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Wood Rot

Although wood is a standard construction material, it is vulnerable and needs protection. One of the main threats to the structural integrity of timber is wood rot.

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wood rot

What Is Wood Rot? 

Wood rot refers to the decomposition or decay of wooden matter. Whether it’s accidental or natural, wood rot can cause the wooden supports holding up your home to lose their strength and fail. 

You can safeguard your home and wooden structures by adding an extra layer of protection against moisture, which creates the perfect fungi environment. Understanding everything about wood rot, including the different types of wood rot and the signs to look out for, will go a long way to helping you prevent it.   

What Causes Wood Rot? 

Wood tends to rot when it’s exposed to moisture, which can induce fungal growth. Once moisture comes into contact with wood, mold and fungus start growing and this can weaken your support. To prevent wood rot, you must start by eliminating moisture in your crawl space. 

Types of Wood Rot 

There are three major types of wood decay. Behind each type is a set of destructive enzymes that attack differently. 

Brown Rot  

Also known as dry rot, brown rot is the most severe form of fungal decay. When the fungus that causes brown rot gets into the wood, it breaks down its cellulose. It gives the wood a dry appearance. While brown rot starts as a very tiny molecule, it spreads rapidly as soon as it attacks. It thrives in temperatures between 65 and 90 degrees. 

Soft Rot 

This is the most uncommon type of wood rot. Soft rot thrives in areas that are either too hot or too cold or too damp for brown and white rot. The fungi that cause soft rot secrete the enzyme cellulose, which creates holes in the wood. However, decay from soft rot takes place at a slower rate than the other two types of wood rot. 

White Rot 

White rot attacks both the structural cellulose and the lignin of wood. It gives your wood a light yellow or whitish shade and a spongy feel. There are many different types of enzymes that cause white rot, and some can be so strong that they oxidize the lignin. Interestingly, some of these enzymes appear so harmless and are even edible. White rot thrives in areas where temperatures range between 65 and 90 degrees.  

Signs of Wood Rot 

Checking your home for signs of wood rot should be a regular thing, especially in the crawl space and your home’s attic. Some common signs to look out for include: 

Bouncy Floors 

If certain areas of your floor feel bouncy or uneven when you walk over them, this could be a sign that floor joists holding up your floors could be rotting. Usually, when your wooden floor joists start to rot, they become frail and fail. 

Unusual Humidity 

Wood rot fungus thrives in crawl spaces with high humidity. Leaky basements also lead to high humidity. Due to condensation, water vapor forms on the surface of your walls and wooden ceiling joists. This leads to the growth of mold and fungi, which can cause wood rot.  

Soft or Spongy Wood 

For a structure to be firm and stable, the wood needs to be hard and dry. However, when rotting begins to creep in, your wood may feel spongy, crumbly, or brittle. These are all signs of wood rot and should be taken care of immediately to prevent further destruction. If possible, consider removing the rotting portion to prevent it from affecting a larger area.  

Musty Smells 

If you notice a damp or musty smell from your crawl space or basement, chances are you have rot taking root. Look for the source of the smell and start fixing it immediately to prevent further damage. 

Mushroom-Like Growth 

Do not be fooled by the beauty and harmless appearance of mushroom-like growth on your wooden structures. This is a sign of rotting and should not be taken lightly. 

Tips for Preventing Wood Rot 

It is easier and cheaper to prevent wood rot than to replace the damaged wooden structures. Here are seven tips to keep the wood in your house dry and free of fungi. 

  • Seal all cracks around the exterior doors and windows 
  • Waterproof your crawl space 
  • Clean your gutters and downspouts regularly to clear clogs that cause moisture buildup 
  • Invest in a good dehumidifier in the crawl space or other rooms in the house with high humidity 
  • For the decks, always use pressure-treated or decay-resistant lumber 
  • Always paint all sides of your wood before installing it into your home interiors 
  • Drain away any standing water close to your home’s foundation as soon as it stops raining. 

Do you have rotting floorboards or joists in your home? Contact Complete Basement Systems today to schedule a free crawl space inspection. We will assess and resolve water issues that are hurting wooden structural supports in your crawl space.

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