Wood rot can become a major issue for any home. Because it can go undetected for years, rot has the potential to wreck a home’s value if it’s not eradicated. Rather than pay to have wood rot removed, there are effective methods to prevent wood rot from happening in the first place.
Why Does Wood Rot Occur?
Rotting occurs because of moisture. Improper window installation or roofing are often to blame for wood rot. When rain or drain water seeps into the wood, rot can form over time. This can lead to water leakage in the walls or even the framing of the house.
Fungi can also break down cellulose and hemicellulose which essentially give wood its strength. Once wood is weakened, dry rot can soften the structure of a house due to wood decay. Rather than trying to remove the moisture, it is often easier to prevent it from occurring.
Types of Wood Rot
Brown Rot. This type of rot is found in dry, powdery wood. Brown rot causes wood to break down, forming tiny cubes of soft rot and wood. Because the wood is substantially weakened, it cannot provide the strength needed to successfully support structural framing.
Dried Rot. Dried rot happens when the wood has already experienced decay and has since dried. Using an ice pick to pry into the wood grain can indicate whether a piece of wood has decayed. If the wood breaks with a clean and crisp snap, the wood is not decaying. If the wood does not split suddenly and instead feels soft or flimsy, the wood may have rotted.
Not only does wood rot threaten major structural damage, but it attracts unwanted pests. Termites in particular flock to rotted wood. If wood rot is not effectively handled in a timely manner, it can destroy a home in a number of ways. If a majority of the housing structure is made of wood, the climate can play a role in how likely wood rot is to occur. Colder areas with heavy snowfall are more likely to cause moisture to form.
How To Prevent Wood Rot
- Protection. Rain and gutters can cause a considerable amount of wood rot. Adding roof overhang can help fix this problem. By adding a roof overhang, you can protect windows and doors from the effects of water runoff. For a one story house, a 12 inch overhang is recommended. This works especially well if you live in a colder climate where there is likely to be snow or ice. Melting ice and snow can lead to a flow of water damage and wood rot. If you are in the market for buying a house, inspecting the roof is crucial. Novel construction may look unique or attractive, but roofs need to be free from pockets where water can build and decay.
- Paint. Painting can help prevent decaying wood from mild moisture. Steady rain or snow runoff from a malfunctioning roof may need immediate attention. For intermittent moisture, paint can be applied to smooth over any possible cracks. Windowsills and beams can benefit from a thorough coat of paint. For the least toxic paint, look for a low oil content. Zinc oxide paint is favored for this reason.
- Porch ventilation. Porch steps and floors are prone to wood decay. Providing ventilation underneath the porch can prevent moisture from entering these places. Adding railings is an easy way to guide water away from the porch. Sloping floors that face outward can also lead flowing water away from the steps.
How to Repair Rotted Wood
Many prevention tips are only useful during the building phase of a house. If structural design is not an option for where you’re living, wood can be removed.
- Use a hammer. A claw hammer can help you dig out the rot. By applying pressure from bending the claw back towards you, you can effectively loosen the rot while leaving the wood still in tact.
- Sand off the surface. After the rotted wood is gone, remove the remaining paint with coarse sandpaper. In addition to paint removal, also make sure to sand away primer or rust.
- Repaint. After sanding away the original paint and primer, add several coats of fresh paint. Once one layer of paint is finished, wait two or three minutes before adding another. This will ensure a temporary “wall” to buffer future moisture from creating more wood rot.
Wood rot can ruin a house’s structure if it is not promptly taken care of. If prevention is not possible, repair the wood as soon as possible. Fixing wood early is the key to preventing further damage to your home.