Does Wood Rot Spread?

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With humidity and temperatures on the rise and an increase in rainfall, you may have noticed some wood rot around your home or other buildings. We understand this can be very alarming, and with it, other questions arise. If you are worried the wood rot might spread, look no further. We have done some thorough research on the topic and outlined our findings below. 

Without proper measures, wood rot will definitely spread. However, there are a few things you should know. First off, don’t panic. We can help you prevent further growth of the dry rot causing fungi. 

Just because some of your foundation is rotting does not mean that you have to replace the entire structure. It also does not mean that all the wood will rot. Keep reading to learn how quickly dry rot spreads, how you can prevent it from spreading, and more.

close-up old wood house detail with wood rot. Does Wood Rot Spread

Does Wood Rot Spread? 

If action is not taken at the first sign of wood rot, it will spread to other areas of the foundation. According to the International Association of Certified Home Inspectors (InterNACHA), wood rot is caused by a certain species of fungi. This fungi, known as saprophytic, eats away at the wood, causing it to decay. 

rotten wood on a elevated walkway at home. Does Wood Rot Spread

It can only thrive in wet/damp environments between 77° F and 90° F. It must also have a viable food source, such as wood, and oxygen to survive. Typically, the fungi spread through air currents.

However, according to InterNACHA, the spores require higher moisture content than the Fiber Saturation Point (FSP) of the wood to live on the surface. Therefore, wood rot cannot live on or spread to dry wood. However, once the proper temperatures and FSP are available, the spores begin multiplying to form colonies. 

Types of Wood Rot

There are three different types of wood rot. Although many people think that dry rot is one form of wood rot, that is a misconception. Many people also use the term as a catch-all for any type of rotting wood. 

Brown Rot

Brown rot, in its early stages, turns the wood a brown color, breaking it down and causing it to split against the grain. In advanced stages, brown rot causes wood to turn white and powdery. It crumbles easily and cannot support much weight. This type of fungi thrives in temperatures between 65 and 90 degrees Fahrenheit. 

White Rot

Unlike brown rot, white rot makes the wood mushy and whitish. This type of rot is usually more common in hardwoods. Like brown rot, it thrives in temperatures between 65 and 90 degrees Fahrenheit. 

Soft Rot

Soft rot does not spread as fast as other types. However, unlike brown and white rot, soft rot can survive in extreme temperatures between 0 and 110 degrees Fahrenheit. 

What are the First Signs of Dry Rot?

If you can catch dry rot before it gets out of control, you may be able to salvage the remaining wood before the fungi spreads. Some of the earliest signs of dry rot include: 

  • Foul Smell
  • Spore Dust
  • Damaged Wood

Foul Smell

One of the first things you will notice when dealing with a dry rot infestation is a foul smell. You will notice something that smells a bit like wet dirt or mushrooms. The stronger the smell, the worse the fungi have accumulated. 

Spore Dust

Spore dust is a rust-colored substance that fungi fruiting bodies send out in an attempt to spread. A small amount of spore dust is normal in all structures. However, if you notice large amounts, it could point to a more severe dry rot problem. 

Damaged Wood

Wood damage is one of the most apparent signs of wood rot. Fungi eat away at the wood, causing it to break and crumble. Some other types will cause the wood to become soggy or mushy. Additionally, the wood may become darker in color as the dry rot worsens. 

Later Signs of Dry Rot

If you miss the early signs of dry rot, you will begin to notice the fungi growing in large fruiting bodies. At this point, you know the wood rot is in the advanced stages. 

How Do You Keep Dry Rot from Spreading?

Interior Of Abandoned Smoky Mountain Vacation Home

As stated earlier, the fungi that causes wood to rot must have certain conditions to survive. First, it needs moisture. Second, it must have a viable food source. In many cases, wood is the food source. The third thing it needs is oxygen.

The first thing you need to do is determine the source of moisture. There could be a leak somewhere in your home’s structure, or perhaps you have been subjected to flooding. Whatever the reason, you need to find the source and stop it before the rot can spread. Once you remove the moisture, the fungi can no longer thrive.

Can Rotted Wood be Repaired?

Some rotted wood can be repaired; however, wood with extensive damage will need to be replaced. If only a few spots are suffering from wood rot, scrape the rotting pieces away. Once that is done, you can take a wood treatment substance and apply it to the remaining wood. 

It’s important to understand that severely rotted wood needs to be replaced. If most of the timber is rotted, it’s best to remove it, replacing it with fresh timber. If you try to repair wood that is too far gone, it won’t hold the structure safely. 

Can I Treat Dry Rot Myself?

Once you eliminate the source of moisture, dry rot is pretty simple to treat. You absolutely must get rid of the source of moisture before treating the wood. Otherwise, the fungi will come back and continue to eat away at your timber. Once you have determined that the wood is repairable, you’ll need to remove any weak or crumbly spots on the lumber. 

Now it’s time to treat the wood. You can use a treatment substance such as Borax or WoodEpox to restore strength to the rotted lumber, filling in missing spaces within the damaged surface.

You can find a good wood restoring product by following this link to Amazon. 

LiquidWood is typically used in conjunction with WoodEpox to more thoroughly treat and repair wood. 

Telling the Difference Between Termite Damage and Wood Rot

close up photo of Termites eating rotted wood

Before treating wood rot, you need to make sure the wood is rotting from fungi rather than termite damage. Termites eat away at the wood, causing damage that is similar to that of wood rot. Like the dry rot fungi, termites prefer moist timbers. 

Although there are similarities between the two, you will need to know the cause before adequately treating the wood. If you have a termite infestation, you will need to call pest control or apply a pesticide yourself. When determining the cause of damage, look for live termites in or around the wood.

If you find that you have termites instead of wood rot, it’s likely that the wood can still be repaired using the same methods you would use for dry rotted timber. 

Summary

Wood rot can get out of control if not caught in its early stages. However, it’s not a reason to panic. Although wood rot spreads quickly without intervention, you can stop the fungi from causing more damage and spreading to other parts of the structure. Conduct a thorough inspection for possible causes of moisture, then stop the problem at its source. 

If you’re getting ready to build a house and you’re worried about the development of wood rot, check out these alternatives to wood. You can also find out how long wood framing can be exposed to weather by reading this blog post. 

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