Wood rot is a common issue in damp and humid crawl spaces, but if you learn to identify it early, you could avoid many of the worst issues that are often connected to it.Schedule Free Inspection
Wood rot is one of the most serious issues that a home can struggle with, and for homes in and around Grand Junction, CO it is unfortunately common. A form of fungal decay, wood rot comes in many different forms and can cause damage to every part of a home’s structure if it is allowed to grow unchecked. Since wood rot is a living organism that eats wood, it also weakens its structural integrity. This puts your home at risk!
Preventing wood rot and protecting your home can feel like an uphill struggle. That’s especially true in spring, when snow melt presents a real risk of foundation and perimeter flooding. Learning to spot the warning signs of dampness, damage to your waterproofing measures, and the decay of wooden surfaces is key for homeowners. Here’s what you need to know about wood rot and how it can affect your home.
What is Wood Rot?
Wood rot is, primarily, a completely natural process that exists in nature to break down dead wood and enrich the soil. The problem with this, of course, is that all the wood in a modern home is dead and, therefore, vulnerable to rot. Caused by certain species of fungi that specialize in consuming dead wood, wood rot is bad enough when it impacts non-essential wooden surfaces like furniture. When it impacts the support beams and joists in a home, however, it can be lethal to the health and wellbeing of a property. In fact, it can even lead to the collapse of walls, flooring, and the roof of a home.
Types of Wood Rot
Broadly speaking, there are two main forms of wood rot: wet rot and dry rot. However, wet rot can be broken down into two forms, too: soft rot and white rot. Each of these kinds of wood rot is caused by a different kind of fungal spore, which present themselves differently, and thrive in slightly different conditions. They all produce the same result and break down the structural integrity of wood.
Otherwise called brown rot, dry rot is the most worrying and damaging form of wood rot. It moves at alarming speed, thrives in temperatures of 65 to 90 degrees Fahrenheit, and can lead to widespread structural collapse if it is not dealt with quickly. Thankfully, it is also easy to recognize when you know what to look for.
Brown rot, or dry rot, causes the color of wood to darken visibly and can create a texture that is reminiscent of burned wood on the surface. Wood affected by this kind of rot will be brittle and prone to breakage and crumbling when put under pressure.
Both kinds of wet rot move more slowly than dry rot, but they can also be more durable and can thrive in temperatures that would kill dry rot fungi. Soft rot fungi, in fact, can survive in temperatures ranging from 0 to 110 degrees Fahrenheit and is very tough to get rid of once it has taken root. It creates a honeycomb-like appearance in wood that is affected and will cause the wood to become spongy and soft in texture.
White rot, by contrast, lives up to its name and can be recognized by the white residue or coating it creates on wood. This is the cellulose from the wood, usually consumed by fungi, it is left alone by white rot fungi, which instead eats the lingen in wood. This creates a crumbly, soft texture in the wood that is affected and can lead to other fungal growths. Like brown rot fungi, white rot fungi thrive in temperatures of 65 to 90 degrees Fahrenheit.
Now that you know what wood rot is and what kinds can affect your home, it is important for you to know what is most likely the cause of it and how you can recognize rot before it is too late!
What Can Cause Wood Rot?
The two ingredients needed to allow wood to rot are moisture and fungal spores. There could be as many as 5 million types of fungi around us at any given time. So, while you might think that wood rot will never take root in your home, it’s more likely than you would like to think. All it needs is the right conditions, so the real causes of wood rot in a home tend to be due to dampness or humidity.
Fungal spores need time to take root, so while a flash flood from a burst pipe may cause a home to become damp, it is not guaranteed to cause wood rot. In fact, dampness must be prolonged to really allow wood rot to flourish. The most likely causes of wood rot are:
A persistent leak from a damaged pipe or appliance is one of the most common causes of increased relative humidity and dampness in a Grand Junction, CO home. These kinds of leaks are also more likely to cause wood rot quickly because your pipes and appliances tend to have direct or close contact with wooden beams and surfaces around a home.
