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Why a Little Wood Rot Can Lead to a Big Problem

calander Mar 14 , 2021 user-icon Nash Painting

To you, your home’s wooden features are key structural components, but to various bacteria and fungi, wood is just another source of food. If you’re not vigilant, the wood inside and outside your home can fall prey to decomposition, namely in the form of wet and/or dry rot. In a previous blog titled, “How to Spot the Signs of Rotting Wood,” we went over the differences between these types of rot and the visual cues that point to a rot problem. That said, even if you do come across small signs of rot on your wood, you might not take it seriously, putting it off for another time -- this is a mistake. While small amounts of rot can remain relatively innocuous for a while, neglecting your rotted wood often leads to larger and more expensive issues down the line. And if you don’t want rot festering on your property, it’s much easier to stamp it out in its early stages than attempt to remediate it after it’s gotten out of hand.

Let’s dive deeper into the dangers of rot, and why even a little wood rot can lead to a big problem.

Rot Can Spread in the Right Conditions

It’s important to note that rot is a natural process that involves living organisms (i.e. fungi), and where there’s life, there’s the potential for growth. It only makes sense that rot has the ability to spread and cause more trouble if given the opportunity. It’s true that certain types of rot can remain dormant for some time, but once these rot-inducing microorganisms have found a home on your wooden surfaces, all it takes is the presence of optimal conditions to kick things back into gear. Dry rot (also called brown rot), for instance, thrives when temperatures fall between 65 and 90 degrees Fahrenheit, rapidly spreading in such an environment -- the same goes for white rot. Meanwhile, soft rot, while not as fast-spreading as its counterparts, is more resilient, able to survive and grow in temperatures as low as 0 degrees and as high as 110 degrees Fahrenheit.

Of course, temperature isn’t the only factor that allows rot to spread throughout wooden features -- moisture is the other key ingredient. If relative humidity levels are high or your home experiences water leakages from faulty pipes, holes in roofing, etc., your dampened wood features become all that more appealing to rot-inducing fungi and other microorganisms (as well as pests). In fact, in many cases, this dampness is essential for rot to continue spreading. Therefore, what begins as a small instance of rotted wood can soon become widespread rot if the temperature and moisture levels allow for it.

Rot Can Ruin Your Wooden Features

If you’ve never encountered rot before, you might wonder why it’s such a big deal if it infests large portions of your wooden features. Simply put, widespread rot can render wood useless for the purposes of carpentry. In addition to being an eyesore, wood that has decayed simply can’t perform its necessary functions, such as propping/reinforcing structures or protecting underlying materials. As such, if your wood is rotting, you must make repairs in a timely manner. Rot that remains isolated and relatively small in size can often be cut out and replaced. Wood with widespread rot, on the other hand, is usually beyond saving and simply needs to be replaced with new features -- slapping on some new interior or exterior house paint won’t cut it. In either case, making these repairs or replacements is costly and time-consuming.

Rotted Wood Weakens Structural Integrity

Though taking care of rotted wood can be expensive, the financial burden is a necessary measure to keep you and your family safe. As obvious as it sounds, maintaining the structural components of your property is crucial. Should rot take over one of your wooden structures, said structure is at greater risk of total collapse. Even a little bit of rot in key areas can weaken wood enough to cause it to fall apart, especially if it undergoes sudden pressure from footsteps and/or heavy objects. In some cases, such a collapse can lead to serious injury or worse. At the very least, owning a home with weakened wooden structures significantly devalues your property’s value and may get you into hot water with regulatory entities. For all these reasons, you must begin to address and resolve rotted wood as soon as you see it.

Wood Rot Can Cause or Worsen Health Problems

The threat of sudden physical injury isn’t the only risk to one’s body posed by rotted wood. While the majority of dry and wet rot issues don’t contribute to health concerns, the most severe cases can trigger and/or exacerbate respiratory problems, primarily among children, elderly individuals, and those with chronic health problems such as asthma. When inhaling or coming into contact with the fungal spores responsible for wood rot, these people might experience coughing, sneezing, skin irritation and rashes, headaches, fatigue, and more.

What Should You Do About Rotted Wood?

We’ve established that wood rot can aggressively spread in certain conditions, wreck your wooden features, weaken their integrity to the point of collapse, and contribute to health problems. It’s clear, then, that rot must be blotted out as quickly as possible. The only question is: how?

In order to avoid the negative effects of wood rot, you must focus on both prevention and remediation. Rot prevention is a multi-faceted effort. You can begin by using pre-treated (pressure treated) timber for your wooden features, as these products are manufactured and processed with preservation in mind, containing chemical preservatives that protect the wood from rot and other threats. Additionally, consider hiring pressure washing services to clean your exterior wooden features at least once a year. You should also keep tabs on all your property’s wooden components, looking closely for early signs of rot. Lastly, protect your features with wood deck stain, reapplying fresh stain every 2-3 years.

When properly applied, a high-quality deck stain will penetrate the wood’s pores so moisture, pests, fungi, and microorganisms stay out.

To get rid of wood rot, you need to identify and resolve the underlying issue before anything else. In most cases, excess moisture is the culprit (again, either from environmental elements or structural damages like broken pipes, breaches in roofing, siding, or foundation, etc.). From there, you must either kill the fungus and repair the affected areas or, in the case of widespread rot, remove the wood and replace it with a fresh feature. Either way, it’s good to take the preventative measures outlined above after fixing up or replacing your rotted wood. Prioritize waterproof deck stain products when looking to protect your wooden components from rot.

A Little Rot Goes a Long Way

Few hazards can wreak so much havoc on your property as rot, whether wet or dry. If you have wood worries, partner with professionals who can inspect your property for rot, remove what’s there, and bolster your prevention efforts. At Nash Painting, we’ve assessed, repaired, and painted homes and businesses across Nashville, Brentwood, and Franklin, TN, to help ensure that these properties are free from fungal foes and wooden woes.

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