Wood Rot. It’s a pesky problem that plagues more homes than you’d think, especially in the Indianapolis area. If you’re looking for answers on how to identify, prevent, and repair wood rot, look no further! Here at ONiT Painting, we see it all the time, and we have all the information you’ll need to get your home back into shape!
What Causes Wood Rot?
Wood rot is caused when microscopic fungi set up shop in the wood and trigger the decomposition process. While this is an essential process in nature and extremely beneficial to the environment, it’s not so nice when it happens in your home.
While there are millions of different types of fungi, they all need two things to survive, temperature and moisture.
Fungus thrives in 50-90 degree weather. Which is, for us Hoosiers, a pretty large portion of the year. Extreme heat can kill fungi, however, they do not die in the cold. They simply go dormant until the conditions are more favorable.
While this is good to know, it isn’t important to take into consideration when preventing or repairing wood rot, since we can’t control the temperature.
There are many misconceptions when it comes to moisture and wood rot, so let’s clear this up.
Moisture needs to be present for wood rot to occur!
You may have heard of the term “dry rot”, however, this is a common misnomer for Brown Rot. It got this name because brown rot can often leave the wood looking dry and cracked, but there still must’ve been a source of moisture for the rot to occur in the first place.
How to Identify Wood Rot
Wood rot can often be impossible to find if you don’t know what you’re looking for. It’s important to be able to identify it for yourself so that you know when to take action and don’t have to solely rely on a contractor’s assessment. Since wood rot can cause serious structural damage, you don’t want to be stuck in a situation where you’ve waited too long to replace the wood and the support system of your home is compromised. Additionally, if you can’t identify the wood rot for yourself, you’re much more susceptible to getting ripped off by a dishonest contractor.
What does it look like?
In advance cases, rotted boards will have holes or deep gauges in the surface of the wood. Upon further inspection, you’ll find that the wood inside is dark and mushy or crumbly. Another clear sign is if the wood is warped. If you see the wood bending, bloating or sinking in any places, you’re most likely dealing with some rot.
If there are no clear visual signs of wood rot use these two simple tests to identify its presence. Firstly, the poke test. All you have to do is poke the area you’re concerned about. You’ll know the wood is rotting if it feels squishy or damp.
The Pick Test
Using a knife or flathead screwdriver, attempt to flake off a piece of the wood in question. Healthy wood will crack and splinter while rotting wood will crumble or compress. For a more in-depth explanation of these tests, check out The Honest Carpenter’s video on The Truth About Wood Rot.
How to Prevent Wood Rot
While it can be hard to control moisture on the exterior of your home, there are some things you can do!
Get Rid of Standing Water
This is especially important on window sills, porches, and decks. Don’t let snow or rain collect on these surfaces and sit for days. That’s a one-way ticket to rot town. Instead, try to shovel snow or get rid of large puddles as the water can sink deep into the wood and begin the rotting process.
Paint your Exterior!
Paint provides a protective barrier between your home and the elements. Having a properly painted and maintained surface can successfully prevent all sorts of wood rot. If your paint is peeling, it’s important to have it scraped and repainted as soon as possible! These gaps in the paint can allow water and fungi to get in and wreak havoc on your home.
How to Repair Rotten Wood
Not all wood rot has to be replaced. For example, if the damage is minor, you’ve eliminated the water source, and it is not providing structural support, you can get by with leaving the wood as is. It will not spread or continue to rot unless moisture is re-introduced.
However, if the wood is heavily damaged and providing structural support, it is important to replace it as soon as possible. Since this can be quite an involved process, we highly recommend bringing in a professional.