Wood rot is more than just rotten luck. It can cause serious damage to Indiana properties if it is not noticed and addressed early on. While it is natural, rot can make maintaining a property difficult. Here is what you should know about preventing rot on your property.
The Problem with Rot
Rot describes a form of decay that is triggered by moisture. Decomposition fungi eat away at wood (usually) which weakens the fibers and compromises its structural integrity. Even though wood is treated before construction to prevent rot, sometimes even that is not enough to stave off the hungry little microorganisms. If even a tiny bit of rot forms, it can grow and spread rapidly.
Rot, Pressure Washing, and Paint
Rot damage will only continue to get worse unless it is properly taken care of. If the damage is deep enough, you cannot pressure wash it away since the weakened wood will only splinter and chip under the pressure. On the other hand, it is very important to pressure wash a wooden fence or deck before painting it.
Speaking of painting, it is not a solution to wood rot either. Painting over rot will not kill it or even stop its spread. Instead, rot underneath a layer of paint will continue to spread, resulting in paint that chips and peels away from the ruined wood. This allows more moisture in, propagating the vicious cycle of rot growth.
Identifying Rot Early On
Identifying rot before its development can get out of hand has a lot to do with recognizing where it thrives. The perfect combination for rot growth is wooden surfaces with high moisture contents. Keep a wary eye on areas of your fence or deck near the ground (where the planks can soak up moisture from the damp earth), underneath damp or dripping foliage, and near gutters.
It is also helpful to know what rot looks like so you can tell when you’ve spotted it. Wood rot’s appearance depends on its stage of growth. Early on it tends to look a bit like cotton wool. The early stages are also characterized by mushroom growth. If you have mushrooms near your fence or deck, your rot sirens should go off.
Discoloration is another indication of wood rot, as is softness. If your wood starts to feel soft or spongy or can even be breached without too much pressure, your rot has developed pretty far. Again, look for areas of dampness or condensation.
To protect your property’s wooden structures, you should take steps to remove rot as soon as you find it. As mentioned above, rot will have to be addressed before you can pressure wash or paint your wood.
Repairing the Damage Caused by Rot
Wood rot damage is irreversible. The fungi eats away at the cellulose in the wood, and it cannot be regrown. However, depending on the extent of the damage, you may be able to reinforce and repair your wood at least cosmetically. First you should kill the fungi to prevent further spread. Applying antifreeze can accomplish this task.
If you catch the damage early on, plugging up holes and channels with an exterior epoxy can help to strengthen your wooden planks. On the other hand, if the wood is spongy or falling apart, especially in noticeable sections, the wood in those sections will have to be replaced.
Preventing Wood Rot in the First Place
Prevention is the best medicine, and that is true when dealing with wood rot as well. There are some landscaping choices you can make and some household precautions you can take to keep rot at bay:
- Keep your plants off of your wood—Plants are wet. They can drip onto wooden decks from above or nestle too close to wooden fences. Look out for any plant-related moisture and give your wood a wide berth.
- Build with pressure-treated wood—Pressure treating wood subjects it to a chemical process in a pressure chamber to make it more durable.
- Seal out the moisture—Some moisture, like rain and dew, you can’t prevent. However, you can prepare your wood to repel ambient water. Stain will penetrate the wood and block moisture, while paint does the same thing by adding a barrier on the wood’s surface.
- Close the gaps—Caulk seams and gaps (especially around exterior windows and doors) with a latex exterior caulk. If your caulk looks dry or flakey, it is old and should be removed and replaced.
- Use a fungicide—If you need a heavy-duty solution, borate is a fungicide that is safe for wood, humans, and animals. You can spray it directly on the fence.