How to Detect and Prevent Dry Rot

By definition, dry rot, or wood rot, is wood decay that’s caused by certain fungi that digest parts of the wood that make it strong. Although hazardous and somewhat common, many people don’t know how to prevent, detect, or repair dry rot—so, the conversation is important to have. Let’s dive in to see what parts of your home are most at risk, and see what wood rot repair techniques are available to you.

What Parts of My Home Are At Risk for Dry Rot?

Typically, wood rot happens in damp places that have a hard time drying out. Coincidentally, these are also the same places that go unnoticed for long periods of time which is all the more dangerous. Windows are especially vulnerable as some rain may seep through and saturate the wood or walls below. Additionally, exterior doors, outdoor decks, and basements are prime suspects for dry rot. These areas are sneaky, allowing water to trickle in through the smallest cracks, with little to no sunlight or ventilation to properly dry out. According to Networx, there are three common sources or reasons for wood being exposed to moisture:

  1. The wood wasn’t kiln-dried before being used
  2. The wood is exposed to a lot of humidity
  3. The wood has been subjected to water from a flood

If you know that the wood in your home has been hit by one or more of these factors, it could be at risk for dry rot.

What Does Wood Rot Look Like?

Now that you know where to look, it’s important to know what dry rot looks like as it ransacks your home. Some of the most common signs include swelling or discoloration of the wood. Also, if the area is painted, the dry rot may be concealed so be sure to gently poke the area screwdriver. If the area is firm, it’s fine—if the area is soft, you likely have wood rot. In dark spaces like attics or basements, you may also use a flashlight to check for discoloration. Lastly, if you don’t find clear signs of dry rot but you do find mildew, be sure to remove the mildew and affected wood as that area is especially prone to developing wood rot in the future.

Does Dry Rot Spread?

If you didn’t catch our drift when we said “ransacks,” then let’s be blunt—the answer is yes! Dry rot can spread and make matters worse the longer it’s left alone. Keep in mind that dry rot fungus produces spores and can spread through the air quickly, landing and germinating on wood that’s retaining a lot of moisture. According to Permagard, once dry rot fruits, it can release more spores into the air—that’s why it’s important to identify damaged wood and understand what it looks like.

How Can I Treat Dry Rot?

Soft wood can lead to serious home and structural damages, so wood rot repair is essential. To be clear, once wood is affected, it cannot be saved—according to Bob Vila, it must be replaced before the damage spreads any further. First, you must repair the area where the leak started. There is no use in replacing the affected wood if the source of the issue is left untouched. Next, consider running a dehumidifier to dry out the area of any excess moisture. Once the area is dry and the wood is replaced, try applying a wood preservative to keep it safe.

Understanding what causes wood rot, what it looks like, and how to complete wood rot repairs is the first step in future-proofing your home. Of course, there are a variety of other things you can do to prevent this from happening again like recaulking cracks, cleaning your gutters regularly, and investing in quality exhaust fans. If you notice your outdoor deck is discolored, but is not suffering from dry rot, it may just be time for a pressure washing service. Call our team to learn more and schedule an appointment, or read our blog for other homeowners’ tips and tricks.

More from Resources