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Tallahassee Wood Rot - Prevention and Repair

Monday, Nov 1, 2010
Tallahassee Wood Rot - Prevention and Repair

A few weeks ago my fiance and I went to look at a home out in the Chairs area. The home looked beautiful in the pictures, a typical two story colonial styled home with a wrap around porch. We were warned that it needed some work, and that the home had fallen victim to wood rot. The house was only twenty some odd years old so I figured the wood rot would not be extensive, I was very wrong.


This particular house was built on a crawl. For those of you who are unfamiliar with this type of building, I will give you a quick break down: Most homes are built one of two ways: 1. On a solid cement slab. 2. On a block footing system (crawl). A crawl creates a space underneath the home that is accessible. Although I prefer homes that are built on a solid slab, a home on a crawl can be just as good if it is done correctly. This particular house was not.

Someone had already attempted to begin repairing the rot on the exterior of the house. The porch had been replaced and all of the soffit was new and freshly painted. The big problem with the rot was actually not on the exterior of the home, but on the interior. The entire floor throughout the house was rotted. From one exterior wall to the opposite, the floors had rotted all the way through with holes to boot. I wondered how something could get this bad without the people living in the home taking action. Through my investigations on this particular house, I deducted the following:

1. The floor was made of plywood. This is normal, however what is not normal was that the builder used indoor plywood for this application.
2. There was no moisture barrier anywhere underneath the house.

I thought to myself, this would be a big job, but we could tear out the floors and replace them. Then it dawned on me that the rot may be more extensive then we thought. The bottom portion of the walls rests on the same plywood sub-floor (sill). The rot had transferred into the walls. This would be extremely difficult and expensive to repair - so we had to pass on the house. Because of this experience and because wood rot is so prevalent in the south, I wanted to take the time to talk about wood rot and use the case above as an example of why it is so important to take measures to prevent rot, and also act quickly when its discovered.

To understand how to properly prevent and repair wood rot, you must know exactly what causes wood to rot. Many people have the misconception that wood rot is caused by mold and/or mildew, although mold and mildew can be a serious issue and should be addressed if found, it does not typically cause wood rot. Wood rot is actually caused by fungus. If you can prevent the fungus you can prevent the rot. There are two types of wood rot, both of which are fungus. The first is identified by dark spots, that appear to crack the wood into cube like shapes, when pressure is applied to the infected area, the wood will literally crumble. The second is identified by its yellowish color. This type of wood rot will appear over most of the surface of the affected area and will cause the wood to become very soft and stringy.

The formula for wood rot is simple: moisture and humidity + heat + fungus spores = rot. By eliminating some or all of the factors in this equation, you will also eliminate the rot. The best way to fix wood rot is to prevent it from happening in the first place. The easiest way to do this is by frequently inspecting you home and properly maintaining it. Wood rot can happen anywhere untreated wood is exposed, but it is most commonly found:

1. In attics
2. Gabled roof intersections (where the roof is set at different heights, one section of roof meets the siding of the house)
3. Around exterior doors and windows
4. On decks, specifically where the deck mounts or meets the exterior of the house.
5. On siding and soffit
6. On sub-floors, especially in bathrooms and areas where standing water may be commonly present.

The easiest way to prevent the rot from happening is by properly maintaining your home. Keeping up with painting and weather sealing the exterior of your home will prevent the majority of rot from ever occurring. There are some circumstances however that will require additional measures to prevent the rot. Lets say for instance that your home was built without a gutter system and during heavy rain, the over hang of your roof is not adequate enough to safely divert rain water away from your home. Instead, the water makes its way on to and perhaps into the soffit, and slowly drips of - either on to the ground or on to the siding of the house. In a situation like that, only a gutter system will truly prevent rot, all the paint in the world will still only slow the process. Aside from painting and sealing, there are also many other ways to maintain your home that will prevent rot:

1. Install flashing on areas made of wood that are exposed frequently to rain - this may be the top molding of an exterior door, or the plate that attaches your deck to the side of your home.

2. Seal up any holes or gaps in your home when you find them. Most homes will have a lot of caulking around windows and doors and in between siding boards, check the caulking beads frequently and re-caulk when necessary.

3. Make sure you home has adequate ventilation - you must have a way to expel heat and moisture from inside of your home.

So what happens if its too late? What if the damage is already done and you have found wood rot in your home. There are far too many wood rot scenarios to go over in this post, so I will give you some basic rules:

1. If it is not structural wood rot, you can probably fix it yourself.

2. Try to use pressure treated wood whenever possible, if it is plywood, be sure to use plywood that is treated for exterior use.

3. Once you replace the rotted wood, be sure to seal it, paint it, flash it and caulk it if you can.

4. Be sure to replace ALL of the rotted wood, otherwise it will just come back.

5. If you are replacing siding, use Hardie Board if possible.

6. Install moisture barriers and seals whenever possible, even if its over kill.

If you find wood rot on or in your home, don't panic. Wood rot is normal, it happens in all homes eventually. If you need help repairing wood rot in your home give us a call, we would be happy to help.

Paul Adrianse
Owner

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