Wood rot seems to be a growing epidemic in homes. The calls I’m receiving are growing by the month. Some of the rot can be traced to poor maintenance habits by homeowners, some to poor building practices by the trades and, believe it or not, some to the lumber companies.
If you want to prevent wood rot, you need to keep it dry. Wood rot is simply different fungi that are consuming the wood. The fungi need water to live. You keep wood dry by keeping it painted and sealed. It’s also a great idea to keep it above horizontal masonry or concrete surfaces by at least 2 inches. I prefer to keep wood up off of soil at least one foot and to keep air moving if possible to dry the wood.
Before you attempt to repair wood rot, you need to stop the water problem. It’s imperative that you hunt down and eliminate the water source that’s causing the rot. If the wood has been placed too close to the soil, a sidewalk, a patio, a roof or some such, you may have to re-engineer the situation so the wood doesn’t get wet — or, if it gets wet, it dries rapidly.
Once you have the water situation solved, then the wood needs to dry completely. This can take days, weeks or months, depending on the season. Blowing air across the wood will accelerate the drying time. Be very careful about using a heat gun or other artificial heat source to dry the wood. Wood that’s rotted and dry ignites very readily and can burn fiercely.
I’ve had great luck revitalizing rotted wood with chemical products that soak into the dry wood fibers. These liquids appear to be heavy bodied resins that adhere readily to the rotted wood. Drilling hole into the rotted wood can enhance deep penetration of the liquids.
These liquids, once dry, add considerable strength to the rotted wood fibers. Any gaps, holes or voids can be filled with paste epoxies that adhere very well to the wood. The dry epoxy can be sanded and painted. You don’t have to be a master carpenter to work with these DIY-friendly epoxy products.
As with any repair products, you have to read all the instructions on the product labels. What you’ll discover with most, or all, of the chemical and epoxy repair products is that the wood needs to be dry. You want this anyway so the good wood doesn’t rot further!
Preventing wood rot is not as hard as one might think, but it requires a mixture of common sense and best practices. Buy lumber that has built-in rot resistance if possible. Redwood and cedar are exterior wood species that have natural chemicals that stave off wood rot except in the worst conditions.
Beware of hybridized lumber that’s now grown by lumber companies if possible. This lumber has vast quantities of spring wood in it. Spring wood is the lighter-colored band of wood when you look at the end of a piece of lumber. It’s softer and readily absorbs water.
Keeping wood painted and sealed is the most basic form of maintenance you can do. It’s not the silver bullet, but it can help. Caulk cracks that allow water to penetrate into wood crevices.
If you need help repair rotten wood on your home, call Light House Renovation and Repair at (913) 205-8997.