Home Tips: Repair Wood Rot
Wood rot is a huge problem for busy homeowners who defer home maintenance. While most problems start out small, moisture in wood can travel in all directions requiring costly repairs.
How does wood rot happen?
Wood rot occurs when there is wood and moisture. The wood acts as a source of food for different types of fungus and the moisture enables the fungus to break down the wood. Preservatives, i.e. like those used in "pressure treated" wood, will help to preserve the wood but even pressure treated deck posts buried two to three feet in the ground will rot.
Wood rot is most commonly found in areas of a home that have more exposure to water. The vertical board under an exterior door is one example. This wood experiences splash back when water hits the first step below the door, and bounces back against the kickplate. Unless a home owner inspects this wood every year and insures the wood is protected with paint, the wood will rot and it may be difficult to see until several years of damage have occurred.
Top 10 Places for Wood Rot
Here are the most
common places for wood rot and related water damage to occur in homes:
- Wood below exterior doors.
- Wood damage often found at the base of an exterior door..
- Wood rot occurs at the bottom of windows, i.e. most often the windowsill.
- Rotten wood frequently found under the roof line, i.e. fascia and soffits.
- Wood rot hides behind gutters and downspouts.
- Wood damage often found at the corners of a home, i.e. the corner board.
- Trim around doors and windows will rot when not properly flashed.
- Decks have lots of wood rot when water can't drain easily, i.e. when not enough space is left between floor boards to allow for when the wood expands and contracts.
- Most common deck problem is the ledger board, where the deck is attached to the house and often isn't flashed.
- At the top of the foundation, the wood boards, i.e. sill and ribbon, will rot if moisture cannot dry out due to foundation plantings.
Inspecting your home for wood rot should be part of your overall home maintenance routine, done at least once a year. In the spring you want to inspect your home's exterior to identify any damage suffered through the winter. Repairs should be made quickly to stop things like wood rot from extending beyond the initial problem as long term damage costs far more to repair than minor problems.
It is also a good idea to visually examine the outside of your home in the fall, to find potential problems that would be better to correct when working conditions are better.For instance, if you are cleaning your gutters each fall, this is the perfect time to visually inspect all aspects of your home's exterior.
Checklist for Wood Rot Inspection
The more time you invest in preventing problems, the more money you will save. Checklists are a useful tool to help home owners maintain their home, i.e. here is a simple list to help find potential wood rot before costly repairs are needed:
- When cleaning gutters, inspect the vertical "fascia" boards behind them.
- Right below the fascia boards, inspect the horzontal "soffits" underneath.
- Inspect the gable ends of the house, the wood trim under the roof and any gable vents which are often made of wood.
- While still on a ladder, check any corner boards made of wood and other decorative trim.
- Check decks and porches - where they're attached to the house, floor boards, railings, stairs. Don't forget to go underneath to check the support wood, at ground level where wood is exposed to dirt and where support beams connect to surface wood.
- Check around the foundation where sometimes the lower six to twelve inches of siding may get spashback and rot.
- Checking windows is a challenge given the large number of them. Generally you should spot check several on each floor. Every home has one side that gets more wear (sun, wind and/or rain) and you should check all windows on this side.
- Check all doors, and especially those you don't use often.
Note: For windows and doors, you want to focus at the top where water may get in behind the wood if not properly flashed. You should also check at the bottom where water has a tendency to puddle.