Wood rot is a natural part of the decomposition process, vital for turning fallen logs into soil, where the cycle starts all over again. Homeowners don’t view dry rot through such rose-colored lenses, and they are right to remain wary. Dry rot is one of the most destructive forces on household wood, damaging more homes in a year than fire.
Dry rot, sometimes referred to as brown rot, received the name because the wood appears dry on the surface. Originally, because of the dry and cracking appearance, dry rot got its name from the belief that water wasn’t necessary for this type of rot and that it used a fermentation process to survive. Though we now understand that is not the case, the name stuck.
Statistics speak for themselves. With around 20 billion feet of lumber getting destroyed every year in the United States alone, causing damage worth approximately $17 billion in damage, dry rot poses real problems. Innovative Basement Authority has a long-standing history of helping homeowners with their dry rot problem.
Keep Your Eyes Open for Signs of a Problem
Checking for dry rot should become an annual routine for homeowners. Catching dry rot ahead of time will give a home the chance to recover from any damage. You might be wondering what to look for (and where) as you add this routine to your annual home inspection. Here are some of the most common areas where dry rot does its damage.
Though most windows on the market prevent any leaks due to rain or other natural elements, they are not always perfect. It takes just one small gap in the window, allowing rain to come in and saturate the wood around and beneath the window.
The saturated wood then sits there wet since it isn’t exposed to sunlight or air and remains damp, causing dry rot to start growing. Older windows are at even more risk and need to get inspected as often as possible.
- Exterior Doors
The cracks in a door’s threshold are the perfect place for water to enter. Most of the time, the rot that forms is allowed to linger beneath the door frame, a place that doesn’t get exposed to sunlight or much air, which would help it dry.
You’re likely to use your front door often, which gives you plenty of opportunities to check for any forming rot. Take a glance around the door frame, checking for any dry or cracking wood where the frame could start to loosen.
- Outdoor Decks
Decks and outdoor stairs generally consist of treated wood as a way to make them water-resistant. In some circumstances, they’re not actually 100% waterproof, and water can still get in. Over time, the more water gets in with the dampness remaining, the rot spreads throughout the wood.
One of the most prevalent places on a deck is the balustrade, where the dampness sits underneath, allowing fungi to build and spread. Stay on the lookout for dry and cracked wood, which will start to feel brittle.
- Basements or Crawl Spaces
Basements or crawl spaces are the prime spots for fungi and rot to form and spread. These are some of the rooms with the highest humidity and moisture content without exposure to outside air or the sunlight. The combination of humidity and warmth in a basement or crawl space allows fungi to grow, as it provides them with the ultimate climate.
Often, when rot starts in the basement or crawl space and has a chance to spread throughout the entire area, it won’t get discovered until there is real structural damage. Always pay close attention to the walls’ surface and the ceiling joints to check if any rot started to form.
- Wet Rooms
A room that has a water fixture, such as a faucet, is considered a wet room. Rooms such as the kitchen and bathroom are always considered wet rooms and prone to higher humidity or moisture content. More often than not, these areas are secluded away from fresh, dry air or sunlight.
Wood rot and different forms of fungi thrive in such an environment, which means it’s best to stay on the lookout in those spots. Always ensure those rooms have functioning vents, such as those you would use during a shower to keep the moisture or humidity from building.
This pertains mostly to damaged roofing, which allows water to seep into the wood beyond. When the exterior of a roof is damaged, it exposes everything beneath it and would require immediate attention to stop the chance of rot forming.
If your home has access to an attic, add it to the list of rooms you should check at least once a year. Any type of dry or brown rot will be clearly visible in such areas since the wood is exposed and not hidden behind paint or furniture.
The Causes of Dry Rot
When you’re looking through your home hoping you don’t catch glimpses of dry rot, you’ll wonder what causes it exactly, and maybe even how to prevent such a problem. Understanding the problem of dry rot causes is the first step to fixing potential issues.
Dry rot, or brown rot, as mentioned earlier, is caused by the fungus known as Serpula lacrymans. Though there are millions of different fungi, Serpula lacrymans is the one most often found in the wood of homes.
First found in 1884, this fungus colonizes quickly, causing greater degradation to any wood it comes across. Considered one of the most damaging fungi out there, the Serpula lacrymans spreads with ease as long as it is exposed to just the right conditions.
Although in the past, scientists thought dry rot started from conditions that lacked water, over time, they realized that is not the case. The fungus causing dry rot forms best in conditions where the moisture content is between 30% and 40%.
Areas with a higher moisture rating but not enough exposure to sunlight or air will have a dry rot problem more often. If the problem is allowed to continue unchecked, the rot will spread to any organic and inorganic material it comes across.
- Water Event
Water events such as a flood, failed water heater, or a burst pipe are all common beginnings of dry rot. Such a problem allows water to enter the wood surrounding it, and with little access to sunlight or drier air, it will fester, and dry rot will form.
It’s possible for the water that spilled throughout the house through flooding or some other way not to dry out completely before repairs finish. The wetness that remains helps rot to form and eventually spread throughout the wood it touches.
How to Fix a Dry Rot Problem
Innovative Basement Authority helps solve rot problems in the areas of Minnesota, North Dakota, and eastern Montana. Years of experience in the area of dry rot puts us in a uniquely qualified position to help with such a problem.
- Permanent Solution
To permanently remove the problem of dry rot, Innovative Basement Authority starts with the source. We work to thoroughly dry out any area affected by water or moisture, such as a basement or crawl space.