Foundation or perimeter saturation and flooding are quite common in properties that have inadequate or inefficient drainage systems. This can occur because of sediment buildup and blockages or because of damage to the drains themselves. Of course, it can also happen when your drainage system is healthy but overwhelmed.
Damage to the structure of a property can let a surprising amount of water into a home, especially if the damage is to its foundation or foundation walls. This is because of how this damage allows groundwater to seep through the walls and flooring of a home. This will cause dampness, increase humidity, and create a mold and fungi friendly environment.
Open crawl space vents are incredibly damaging to the health and wellbeing of a property in several ways. In this case, the most critical issue is how they increase humidity and create a generally damp environment. Investing in vent covers will help mitigate this problem.
Each of these issues can create enough dampness on a consistent level to allow wood rot to flourish. As such, learning to spot the warning signs is incredibly important as it will allow you to act quickly and mitigate the damage.
Problem Signs You Should be Aware Of
The following problem signs are not the only red flags associated with the formation and spread of wood rot; they can be connected to other issues. Nonetheless, these problem signs are some of the easiest to spot for a non-professional, which makes them incredibly useful.
Musty smells around your property can mean a lot of things: mold, wood rot, and pest infestation can all cause seriously bad smells. However, these issues tend to be connected. An environment that is welcoming to wood rot will also support mold, and mold often attracts pests. As such, it is key that you do not ignore a bad smell.
The nature of the smell can even help you to diagnose the issue. For example, a vinegary smell tends to be caused by cockroach infestation, while a slightly sweet smell that is also stale is more likely to be mold.
The presence of visible fungal growths, whether they be mushroom like protrusions or small mold formations, is a bad sign in any home. Fungal growths will discolor wood and can even change the texture. They will also create a smell in many cases. Mold can come in many colors, but wood rot tends to be more discreet (except for white rot).
If you suspect there is mold, please do not touch it. Certain kinds of mold can be actively toxic to your skin, eyes, and respiratory system.
High Humidity and Condensation
High humidity can be hard to spot, but you will recognize condensation when you see it. Condensation is the name for the formation of water droplets on a cool surface, and it is a sign of exceedingly high relative humidity in a space. So, if you see condensation, you can be sure that your home is vulnerable to wood rot, even if it has not yet started to form.
Wood that is discolored, stained, or has a slightly rough, almost burned look on the surface could well be dealing with dry or brown rot. Of course, there are other issues that can stain wood so you should not panic; however, it pays to investigate these issues.
If it is rot that has caused this staining, then the most likely culprit will be brown or dry rot – this is very worrying.
Soft or Crumbly Wood
If you have concerns about wood, then you should put on gloves and touch it. If the wood feels brittle and dry, spongy, or soft and crumbly, you can be certain that it is being impacted by rot of some kind. If wood is irreparably damaged by rot, you may even be able to push or pull it apart with your hands.
At this point, you should call a professional at once because it is likely that the issue has become advanced.
Sagging floors are a bad sign no matter what the underlying cause. In most cases, a property that has sagging floors will either have over spanned joists, a damaged foundation, wood rot, or some combination of these issues. If left unchecked, a sagging floor will eventually collapse.
If you see any of these problem signs, or more than one of them, then please do not hesitate to contact a professional as soon as possible (especially if you see more than one in tandem).
If your flooring is springy or bouncy underfoot, there are several underlying issues that could be at work. Whatever the root cause, however, the gist is this: the flooring is losing its ability to bear the weight being placed upon it, and you should act quickly.
Damage to your property’s joists can happen in a few ways, of course, but it can also be an issue with construction and design. For example, if the joists were made of flawed wood, they will be unable to deal with the load intended for them. Likewise, if the number, size, or placement of joists was miscalculated, your flooring will start to sag. These defects and faults are not common, thankfully, but they are not unheard of.
More common, however, is damage to joists and support beams because of structural movement. A sagging crawl space is most caused by foundation damage, for example, and will put strain on the rest of your property over time. Finally, joists can be impacted by fungal and mold growths as well as issues like dampness and humidity in a property. Water damage is, after all, one of the most destructive forces that a home can face.
