Most homeowners are at least somewhat familiar with wood damage caused by rot. All wood is vulnerable to wood rot, as it all contains a certain level of moisture naturally. Moisture provides a breeding ground for fungi, which is what is ultimately responsible for the damage caused by wood rot. Wood rot can be caused by hundreds of different fungi, including Daedalea, Lenzites, Fomes, Poria, Polyporus, and Stereum. Wood rot can occur anywhere in your house, including the door trim, structural beams and exterior trim.
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Severe wood rot can destroy homes and result in financial ruin for home and business owners. Approximately 20 billion board feet of timber is destroyed by wood rot in the United States each year, a figure considerably higher than the amount of wood lost to fire. Current estimates show that replacement wood used to repair damage caused by wood rot accounts for almost 10 percent of the annual wood production in the U.S. alone. The problem is far reaching, and the effects to structures can be devastating.
There are three types of wood rot: brown rot, white rot and soft rot. Brown rot causes wood to split and crumble by cracking it against the grain. Advanced stages of brown rot result in dry, powdery wood that is unable to support any weight and crumbles easily. White rot causes wood to take on a gray, white or yellowish color and can result in stringy or spongy wood. Soft rot is less common and typically only attacks wood shingles in wet areas. All three types of wood rot can result in significant structural damage.
Prevention of wood rot should begin before the wood is exposed to excess moisture. Most fungi responsible for wood rot only grow when moisture levels are very high, typically more than 20 percent, and untreated wood is highly susceptible to the development of wood rot. Wood should be from a hearty, decay-resistant species and should be treated with a quality preservative before use. Building with wood should only be done on well-drained sites with proper grading and adequate cross-ventilation. Effective treatment involves removing any sources of moisture, replacing damaged wood and treating any remaining wood that has been left vulnerable.
Wood rot is often blamed on termites or other insects, but only water and fungi cause this type of damage. Termites and other insects are responsible for some cases of wood damage, but the symptoms of termite or insect damage differ from those of wood rot and include tunnels or mines in the wood and sawdust. Additionally, there is no such thing as dry rot. Dry wood is not susceptible to wood rot and damage caused by wood rot is only found in wood that is either currently wet or has been previously exposed to water.
Wood rot is often not detected until the amount of damage is considerable. Unless a thorough home inspection is done periodically, rot may grow inside the wood of a home until the entire structure is compromised. The more widespread the rot, and the longer the decay remains untreated, the more extensive the damage and the more difficult the repair process.