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Every year, many homeowners face the problem of dry rot, leaving them to spend a considerable amount of money on home renovations and dry rot treatments.
Meticulous homeowners stay on the lookout for all kinds of structural problems such as water damage, plumbing, or foundation problem. Some of these structural problems can cause, or be the result of dry rot.
However, what is dry rot? Moreover, can you do something about it yourself or should you hire an expert? Let’s get the information.
What is dry rot?
Dry rot is a form of wood decay caused by certain species of fungi.
When dry rot occurs, the fungi break down cellulose and hemicellulose, the elements which give wood its strength and stability. When wood is affected by dry rot, it will weaken, become brittle and will eventually break down the wood. The leading cause of dry rot is moisture in timber. Areas that are damp with poor ventilation provide the ideal condition for a fungal attack and the development of dry rot.
How does dry rot develop?
Dry rot spores are in the atmosphere. The moment they land on timber, they will develop and produce hyphae (fine strands of fungal growth) in damp environmental conditions.
The hyphae strands connect to form a mass called Mycelium which can vary in colour from grey to pure white, growing into and across the damp wood.
In its advanced growing stage, a Sporophore has the potential to develop. Its surface is an orange/ochre colour; similar to a fleshy pancake. A large number of spores develop from the centre of the fruiting body, under still conditions, and form the red “dust” that often can be seen where there is a great amount of dry rot attack.
Where can you find dry rot in your home?
Dry rot is seldom visible and exposed; it usually lies inside walls, underneath the floors and in roofing.
Unfortunately, many homeowners won’t realise they have a dry rot problem until they receive the results from a house survey, or worse, when the dry rot has caused extensive damage. As most won’t seek out a survey unless they plan to sell their home, or start extensive renovations, dry rot can go unnoticed until the problem becomes serious.
To make sure you and your family avoid any potential disasters, it is important that you look out for these signs of dry rot:
- Brown, red, or grey “skin” on wooden surfaces (with or without thread-like strands or fibre growth)
- Shrunken, cracked, or darkened wood
- Damp, musty odours
- Bubbling or blistering paint
- Hard wood that has become soft
Since the main cause of dry rot is moisture, pay attention to areas where there is poor ventilation and where the development of moisture can occur such as these areas in your home:
- Wood that rests around the base of the house or on a concrete foundation
- The flooring or tiles surrounding showers and tubs
- Roof edges, especially areas where the gutters are attached
- Shower Walls
- Wood siding
DIY dry rot treatment
Dry rot can sometimes be a vague problem that has the potential to escalate to a mortal threat. When faced with a dry rot problem, some people opt to call a specialist to treat the problem. However, this can quickly add up to a large bill. If you’re on a budget you can try treating dry rot with DIY methods.
If you are faced with a serious dry rot problem, investing in a professional to assess the extent of the damage may be a wise move.
Once you have detected the area of wood infected by dry rot, the primary step is to remove the source of water causing the damp before performing any dry rot treatment. The dry rot problem will only reoccur if you do not remove the main source of moisture causing the buildout of dry rot.
Once you have addressed this issue you can move onto using your chosen form of treatment.
Borate dry rot treatment
This treatment prevents wood rot in new wood and kills rot-causing fungi. Keep children out of reach when using this treatment, and wear a protective face mask and gloves as you will be working with chemicals.
You will need:
- Borax – also known as sodium borate is a salt of boric acid. It can be bought from most from cleaning supply stores; whether online or otherwise.
- Boric Acid – can also be found online, or sometimes sold as a method to kill cockroaches.
- Rubber gloves
- Kitchen stove
- Protective face mask
- Large paintbrush
- Steel pot/container – use a separate steel pot, not the ones you use in the kitchen or buy a new one solely for the purpose of this treatment.
This method uses a mixture of borax and boric acid. Although the names are similar, these two substances are different. Borax is a salt of boric acid and comes in crystal form. Their names tend to be used interchangeably which can lead to confusion.
Both borax and boric acid are low-toxicity pesticides common in home use, thus making a great dry rot treatment. Neither of the two are toxic to humans if used correctly, making them popular in DIY mixtures to fight against bugs and fungi. That being said, you must use care when working with these two chemicals and follow the instructions on their packaging.
