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How to Spot the Signs of Rotting Wood

calander May 11 , 2020 user-icon Nash Painting

Despite its strengths, wood can be quite vulnerable to degradation. When poorly maintained, timber quickly becomes a prime feeding source for various pests and fungi. One of the most common issues to look for in your wooden features is rot, and the sooner you locate it, the easier it is to amend the issue. Here’s how to spot the signs of rotting wood.

Wet vs. Dry Rot

First, let’s distinguish the two main types of rot that might affect your wood -- wet and dry rot. Wet rot, as its name implies, refers to a species of fungus that goes after damp wood and other moist materials such as carpets and plaster. Dry rot can spread relatively quickly, digesting wood from the inside out. While both forms of rot are problematic, dry rot is the more severe of the two due to its rate and strength of spread. Wet rot spreads much more gradually because it needs an existing source of moisture to grow, meaning it won’t spread beyond damp areas.

Spotting Signs of Wet Rot

To the inexperienced eye, wet and dry rot can be difficult to tell apart, but there are some telltale differences between these frustrating fungi. In order to identify wet rot, you’ll want to focus on the wood’s color, texture, shape and size of damage (i.e. fracturing), and smell. More specifically, common wet rot signs include:

  • Softened texture (spongy and easy to penetrate with a pointed object)
  • Darkened appearance (one area might appear darker than the rest)
  • Shrinkage/warping
  • Musty, earthy scent
  • Cracks and crumbles
  • Localized fungus growth
  • Chipping paint (i.e. wood deck paint)

Because wet rot occurs in damp areas, you can usually identify it based on where you’re looking, too. For instance, basements, attics, roofs, and other places that experienced high moisture levels are more likely to encounter wet rot (though dry rot may also occur in these places).

Spotting Signs of Dry Rot

Dry rot is perhaps even more difficult to pinpoint than wet rot because it tends to exhibit more obvious signs later in its lifecycle. That said, those experienced with wood rot, carpentry, deck repairs, etc. can usually find dry rot if it’s there. These signs include:

  • The appearance of fruiting bodies (mushroom-like, pancake-shaped, rust-colored, porous)
  • Spore dust on wood (usually red and near fruiting bodies)
  • The spread of white mycelium across wood (fine, fluffy strands)
  • Yellow-white-grey-ish “skin” overlapping the wood in patches
  • Damp, musty, mushroom-like scent

What to Do About Rotted Wood?

When it comes to eliminating rot from your wooden features, the first step is addressing the root of the problem (usually a source of moisture). Once you’ve resolved that, your two main options are killing the fungus where it lives and making repairs or removing and replacing the affected wood entirely. The best option will depend on the depth and spread of the rot. If wet or dry rot has engulfed a major portion of your wood, your best bet is to get rid of the whole piece and replace it. But if you catch the rot early in its development and it’s relatively isolated, you can usually stop it in its tracks with the proper fungicide. After you’ve killed the fungi, you can make necessary repairs, re-apply wood deck stain or paint, and/or apply wet rot wood hardeners.

Ultimately, though, the best way to keep your wood healthy and structurally sound is by preventing rot in the first place. Some ways to avoid wood rot is to use pre-treated timber, hire pressure washing services to thoroughly clean your exterior wooden features once or twice a year, regularly clean and inspect all of your wooden features on your own time, and apply deck stain to your wooden deck or patio every 2-3 years to seal the wood’s pores and protect it from moisture, pests, and fungi.

Wood rot isn’t just unsightly -- it can become a serious health and safety risk. If you’re worried about your wood, work with a Nashville painting company equipped to inspect your property for rot and tackle the issue head-on. At Nash Painting, our team of professionals is prepared to assess, repair, and paint your home or businesses efficiently and with guaranteed best results.

To learn more about us, our services, and our values, call us at 615-829-6858 today!