Composite Decking

Another way to prevent your deck from rotting is to build it with redwood, mahogany, cypress or cedar, each of which is among the most rot-resistant species of natural wood. Nonetheless, a wood deck, by its very nature, will always be susceptible to moisture and rot. You will still need to perform ongoing maintenance to keep your deck clean and dry and to protect its longevity.

Alternatively, you may want to consider composite decking material, which is longer-lasting, easier and less time-consuming to maintain. How? Simply because composite decking does not rot. Composite decking is made from moisture- and insect-resistant materials that are stronger and more durable than wood, and require minimal upkeep. For example, a deck constructed with composite material never needs to be painted or stained. Also, most composite decking materials come with a lengthy manufacturer’s warranty.

What are the health effects of dry rot?

Dry rot is not believed to produce any toxic chemicals or compounds. It is, therefore, not too much of a threat to your health directly; however, a small number of hypersensitivity cases to the fungus have been reported.

More pressingly, the presence of dry rot in your home indicates high levels of dampness and condensation, which can cause respiratory problems and make underlying conditions, such as asthma, worse. Furthermore, dry rot eats through your timbers, causing them to weaken and eventually collapse – this can cause serious health and safety concerns.

Signs & Causes of Dry Rot on Decks

Untreated wood is susceptible to rot and decay over time if exposed to moisture, mould and insect damage. The most common and most serious rot issues involve an incorrectly installed ledger board that allows moisture to penetrate the house wall. Because the house framing is not treated, it is much more likely to rot. If your ledger board is infected with rot, you will likely need to replace the entire deck. You may also need to repair portions of the house wall. If a few joists or some decking is rotting, you may be able to remove and replace only the affected pieces.

How to Identify Dry Rot on a Deck

Some older decks will begin to show signs of dry rot. The symptoms include spongy and discoloured wood that may flake off and fall apart when wet. You can use a screwdriver to test the wood for soft spots. You can also tell if deck wood is rotten by checking for these dry rot signs:

  • Probe around posts that contact the ground for soft spots as these areas are typically more exposed to moisture.
  • Search for long sheets of greyish mould or darker looking wood as these are common dry rot indicators.
  • If you notice areas of pest damage, those spots could be a combination of insect damage and dry rot since dry rot attracts termites and other wood-eating pests.
  • Inspect the surrounding area of dry rot for a source or cause – plumbing leaks, gutter failure, sprinkler system issue, and any other water pooling possibilities.
  • Not sure if it’s dry rot? When in doubt, call a professional to inspect your deck and give you an estimate for repair.

Deck Rot Repair

If you discover areas of dry rot on your deck, those portions must be removed and replaced immediately to prevent it from spreading further. It’s important when replacing rotten deck boards to be thorough in your inspection of the compromised areas. Be sure to inspect all areas directly adjacent to the rotten wood, as even early signs of decay will eventually contaminate your recent repairs. If you’re at all unsure about how to identify or fix areas of rot on your deck, call a professional. After all, your deck is an investment and a valuable asset to your home’s value. It’s important to keep it healthy and safe.

How to Prevent Dry Rot on Decks

If your deck does have a run-in with dry rot, there are ways you can prevent it from coming back. First, locate the cause of the dry rot. This could be anything from a plumbing leak, gutter alignment, uneven boards that cause water pooling, a sprinkler system issue and more. Locating and resolving the water source issue will be your biggest anti-rot solution moving forward. Also, you’ll want to clean your deck regularly to keep it free of dirt and mildew as they can encourage water retention. And finally, make sure to preserve your wood with sealer or stain to help keep moisture from penetrating the wood.

Does Pressure-Treated Wood Rot?

Pressure-treated wood does offer protection against rot, but under certain conditions, pressure-treated wood can still break down. How? Because pressure-treated wood isn’t fully water-resistant. Without a sealant, pressure-treated wood will soak up and lose moisture, a cycle which causes it to swell and shrink, crack, warp and bend, and come apart over time. That’s why it’s important to clean and coat your pressure-treated wood deck with a water-repellant each year and to inspect your deck regularly, so you can identify any early signs of deterioration before they worsen.

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

Wet Rot Identification

Wet rot can be difficult to identify as it is often present in the dark, poorly ventilated, non-visible areas such as cellars, lofts, roofs, under floorboards, window and door frames, and under stairs. Wet rot can be identified through the following features:

  • Dark brown staining on the timber.
  • Splitting or longitudinal cracking along the grain of the timber.
  • A damp, musty smell.
  • Timber that is damp to touch.
  • Localised fungus growing on the timber.
  • The affected area is darker in colour than the surrounding timber.
  • The timber has a soft, spongy feel.
  • The timber caves in easily when prodded with a screwdriver.
  • The timber crumbles and cracks when dry.
  • Wood is bleached around the affected area, particularly on door and window frames.
  • Damaged or flaky paint.
  • Timber shrinkage.
  • If the paint is damaged, take a knife and push it into the painted timber. The knife should stop after a short distance – but if it goes in up to the handle, this is a sign of wet rot behind the paint.
  • Mycelium strands on the timber.
  • The fungus does not spread.
  • Distortion, discolouration, and loss of strength in the timber.

