How to Find Wood Rot in Your Home

Detective

With a little detective work, you can find wood rot in your home. Photo credit: paurian via Visualhunt

What do your window sills, patio, and front door have in common? They may all be made out of wood. In fact, wood is probably a primary component throughout your entire house, and all of this wood is vulnerable to wood rot. Wood rot is dangerous, not only because it disintegrates wooden structures over time, but also because it is a mostly silent killer. If you don’t check your home regularly, you could miss early warnings of wood rot that could lead to much greater (and more expensive) damage in the future.

What is Wood Rot?

As yucky as it sounds, wood rot is actually a common form of fungus that feeds on your wood’s fibers, slowly disintegrating it over time. Have you ever wandered through an old house and felt wood that was mushy or that even fell apart when you touched it? That is the calling card of wood rot!

Wood rot is dangerous, because it can so easily spread throughout your home. It could be eating away at the studs behind your walls or under your carpet or beneath the cabinet of your sink right now. It is often very difficult to find wood rot unless you make an effort to really go looking for it.

How to Find Wood Rot in Your Home

Since wood rot is not usually obvious until the damage is relatively severe, make a note on your calendar to check your home for wood rot each year. March is a great season to search for wood rot, since it often rains over the winter in California, and you can combine your wood rot hunt with your spring cleaning efforts. Checking for wood rot isn’t exactly the most exciting way to spend time on your weekend, but it doesn’t have to take particularly long if you know the most likely areas to look and use the right tools.

Step One: Gather the Necessary Tools

No, you don’t need a bunch of specialized and expensive tools to start your hunt for wood rot. All you need is:

  • A flashlight
  • A screwdriver or butter knife
  • Binoculars
  • Your nose

Step Two: Check the Key Areas of Your Home

The most important places to check for wood rot throughout your home are the places where water is most likely to collect, including:

  • Wooden window sills and frames
  • Exterior wooden doors, especially the threshold, door jamb, and trim
  • Area around your water heater
  • Area around your washer
  • Area around your dishwasher
  • Areas around your toilet, tub, and shower
  • Areas around your sink, including sink cabinets
  • Wood patio and deck, especially the ledger board
  • The roof

Step Three: Test the Wood in all of These Areas

To test for wood rot, use your eyes first. You might need to use your flashlight in dark areas, like beneath your sink. Look for:

  • Discolored ceilings, walls, or floor
  • Peeling paint
  • Cracks in paint or sealant
  • Bubbled or swollen wood

Next, use your nose. Does the air smell dank and musty? That could be the smell of the fungus. Finally, take out your handy-dandy screwdriver or butter knife. Prod at the wood. Don’t be afraid to push. Healthy wood will be able to stand up to some light jabs with a screwdriver or butter knife. Rotten wood will be soft. If your taps can puncture the wood or press it inward, then you’ve definitely got a case of wood rot!

Be extremely careful when testing your roof. You may want to simply use your binoculars to visually check your shingles from the ground. If your visual check shows signs of wood rot, it might be safer to request a roof inspection by a professional rather than walk on a compromised roof!

What to Do if You Have Wood Rot

If you suspect or find wood rot in your home, the first thing you need to do is determine the source of the water. Are your gutters clogged, leading to standing water at the edges of your roof? Do you need to add sealant to your patio or deck? Is a pipe leaking in your wall? Fix any leaks first to prevent more damage.

If you catch the wood rot early, you may be able to save the wood by treating it with a preservative.  However, if the wood is already soft, then you need to call a wood damage repair company like Best-Rate Repair to replace all of the damaged wood. Once wood loses its structural integrity, it represents a safety hazard to you, your family, and anyone else living in the structure. Get it fixed!

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