When it come to our homes we are most fearful of that nasty “rot” word. It puts fear into the hearts of even the best DIYer. You have visions of having to remove whole floors and roofs falling down due to rotten timbers. Well in most cases, the recognising and treatment of wet rot is fairly simple and can be completed by most people once the source of the problem is dealt with.
Wet rot, as you may have guessed by its name, is caused when wood is subjected to high levels of moisture. This water can come up from the ground or can be caused by simple things like inadequate guttering or a pipe leak within the home. In some cases the problem could be caused by a structural issue within the home, causing the roof to leak or water to enter through the walls.
Once the wood becomes wet, fungi starts to grow. The most common types of fungi associated with wet rot are coniphora puteana which is often found in basement areas. This will crack timber and looks black in appearance. Poria vaillantii looks white and causes wood to shrink, while phellinus contiguous is most often found on outside walls and causes wood to crumble. The good thing about wet rot is that unlike dry rot, the fungus does not spread along the wood and will confine itself to the wet areas only.
Once you have identified that you have wet rot you will need to work out what has caused it. It some cases, such as with poor guttering, the cause will be obvious and easily remedied. However if it is seepage coming from underground, then it may be more difficult to prevent and may require the services of an expert. A damp course may need to be added. Keep all wooden areas of your home, both indoors and out, well maintained. Use wood preservative and keep concrete areas free of rising damp.
Once you have fixed the cause of the problem you can attack the problem itself. If the wood has not been affected too badly you may be able to simply allow it to dry out. If the rot has penetrated deep into the wood then you need to remove any rotten parts. You may be able to splice new wood onto old if a small area is affected, otherwise the entire timber will need to be replaced. Treat all wood with a preservative. Allow the whole area to dry out before sealing it all in again; this way you can be sure that no more leaks exist.
Above all continue to check for wet rot on a continual basis. If you have an older home then this is likely to be an ongoing issue and is best dealt with regularly.
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