Wet Rot Treatment

Wet rot should be professionally treated as soon as any of the above symptoms are identified as the longer the wet rot is left untreated, the worse it will get. The greater threat it could pose to the structural timbers that are keeping your home standing. A wet rot specialist should take the following steps to treat dry rot and prevent future infestations:

  • Determine the cause of the wet rot by identifying the source of the moisture and then remove it. Removing the source of the moisture is key, as the wet rot will cease once the moisture is removed as the dampness enables the fungus to feed and develop. This could involve fixing leaking roof tiles, rectifying faulty plumbing, or replacing the seal in a leaking shower tray.
  • Expose and assess the full extent of the damage by determining the extent of the infestation, the type of fungus, and the nature of the decay.
  • Remove all timbers that have been destroyed and damaged by the wet rot fungus.
  • Repair any damage to surrounding timbers and treat adjacent timber with a fungicide to protect the wood and prevent a recurrence.
  • Once all wet rot has been eradicated, replace affected timbers with new timbers that have been pre-treated with a fungicide to prevent future wet rot decay.

When And Why To Replace Rotten Wood

Do it quickly, and do it properly.

For all these reasons, wood rot is the kind of home improvement job that should be given the highest priority and undertaken with the utmost urgency. The easiest answer to when you should replace rotted wood is that it should be done as soon as possible after you detect its presence. Not only that, but it’s vital that you ensure the improvement job is a thorough one. If you do only a half-hearted job of resolving the effects of wood damage, you are simply creating a ticking time bomb that will one day explode with even more serious and costly consequences.

Check for rot on a regular basis.

The best way to beat wood rot, before it has a chance of spreading, is to regularly check to see whether it has begun to appear around your home’s structure. Ideally, you should be doing this every two to three months. Remember, the more often you check, the sooner you’ll identify any problems and the more quickly you’ll be able to put them right.

Rot is caused by moisture trapped inside the wood, which creates the perfect environment for fungi to grow, so it’s important to look especially closely at damp- and moisture-prone areas like under the guttering and around window and door sills. While there may well be no obvious visible signs of rot – especially if it is hidden behind paint or sidings – wood that is rotten will give more easily when gently pressed against. But if you’re still not sure, you should assume the worst until proven otherwise – and engage the help of a professional like Sharper Impressions Painting to give you a proper diagnosis.

Don’t miss the less obvious rot spots.

Just because your home isn’t built top to bottom from wood doesn’t mean that you’re not susceptible to rot, or that you can escape having to perform routine maintenance and inspection. Houses with surfaces made of other materials – whether vinyl, aluminium, or something else entirely – still contain plenty of wood within their structures. In these cases, pay particular attention to your home’s sidings, and other similar areas that present an opportunity for water to get beneath the surface.

Whatever your property is made of – and in addition to the guttering and sills we mentioned earlier – keep an eye on the various parts of your exterior doors; areas around heaters, sinks, toilets, bathtubs, washing machines, dishwashers, and the like; outdoor decked areas; and roofs. All of these places are less obvious but equally likely places for moisture to accumulate and damp to become a problem.

How to fix the wood rot you identify.

If you do discover parts of your home’s wooden structure that are rotten, you’ll need to replace the planks or panels quickly in order to remove the damp from the environment. To be sure of its future durability, you are best off having this kind of work undertaken professionally – and make certain, too, that the new wood is promptly painted in order to prevent water from penetrating the surface again and causing the further spread of rot.

Prevent rot from occurring in the first place

A few preventative measures can save you from having to frequently carry out corrective work to remove rotten planks and avoid the problem spreading. Regularly maintain gutters to keep them clear for rainwater to pass through freely, try to use alternatives to the wood in your home’s structure, add covered entrances to your exterior doors, and ensure your home is well ventilated to prevent moisture from becoming trapped.

You should also regularly repair and refinish caulk and paint exteriors to your home since cracks can provide a way in for moisture; likewise, be on guard at all times for the presence of even the smallest of water leaks, which can rapidly escalate into much more troubling issues.

Back to the original questions: when should you replace your rotten wood? If you discover your home is harbouring some, then right now. And why should you replace it? Because, if you don’t, it will rapidly spread and infect the rest of your home, potentially causing its entire structure to crumble.

Delaying can only increase the cost of repairs, so take action. If you think you have a rot problem, call on the professionals at Sharper Impressions today – we’ll survey your property and make recommendations for prompt and cost-effective repairs or replacement.

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

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 roofing contractor in Eastern Kansas and Western Missouri, 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.

If you identify any of the warning signs above and suspect that wood rot is affecting your home, get in touch with our experts today and book a survey. Our expert surveyors will identify wet rot, inspect the cause, assess the extent of the damage, and recommend the best course of action to restore your home.

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