Thoroughly drying or even replacing wood that’s damaged is the perfect permanent solution to a dry rot problem. Innovative Basement Authority is always there to help in such circumstances. All you need to do is reach out for a free quote.
- Steps for Permanent Dry Rot Solution
Any areas of a home have the potential to get infested with dry rot and need special attention. We developed a few steps through years of practice, and this helps rid any homeowner of a dry rot problem.
Step 1: Remove all the damaged wood, this includes any wood that has a visible fungus or any type of decay. Up to three feet in either direction of the affected wood will be removed for the safety of the surrounding areas and the entire home.
Step 2: Remove materials near the damaged area before any rebuilding can happen. Any material will be removed, such as plaster, paneling, lining, and ceilings around the dry rot spot.
Step 3: Treat affected areas with a wire brush. Using a wire brush will remove any loose material from surfaces within five feet of the dry rot infestation’s farthest edge, including any metal, masonry, and piping.
Step 4: The area affected gets disinfected. A disinfectant is used on any affected or surrounding materials such as wood, masonry, and exposed soil within five feet of the damage.
Step 5: The last step is rebuilding any rot damaged beams, joists, and posts, which get replaced with pressure-treated wood. Pressure-treated wood gets infused with specific chemicals that keep away any rot or insect infestations.
There are millions of fungi out there in the world, which can cause all sorts of problems. The most common problems inside a home are caused by dry rot, though some of it can get mistaken for wet rot. There are differences between the two that people are not aware of.
- Dry Rot
One of the most dangerous problems for homeowners, dry rot, is formed through the accumulation of moisture. Different types of water events such as floods or even leaky faucets introduce enough moisture into the surrounding area it allows the rot to form.
The reason for its destructive force is its ability to spread to surrounding areas as opposed to the initial problem. Dry rot will travel through wood, masonry, and brickwork to continue its destruction.
- Wet Rot
Wet rot is formed by a different type of fungus, which requires a higher moisture content to form. This type of rot also doesn’t grow farther like dry rot and will stop at masonry or when the source of moisture stops.
Unlike dry rot, wet rot won’t cause as much damage since it won’t have a chance to spread far out from the affected area. Once the moisture is taken away, such as in another room, wet rot will stop since the fungus won’t have a chance to continue growing.
Dry rot is formed by a fungus that needs the proper environment to thrive. Certain circumstances lead to a dry rot infestation inside the home, which may go undetected for some time.
- Moisture Content
Certain circumstances inside the home will raise the moisture content, such as a leaky faucet. Though the problem can take some time to develop, it won’t stop at the initial spot. Dry rot also doesn’t need a high moisture content; anything above 30% is enough for an infestation to begin.
There are some rooms in a home where the problem is likely to start, such as the kitchen or the bathroom. Aside from the apparent rooms, any room with some sort of water access, such as the vanity inside a bedroom, is where a problem could start.
- Water Event
A water event is something more significant such as a backup of a sewer or a flood. Of course, these are not as common as a leaky faucet, but they are a more significant source of problems. Considerable flooding could mean water spread throughout the home in the hard-to-find areas where dry rot could form.
In the event of flooding, the affected area and any area around it needs to be removed and replaced to stay on the safe side. Complete replacement of any wet areas is the only way to ensure moisture won’t stay or grow, giving dry rot a chance to form.
One of the biggest questions involves the exact life cycle of dry rot. There are four main stages that dry rot goes through as it forms and spreads throughout the affected areas.
The first stage is rot in the form of microscopic spores that are invisible to the human eye. The life cycle begins when these spores contact moisture and start to grow, infesting the wood around them.
The second stage is the hyphae, which acts as the dry rot’s root, extending out around the affected area as strands. These hyphae feed off the wood’s nutrients, causing it to grow further and the wood to shrink.
This is what allows dry rot to grow across large distances and affect many areas. Mycelium is able to look for another source of food to fuel the dry rot.
This is the flower generated once dry rot runs out of a source of food, such as in a dry environment. The development of this flower is what helps dry rot spread farther or grow once it has a source of food again.
As with any other problem within a home, dry rot will show signs of itself visible to any homeowner. Unfortunately, most of these signs are only there once the problem has gotten out of hand. Here are a few signs to be on the lookout for:
Wood affected by dry rot will leave large cracks in the wood it’s taken over. The wood will show something called a mycelium growth, or large white sheets. When exposed to light, the fungus will have a yellowish tinge. As the other name suggests, it’ll have a brown tinge to it, hence the name “brown rot.”
Once dry rot takes over, wood will start to flake and crumble at the touch. It’ll crumble because the dry rot starts to eat at the timber, taking away its structural integrity.
- Other Than Appearance
Other than the color and the dry appearance, the fungus that causes dry rot will sometimes turn into mushroom-like bodies. These will grow on any plaster or paint instead of the wood itself since it’s challenging to see dry, flaking wood beneath the paint.
Dry rot will hurt the structural integrity of the wood it’s infested. This is something that may be more difficult to see outside of exposed basement walls or attics, but once the dry rot has had a chance to spread, it’s something that can get found with the naked eye.
Keep Your Home Free of Dry Rot
Dry rot, or brown rot, is a destructive force in any home and something any homeowner would dread. Without real indication, dry rot can form right under the nose of any diligent homeowner. Though there are steps to prevent a dry rot problem from occurring, most of the time, no one is aware there is a problem until the dry rot is visible. Contact us for a free inspection and quote today. The steps we’ve developed at Innovative Basement Authority help fix a dry rot problem once and for all, helping to remove all damaged materials and replacing them with new ones.