Wood rot thrives in damp and humid conditions. The problem with wood rot is that, unlike over spanned joists, it is not a problem that is localized in any real sense. Wood rot can spread through a property very easily and with alarming speed. So, while your bouncy or springy flooring may be the result of wood rot, it may not be the biggest worry you have.
Wood rot, especially dry rot, can spread through the entire structure of a home, as we have said, and may even make it to the roof. If it does, there will be many consequences. Thankfully, wood rot is easy to diagnose, even though it is much harder to treat and get rid of than mold, mildew, and other fungal growths. In fact, wood rot is more like termite infestation in terms of its removal and repair process.
Yes! Wood rot is dangerous, though it is dangerous in a separate way than mold. Unfortunately, these issues are often co-occurring, making it difficult and dangerous to deal with them in any effective way as a non-professional.
Mold and Your Health
Most species of mold are benign, but some can be dangerous to your health. Unlike wood rot, however, mold is rarely, if ever, damaging to the structure of a property in a considerable way. The species of mold that you should be most concerned about is black mold. Black mold is not like most forms of mold. It can make you seriously ill. In fact, it could even hospitalize you.
Of course, those most likely to experience serious issues after contact with black mold are those who have prolonged contact and those who have underlying health conditions that affect the respiratory system or immune system. Black mold can cause: fainting, dizziness, lightheadedness, rashes, infection, migraines, and breathing trouble. For those who have underlying breathing issues like emphysema, any exposure to black mold should be followed by a medical check-up.
Wood Rot and Your Home
Wood rot fungi, by contrast, is rarely, if ever, toxic to humans but can be dangerous, nonetheless, because of how it impacts your home. The most serious potential outcome of widespread wood rot in a home is the total collapse of certain areas of the structure. This is rare, of course, but not unheard of, especially if the damage is compounded by a natural disaster or extreme weather conditions.
You should not try to deal with wood rot alone. There are things that can be done to repair the damage caused by prolonged and extensive wood rot in a home, but the solution can be more toxic than the issue itself in many cases. For this reason, and others, we recommend that you call a professional.
A Complex Process
The removal of wood rot and repair of the damage that it causes is a complex process that requires that you deal with underlying damage and moisture sources first. After all, you do not want to bring fresh wood into an environment that will promote the recurrence of wood rot. Primarily, the source of moisture must be removed (which can mean foundation repair); only once this has been done can the rot be treated.
The second big issue with DIY is the toxic nature of the chemicals used to kill wood rot fungi. These chemicals are corrosive; they could burn you if you come into contact with them, and they need to be applied using specialist tools. Even after you have done this, there is still a chance that some wood will be beyond saving and will need to be replaced.
Professionals Get Results
Dealing with wood rot in your home is a complex and dangerous process that should not be underestimated. If you try to undertake it as a non-professional, then you could seriously injure yourself or others; you might even cause more damage to your home. As such, it is best to leave it to someone trained to do the work.
One of the biggest benefits of hiring a professional is the fact that they have all the tools they need already. A non-professional might need to hire or buy equipment to undertake this process, by contrast, and this would increase their repair costs. A professional job may not be so much more expensive than a DIY task, but it will provide more consistent and effective results in both the short and long term.
Expert Crawl Space Repair from Foundation Repair of Western Colorado
If you have concerns about the health of your home, or you suspect that wood rot may be at work, then you should contact a professional immediately. Here at Foundation Repair of Western Colorado, our team has decades of collective experience to bring to bear in any situation. If you have wood rot in your home, then we can help you to identify the underlying cause and repair the damage effectively in a way that provides a permanent solution.
All you need to do is book yourself a free inspection appointment for a time and date that suits your needs, and we will send a certified technician to assess your home. Once they are confident that they know what is likely to be wrong, and they have a solution in mind, they will talk you through the issues and present you with a written estimate for all repair costs.
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