Identify, Repair & Replace: What You Need to Know About Dry Rot

When inspecting a house for signs of damage or needed repair, people tend to look to common issues. The roof is inspected for missing or damaged shingles. The plumbing is checked for leaks or signs of water stains. The electrical system is checked for shorts or faulty connections.

One thing that can get overlooked is something that can lead to the most damage if unchecked. Dry rot is a fungus that eats away at wood. While this is part of the natural process in forests and woodlands, it can be devastating in homes or buildings.

Learning how to inspect your home for dry rot, as well as how to repair damage caused by it, is a valuable skill to have. It’s a skill set that can literally keep your house from falling down.

What is Dry Rot?

Dry rot is a naturally occurring fungus that targets the cellulose in lumber. It produces moisture as it grows, allowing it to further spread. By breaking down the cellulose in wood, the wood loses its strength.

In homes, dry rot occurs most often in window and door sills. That’s because these areas tend to deal with sitting water, offering enough moisture for dry rot to grow. If given enough time, it can spread into mortar and plaster, allowing the fungus to grow.

It can also be found in other places where moisture levels are high and ventilation is poor. The surfaces around vents behind pipes can be at risk if enough moisture is allowed to be present.

How to Identify Dry Rot

If you’re not sure if your home has dry rot, there are a few things to check for. Start by examining the areas mentioned above, as well as any other spaces that may have the right conditions for dry rot to set in.

gray patches along wood can mean that dry rot has started to spread. At this stage the fungus is starting to reach out through the wood, eating away at the cellulose.

By the next stage, it starts to resemble what most people think of as {{substitution|mould}}. It’s fluffy and white, continuing to grow along the wood surface.

It can be detected even without the fungus itself being visible. Paint that is cracking or flaking or wood that has fissures running through it likely has dry rot. A quick test to determine if it is dry rot is to press a screwdriver against it. If the screwdriver easily sinks into the wood, then it is rotten.

How to Repair Woof Affected by Dry Rot

Having dry rot isn’t the end of the world, but it does need to be addressed quickly. Not only can it lead to further damage, but the presence of {{substitution|mould}} can have negative effects on your and your family’s health.

Wood that passes the screwdriver test can be salvaged. There are a few different products available to help treat wood and return its strength. They require that you remove as much of the dry rot as possible.

If the rot is deep in the wood, some products can be injected into the lumber’s core through drilled holes. Wood putty or epoxy can be used afterward to seal and reinforce the wood. This also helps to restore its appearance.

Be sure to run a dehumidifier and improve ventilation in the space where the rot occurred. Determine where the moisture is coming from and make sure you repair it to prevent future rot from setting in.

How to Replace Wood Affected by Dry Rot

Any load-bearing or structural wood infected with dry rot will need to be replaced. So, too, does any wood that fails the screwdriver test.

If the wood in question is part of the home’s structure, call in a professional. Trying to remove and replace joists or headers can weaken the structural integrity of your home and cause much greater damage. It’s worth having an expert take care of this.

Otherwise, you can remove the rotten wood yourself following just a few steps. First and foremost, always wear proper protection when dealing with {{substitution|mould}}. You want to make sure that you’re not breathing in any of the spores that break loose from your work.

Next, remove all affected wood, including at least three feet of surrounding wood to make sure that you’re not leaving any traces of dry rot behind. You’ll also want to remove any trim, plaster, skirting and ceiling that’s in contact with the rotten wood. Make sure this is all properly disposed of and that it doesn’t come in contact with other surfaces.

Clean the surrounding area thoroughly and apply a fungicide in a five-foot diameter around the space you removed the wood from. Once everything is clean and dry, you can install new, treated wood.

Make sure that the cause of the rot is repaired and that the area is dry and properly ventilated.

How to Prevent Future Dry Rot

To make sure that your home stays free from future rot, you need to make sure that all areas of your home are well ventilated and are free from excessive moisture. This is especially important in rooms like bathrooms and kitchens where running water is a regular presence.
Reseal all window and exterior doorways in your home with fresh caulking. Make sure that kitchens and bathrooms have venting to remove steam. Running a dehumidifier in the basement can also help keep humidity levels low.

When people think of {{substitution|mould}} in the home, they immediately think of the worst-case scenario. Fortunately, dry rot doesn’t have the same immediate threat that something like black {{substitution|mould}} does.

Still, dry rot does need to be dealt with promptly. If caught early, it can be repaired fairly easily. The important thing is what to look for when identifying dry rot.