old timber wall
20 Mar, 2020, 4:19 AM

Timber rot is a huge problem for people, especially those in older homes that may not have always been well maintained. It can damage your window frames, doors, weatherboards, fences and decks, and really anything timber around your home that gets outdoor exposure or is in a moist area without good ventilation. Leaks, excessive wet weather, rising damp, fungal growth and deterioration of protective coatings in a wet area can all contribute to timber rot, so you need to be able to know how to identify, and subsequently treat, your rot.

The two main types of rot that you’ll run in to are dry rot, and wet rot. Dry rot is caused by an infestation of fungal growths in moist environments, and there are multiple types of fungus that can cause a rot. Wet rot is the result of excessive and ongoing exposure to moisture. While both types of rot can be annoying, wet rot is a little bit harder to get rid of. Unfortunately we live in an environment which is rich in fungal spores and even if you keep your property well maintained, the potential for fungal growth is always lurking around the corner.

Identifying and Treating Dry Rot

Dry rot can be caused by a number of different fungal varieties, but identifying them is fairly similar. If your timber has been painted, it can sometimes be difficult to find evidence of the early stages of rot as it has not become severe enough to form past over the layer of paint. on raw timber, early stages of rot can be identified as a slightly furred, light coloured sheeting that spreads across the timber.  This is the best time to deal with dry rot as the fungus has not had enough time to spread and infect more timber. It can be removed, then treated with a fungicide to stop future flare-ups. The cause of the excess moisture which allowed the fungus to flourish should also be identified and repaired, whether this is a leaking tap, dripping of window condensation or simply poor drainage. This is something that you see quite commonly in rotten window frames that butt against garden beds. The constant watering and sprinklers, combined with the nutrient rich soils and potting mix are an ideal climate for the growth of fungi. It’s also quite common to see in timber beams in leaking roof spaces that have gone unchecked for a period of time.

As the rot worsens, the growths become evident even over the top of painted surfaces. This is normally the point where most people notice dry rot, but by this stage it will have already started to spread. Depending on how far the fungus has spread, there’s 2 ways to treat this. The first is to remove the fungus and the paint from the affected area, treat it with a good anti-rot fungicide such as No-Rot Gel. The gel needs to cure and dry for a week, then it can be painted over again. However, if the spread is too great and has penetrated into the wood too much, the affected wood will need to be cut out and replaced. Depending on how much rot is removed, additional treated wood can either be pieced in, or fillers can be used and painted over.

Finally, the fungus will decay the timber in rectangular chunks and through long, deep cracks in the timber. It will be crumbly and may even crush into powdery splinters when pressure is placed against it. By this stage, the dry rot will have progressed far too far for a repair, and will need full replacement. It’s also recommended that if the location of the rotted timber is one where fungal growth has a high chance of recurring, you should consider treating any new timber with the No-Rot Gel treatment as this is also a preventative treatment that forms a barrier against those fungi.

Identifying and Treating Wet Rot

Wet rot is most common in areas with poor ventilation and drainage, that retain excessive amounts of moisture. They tend to be found in and around bathrooms that have had water leaks, old window and door frames, and external timber balustrade, decking and fences. Wet rot tends to be less problematic and easier to treat than dry rot. Early stages of wet rot can be quite difficult to identify visually as many people don’t notice it until the paint starts to warp or flake.

Identifying traits for wet rot include:

  • Softness of timber. Wood should be hard – if it is soft or spongy to the touch, or you can stick a knife into it, you likely have wet rot.
  • Swelling or warping of timber. If your timber is not the size or shape it used to be, perhaps your door no longer fits into the frame, this could be indicative of rot.
  • Bubbling, flaking or discolouration of the paint coating. As the timber softens, rots and disintegrates, it can come away from the paint which will be visible to the naked eye, and can be a good indicator of mid-range wet rot.
  • Darkness of the timber. Rotten timber will often appear darker than normal, dry, unaffected timber.

The treatment for wet rot really depends on the severity of it.

Mild wet rot can manifest as soft timber, and swelling in many cases. If the causes for mild rot like this are rectified quickly, and the timber has been dried out, it’s quite possible to treat the timber to harden it and sand it back to a paintable finish. This tends to be for small internal areas like a bathroom where a minor leak may have occurred.

Medium wet rot can soften the timber to the point that parts will disintegrate away, beneath the protective paint layer. By this stage it will be plainly visible that there’s rot, whether you have painted or raw timber. In order to treat this, the rot will need to be cut away, and the gaps will need to be treated and filled. Once the frame has been rebuilt it can be painted. This unfortunately will mean that the timber will need to have a painted finish as the filled areas will be visible as a different colour and finish to the timber. In the case of raw timbers, you’ll need to replace the entire section.

Severe wet rot will require complete replacement of the timber sections, or even the full frame. There’s a point at which you can no longer safely remove rotted sections of timber without compromising the structural integrity of the frame. When small sections are removed, it can be reinforced with timber, small rei bar or fixings however large sections will not benefit enough from this treatment. The timber lengths must be removed and replaced with new treated timber.

So there you have it. You should now be able to identify the type of rot you have. If you’d like us to take care of the repairs for you, please feel free to get in contact with us to learn more.

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