How to Find and Handle Dry Rot

Time: 1 hour to 1 day

Dry rot is caused by a fungus that eats away at wood and weakens it, which can jeopardize the structure of your home. Here's how to check your home for dry rot and take care of any issues you find.

What's in it for you?

  • Improved safety
  • Improved structural integrity
  • Better looking floors, walls, and trim

How to Find and Handle Dry Rot:

  1. Begin with a visual inspection. Check all exposed wood for peeling paint, mold or mildew, which indicate water damage. In these areas, look for shrinking, cracking or flaking wood. Dry rot often looks like a white or gray wooly film, or you may notice flat, mushroom-like growths on the surface of the wood.
  2. Continue with the smell test. If you suspect dry rot, lean in and sniff the area. Because dry rot is a fungus, it will often smell musty.
  3. Probe the wood in problem areas. Use a screwdriver to poke into suspected rot. If it easily enters and you can dig out wood chips, you have dry rot. Use your screwdriver to clear the area to see how extensive the damage is.
  4. Be sure to inspect both indoor and outdoor wood. Dry rot can occur anywhere wood is exposed to water, so check all window and door frames, corner boards, siding and decks. Inside your home, inspect wood trim, walls and floors in bathrooms and kitchens, particularly near pipes. Window and door frames, skylights, basements and attics are other common areas to find dry rot.
  5. Troubleshoot dry rot by removing moisture sources. If you do discover dry rot, it's imperative to eliminate the source of moisture to keep the problem from growing. Repair leaky pipes and the like before you do anything else.
  6. Remove damaged wood. Rotted wood should be removed and replaced. In general, this requires using a saw to cut away rotten areas.
  7. Treat surrounding wood. A boric acid or copper wood preservative should be painted on nearby wood to kill any remaining fungus spores.
  8. Replace damaged wood. Wood that was removed needs to be replaced with fresh boards, posts or pieces of trim. Once these are installed, treat new wood with preservative or add a protective coat of paint to prevent dry rot from being a problem in the future.

Pro Tip: Don't try to cut away damage to structural members on your own! Call an experienced contractor if you find dry rot on joists and beams.

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