In a large container, mix 60 percent borax and 40 percent boric acid together. Using a burner or your kitchen stove, stir the mixture over a low heat until the borax crystals completely dissolve.
Using your paintbrush, apply to the areas where dry rot can develop. Allow the mixture to sink into the wood, then pat off any excess with a clean towel and allow the area to dry completely. Only use this type of treatment at temperatures above 40 degrees, as lower temperatures will not maintain a fully effective and properly dissolved mixture.
Wood stabiliser and wood filler
Keep children out of reach and wear a protective face mask when doing this treatment. It is also important that you have basic carpentry skills since you will use a chisel or saw during this process.
You will need:
- Protective face mask
- Wood Filler
- Wood stabiliser
- Chisel or saw
- Heavy-duty rubber work gloves
Remove every piece of the infected wood using a saw or chisel. Note that if a little strain of fungus-infected wood is left, it will automatically affect the healthy wood. Apply a layer of wood stabiliser to the good wood exposed by dry rot. Use any brush size applicable to the area but make sure the brush is not damp or dirty. Let the wood stabiliser dry completely.
Once the wood stabiliser is completely dried, mix the wood filler thoroughly according to its instructions. Apply a thin layer of the wood filler over the wood treated with the stabiliser. Let it partially dry and apply another layer. Repeat as necessary.
Professional dual treatment concentrate
This concentrate contains an insecticide and fungicide to protect and preserve the wood. Keep children out of reach and wear a protective face mask when doing this treatment.
You will need:
- Dual treatment concentrate – you can buy this in your local hardware store.
- Paintbrush/empty low-pressure spray container
- Protective face mask
In the container, dilute the concentrate with water. Using a brush or a low-pressure spray, apply the solution on the wood. Apply this during the drying out period after eliminating the source of damp. Allow the treatment to dry completely.
Store bought treatments
You also have the option of buying premade dry rot treatments online or in hardware stores. If you don’t feel confident making your own treatment, these are a good option to fall back on, but they will probably be more expensive than making your own.
Common mistakes in dry rot treatment
Dry rot can easily come back if this is not treated successfully and will lead you back to your dry rot dilemma. To successfully repair the dry rot, always avoid these common mistakes in dry rot treatment.
- Incomplete Removal
A single strain of wood that is still infected by dry rot can affect all the good wood. Dry rot can travel, and any remaining infected wood can completely ruin the treatment. Therefore, a keen inspection is needed after removing infected wood. If the dry rot was in your flooring, this would be less of a problem and easier to do a proper check, as opposed to if it’s in your roof. However, even if the dry rot was in a challenging area, you still need to carry out a thorough inspection.
2. Leaving Untreated Materials
After removing the dry rotted wood, make sure that you are replacing the area with treated wood. You can treat the wood with an antifungal solution like the ones mentioned above before using it as a replacement to the dry rotted wood.
3. Not being able to correct the moisture problem
As mentioned earlier, before performing any DIY treatment, the primary step is to remove the source of water causing the damp. All materials and woods to be used during the treatment process should remain dry at all times.
Even if you have successfully treated the wood but were not able to remove the moisture or damp problem, the wood will eventually still be exposed to damp and will repeat the dry rot problem. Eliminate the dampening or moisture problem before starting any treatment.
Dry rot has health implications for people too. Dry rot’s presence in your house may cause respiratory problems and other health problems. Woodworms, wet rot and mould infestation that may develop from untreated, dry rot are potentially harmful to human health.
Not only is dry rot dangerous to health, but dry rot is also one of the major culprits causing structural accidents and deaths. A structure exposed to dry rot is vulnerable to earthquakes and people overloading the house or infrastructure.
As they always say, prevention is better than cure. Always take time to check the faulty areas in your house and repair them early to avoid further damage. You have the advantage if informed and aware of the signs of dry rot and how to treat them. It is inevitable for a house to have structural problems but with some preventive measures and treatments, you and your house will definitely stand tall and firm over the years.