What is Dry Rot
Dry rot, also known as Serpula lacrymans, is a type of wood-eating fungus that incapacitates forest timber across the world. Although it primarily affects forest timbers, dry rot can also destroy timber in buildings. Timber builds homes, office buildings, ships, and many other essential items. The presence of dry rot can be terrifying; this article will help explain how to identify it and get rid of it for good.
The name “dry rot” is misleading because the fungus only affects damp wood. The moisture content must be more than 20 percent for dry rot damage to begin. Dry rot is also known as brown rot or wood rot. When dry rot begins, the fungi break down the cellulose and hemicellulose that reside within the wood. These are the components that give the timber its strength and resilience. Without it, the affected wood looks blocky and unhealthy. Because dry rot is a fungus, it produces spores that travel through the air.
The spores can only germinate when they are exposed to a high level of moisture. The moisture can be from direct contact with large bodies of water (flooding), location (humidity), or the wood not being appropriately treated before being used (kiln-dried). For the spores to grow, they need a food source as well as a moisture source. Their “food” is wood, and that is what makes dry rot so dangerous. The spores also need oxygen, and they prefer warm temperatures.
How to Identify Dry Rot
Many different types of decay can weaken timber, so it is crucial to identify the issue at hand. Dry rot is important to identify because it can travel farther than most other fungi. It can travel from timber to other materials, making it even more dangerous for buildings and homes. Because it can spread quickly and easily, additional measures are taken during cleanup to prevent it from returning.
Because of the hazard it prevents, dry rot needs to be taken care of right away. The first step is confirming that it is dry rot and not another type of fungi. Some typical indications of dry rot being present combine physical and olfactory senses. Some physical characteristics that are easy to recognize are shrunken or dark wood and a grey, lilac, and yellow-colored skin that forms over the wood’s top. The “skin” can be peeled and is similar in look and feel to a mushroom.
Similar to mushrooms, mycelium also develops in the presence of moisture. The mycelium is white, fluffy, and looks like cotton wool. Teardrops, or tiny drops of water, may also form on the surface of these mycelia. Strands also develop in the mycelium but are brittle and break easily. Another physical effect that dry rot can have is the production of fruiting bodies.
A fruiting body looks like a soft, fleshy pancake with an orange hue on the surface. The surface is filled with wide pores and produces a cloud of rust-colored spore dust. As for the smell, the active decay in dry rot has a mold/mildew smell. The odor is damp and musty.
Identifying Dry Rot
Because the treatments are different for different fungi, it is imperative to identify dry rot correctly. Here are a few tips to help accurately identify dry rot.
First, inspect the wood. Dry rot has the appearance of cotton wool and can have tiny “teardrops” on the surface. If the area is humid, the teardrops will be more prominent. Next, check for shrunken and sunken wood. Then the wood will not look normal; look for any irregularities and check for weakness. Notice any cracks or darkening of the wood structure and look for distinctive colors and textures.
Types of Treatment Methods
Dry rot treatment is both necessary and essential in the process of getting rid of dry rot. Epoxy treatment is an easy way to fill the damaged wood channels without replacing the whole piece of timber. Epoxy treatment kills the dry rot and improves the wooden structure. A home remedy for treating dry rot is by using commercial antifreeze. The use of antifreeze on the area will also prevent any future dry rot from forming.
The last recommended treatment is to slice out the rotten section and replace it with a copper compound. Copper compounds are the most complicated out of the treatment methods but can end up strengthening the wood. Be sure to consult a professional in any areas that you may need professional help with.
How to Remove Dry Rot
When the dry rot extends more than a quarter of an inch, boric acid can have little to no effect. You will have to manually scrape away the rotting wood, taking the rot and spores with it. If you have access to a trim router, you can place a bit in, plug it in, and hold it vertically as you cut it down into the wood. Move it back and forth, smoothly and slowly, so the router can gouge out all the rotten wood.
Next, fill in the empty section. The wood will be too weak if you leave it the same as it was. The area needs to be filled with a wood epoxy bonding agent. When the epoxy is ready, it looks like thick putty. Smear and fill the gouge with the epoxy material and let it dry overnight. Ensure no children or animals are near the epoxy as it dries.
Sandpaper is the last tool you need to make the affected area look better. Sandpaper the epoxy once it is set and dried. Slide the sandpaper back and forth slowly to try to match with the original wood. Sand in smooth strokes and with consistent pressure on the sandpaper to make sure it is even with the rest of the timber, and nobody will ever notice the repair.
How to Prevent Dry Rot
The most significant step in preventing dry rot is by simply removing the source of moisture. Because dry rot only affects timber with excess moisture over 20 percent, removing the water source will solve most of the problem. The wood can become damp for a vast amount of reasons. Some of the most common areas that produce moisture are the laundry room, shower, and bath. The dampness can also come from leaking roofs and incorrectly set-up basements. Condensation can also be avoided by installing gutters that direct the water away from the house.
Regardless of the source, the dry rot will go away if you remove the dampness and the infected spot. Because dry rot can keep coming back, preventative measures are necessary. Any timbers affected by dry rot should be taken out, disposed of, and replaced with new wood. Any of the lumber around the pieces should be treated with a fungicide to prevent the spores from forming new dry rot.
The next thing you can do to prevent dry rot is to stop any water leaks that may be allowing water to go into the home. In most homes, leaks from behind appliances or near water spigots. If you can find the leak‘s source, turn off the water to the pipe causing the leak.
Next, contact a professional to get that leak patched up. Even if you cannot find a leak, do a monthly walk-through to ensure that no new leaks are forming. You can also check to make sure the heat is working in every room since moisture can accumulate in rooms that aren’t heated correctly.
Another way to prevent dry rot is by ventilation. You are trying to dry the wood out as quickly as possible to prevent more dry rot from forming. To ventilate the room, open the windows and doors to help airflow and eliminate the humid conditions. Next, set 2 or 3 box fans in the room. You want to point one fan at the wet wood and the remaining pointing past the wood and in the direction of an open door or window. This will blow out the remaining dry rot spores and prevent more from forming.
Lastly, a borate wood preservative can get rid of dry rot once and for all. If dry rot is a significant issue in your life, using this preventative measure can make things easier. The preservative is in liquid borate form and can be purchased at hardware stores.
Borate is another term used for boric acid, which is a powerful fungicide. To utilize the preservative, dip a small paintbrush into the liquid. Using short, even strokes, paint a thick layer onto the wooden surface. Paint the entire surface that you want to be rot-proof. Use as much as you think is necessary, especially if dry rot is not a new problem. By doing the best you can to limit moisture exposure and using preventative methods, dry rot doesn’t stand a chance.