By definition rot is the decomposition of wood from active bacteria and fungi. In its natural habitat of forests and jungles, rotting wood is a welcome and integral part of the circle of life. Finding rot in your home, however, is not a pleasant experience and can result in a costly repair bill. This is unfortunately a common problem found, not only in older homes, but even recently built houses that are only a few years old.
“Why is my house rotting?” you may ask. Wood begins to rot when its internal moisture level is too high. Normal moisture levels for wood framing and sheathing typically range from 8%- 14%. It is widely recognized that significant decomposition by wood-rotting fungi will occur above the saturation point of 25% moisture content, and may occur at levels as low as 20%. Furthermore, some fungi, such as Aspergillus and Penicillium, can grow at wood moisture contents of approximately 16%.
Most common places we find rot in residential structures and their causes are:
Windows and doors:
o Caused by improper flashing around exterior perimeter of windows and doors.
o Prolonged exposure to condensation can rot the wooden frames to windows and doors, which in turn, can allow moisture to enter the wall or floor cavity causing structural damage to your house.
o A leaking water supply or drain line beneath the sink can go undetected and cause rot.
o The water supply line that goes to the refrigerator can leak and saturate the floor.
o Sometimes, older dishwashers have a tendency to leak which, over time can cause rot in the floor system beneath.
o Supply lines that feed the shower and sinks can sometimes spring a slow leak (often at a fitting) and go undetected for months.
o Drain lines to bathroom plumbing fixtures can sometimes leak around the fittings, saturating the surrounding wall or floor cavity.
o Showers: Many tiled showers do not have the proper water-proofing BEHIND the tile, which over time allows moisture to penetrate into the surrounding walls and floor causing rot, mold, and fungal growth.
o Toilets that aren’t sealed properly at the base can also cause moisture to enter the floor cavity.
o Small leaks in the roof system can cause significant damage and go undetected for months or even years if the moisture is concealed in the attic or in a wall.
o Plumbing boots around plumbing wet-vents can become cracked and allow water to enter around the vent-stack and enter the house.
o Gutters that aren’t regularly cleaned or that are sloped the wrong way can direct water inside a wall or roof cavity.
o One of the most common culprits with roofs are improperly flashed chimneys. Many roofers rely on caulking to seal around chimney flashing and this method will ALWAYS fail and allow water to enter.
Crawl Spaces (View our Crawl Space Encapsulation page to learn more)
o Heavy condensation from ground moisture can constantly saturate the floor system above and create the perfect environment for mold and fungi to grow, eventually rotting the structural members that compose the floor system.
o A wooden member, a floor joist for example, in contact with the ground will quickly begin to rot and decay.
o Out-of-sight/out-of-mind: Plumbing leaks in a crawl space can quickly cause significant rot as it may go undetected for months or years.
Decks and Siding:
o Decks that are directly attached to the house can very quickly cause significant damage to a structure if it isn’t flashed properly.
o Siding should always be flashed behind end joints, and where it joins up with windows, doors, corners, roof-lines, etc. The siding on a house is it’s first line of defense against moisture, and improperly installed can lead to water intrusion on a grand scale.
o Cedar siding that has not been maintained will tend to crack and at times warp off of the wall, possibly causing multiple entry points for water on EACH piece of siding.
Prevention and Detection
The first key to early detection is to have regular inspections done on your property to catch rot before it can spread and do too much damage. This is the best way to keep rot at bay and is especially important if you live in an area with high humidity or moisture.
Here are a few signs that may indicate that you have a problem with rot:
• Water stains below the bottom of windows. Most of the time, these will appear below the corners of the window.
• Soft or spongy wood on window frames, sills, or brick-molding.
• Colored water stains on the sheetrock of walls or ceilings
• If you have hardwood floors, look at the joints of the wood in front of doors to see if it is discolored (generally black).
• Spongy flooring, especially around doors, windows, toilets, and sinks.
• The appearance of Carpenter Ants usually means that there is a moisture problem somewhere in your house. Ants LOVE moist wood and will quickly decimate a wall that is moist from a small leak.
• Exterior siding: If paint is only peeling in certain locations and not others, this probably means that there is a moisture problem and possibly a more serious rot problem. Look for this below windows, on inside corners of walls below gutters, beneath decks where they attach to the house, and at wall-to-roof junctions.
Why Use a Professional?
If you suspect that you have a problem with Rot, please give us a call. We have the experience and knowledge to perform an accurate inspection for rot, and know where to look and what to look for. If rot is found at your home, we will make expert recommendations on what the necessary resolution should be and thoroughly discuss your options for repairing the damage.
Here at Hatter and Sons, we understand that repairing rot can be an extensive, costly, and frustrating endeavor. Because we have many years of experience dealing with problems caused by rot, our knowledgeable craftsmen will always work to get the job done quickly and correctly. Also, because we have an established relationship with local suppliers, we can offer you the best prices on materials for your project. Most importantly, as a Virginia Class A building contractor, we understand building codes and as such will ensure they have any applicable permits, required materials and have the proper inspections completed.
Your home is an investment and for many people it is the largest investment you will make. Therefore, in cases as serious as rot, it is important to protect your investment using a licensed and insured contractor that has the experience to complete your project properly. Choose a contractor that will guarantee their work and has plenty of good references.
Here in Virginia, there is a construction company you can trust to inspect your home for rot, and repair or replace the wood in your home. For all your building needs contact Hatter and Sons, Incorporated for the best in carpentry, building techniques and service. Call Philip @ (540) 569-6351 today for a consultation.