Dry rot sounds pretty menacing, but don’t worry — it’s fairly easy to treat and prevent if you have the right information. Use the following tips to identify, treat and prevent this issue before it causes severe damage to your home.
Before you can stop dry rot, you need to know what it is. This step is trickier than it seems since the term “dry rot” is somewhat misleading — it actually occurs due to excessive moisture. Dry rot is a fungus that removes cellulose and hemicellulose from wood, causing it to weaken.
The fungus spores that cause dry rot, also called brown rot, can germinate on wood if the timber has a moisture level typically above 20 percent. This degree of dampness might occur if the wood:
The fungus spores also need oxygen and prefer temperatures between 71 and 77 degrees Fahrenheit. The wood acts as their food source.
If not treated, dry rot can spread. If left alone long enough, it will completely disintegrate wood. The dampness that leads to dry rot can also attract termites, which would make the situation exponentially worse.
You should check your home for dry rot periodically — especially if you live in a humid location or somewhere with temperatures in the spores’ ideal range. Inspect all wooden features of your home. It can occur both inside and outside but is more likely to thrive on outdoor elements, particularly those that touch the ground.
Some typical locations where wood rot occurs include deck support posts, behind gutters, outdoor stairs, railings, windowsills, where two pieces of trim meet and where siding meets trim. Sometimes, it forms in places that aren’t readily visible, such as below wood’s outer surface and underneath layers of paint. In these situations, finding wood rot may require a professional.
When inspecting your house for wood rot, look for both the fungus itself and the damage it creates. At first, the fungus often has a grayish color and looks somewhat like cotton. Later, it may appear in long sheets that look like the outside of a grayish mushroom and may have light purple and yellow spots.
The wood may also look decayed, darkened, sunken or shrunk. If you press into timber with your fingers and it crumbles, you may have rot.
Successfully treating dry rot requires that you find all of it. If you miss some, the fungus may continue to spread.
You have several options for getting rid of dry rot once you find it, including:
If adding on to a structure, apply a copper compound to the remaining wood before splicing in the new timber.
The best tool for preventing wood rot is preventing excess moisture from accumulating. If you suspect you have a leak in your roof, plumbing or elsewhere, fix it as soon as possible. Stains on the ceiling or under eaves can be signs of roof leaks. Repairing leaky gutters and regularly cleaning your gutters can also help.
Also, make sure that wooden siding, decks and any other outdoor features are adequately sealed. All wood you use for decks should be pressure-treated and decay-resistant. When painting, prime each piece of lumber first, then paint and stain each piece before assembling them. If the paint is cracking or peeling, sand it before applying a primer, then paint.
If you have vegetation growing near your home, keep it trimmed, so it’s at least three feet away from the building. You should also regularly remove any vegetative debris from decks, crawlspace vents and elsewhere.
Additionally, avoid leaning anything against your home, and make sure that sprinklers do not spray water onto your home.
Ensuring that your kitchen, bathrooms and attics have adequate ventilation helps prevent excess moisture indoors, too. You should also caulk any cracks or holes on the exterior of your home — check near windows, doors and vents.
While dry rot can cause severe damage, it’s unlikely to result in your home completely falling apart — especially if you follow the tips above. Keep an eye out for signs of dry rot and stop it as soon as you notice it beginning, and your home will be just fine.