Wet Rot 101: How to Identify and Treat It

Published On: November 13, 20190 Comments on Wet Rot 101: How to Identify and Treat ItLast Updated: February 12, 20244.6 min read

Wet rot can be devastating to your home. Even if you don’t have it yet, you need to be aware of how to identify and treat it before it happens to your house. All timber is at risk, but you can mitigate it with a bit of knowledge.

How to identify and treat wet rot

So let’s hop right in and we’ll teach you how to identify and treat wet rot.

What Is Wet Rot?

Wet rot is a rather generic name given to a variety of fungal infections that can hit any untreated wooden surface. The majority of fungal or algae infections in wood fall under the definition of wet rot. The exception is dry rot, which can only be caused in certain circumstances. Wet rot can attack any wood, and treating it is a huge problem for many homeowners. While it may be cosmetic in some cases, you may be in trouble if it attacks structural components in the home. Wet rot is always found in the presence of moisture, as the name says. It’s not always immediately apparent, however, as it can begin in small cracks and other areas where water has dripped unseen.

Identifying Wet Rot in Your Home

Being able to figure out what you’re looking at is the first stop along the way. Timber which is under attack is usually easy to identify. Any leaking pipes or other sources of moisture hitting wood without a waterproof finish is susceptible. The timber will often be cracking and in other cases, you may even be able to identify the fungus through the mycelium. These thin white strands mean that the rot has really taken hold and you’ll need to act as quickly as possible.

Apart from the fungus actually being present, the following are all good signs you’re dealing with wet rot:

  • Timber breaks easily
  • Wood is separating into cubes
  • Moldy smell

If it’s underneath the floor, that section may feel springy or spongy. Flooring in kitchens, for instance, may begin to rot out of sight and can spread quite a bit when the person who owns the home doesn’t know what they’re looking for. In almost all cases, there will also be the presence of water, so you’ll most likely have two problems to deal with during the treatment process. In advanced cases, the timber may be falling apart and the fruiting bodies may actually be growing out of the wood. If you’re seeing mushrooms, then there’s a big problem. When things have gotten that far, it’s important to act immediately to prevent further damage.

How to Treat Wet Rot

If you’ve caught wet rot in the beginning stages, you may be able to handle it yourself. Of course, the first thing to do is to make sure you’ve taken care of whatever is causing dampness. Leaking roofs or pipes are a common cause of wet rot in the home, but any source of moisture can become a problem if there’s constant exposure. You may need a professional for this part, but once you’ve identified and taken care of the problem, you can actually begin to treat the rot. You’ll need to let the affected wood dry out before you can come to a final decision on what to do. You can speed the process along with a heat gun if you happen to have one on hand, especially for thick timber which may take days to dry out once waterlogged.

How to identify and treat wet rot - treating wet rot

Fortunately, wet rot only spreads in damp conditions. If you caught it early enough, you may be able to get away with not having to do anything more than fixing the dampness problem. There’s still damage to the timber in almost all cases. Grab an awl or screwdriver once the wood’s dried and try pushing it into the wood. Anywhere it penetrates is a problematic area. Depending on where the rot has occurred, you should be able to cut away the section that’s affected. Be careful not to remove anything that’s load-bearing. Afterward, you’ll simply need to replace the wood that’s been removed. Reversing the damp conditions will usually solve small cases, but sometimes, the rot will spread more than you can handle.

When Do You Need Professional Help?

You’re probably not equipped to replace structural components in the home. If you have a load-bearing wall, rafters, or other components that actually hold the home up and have a bad case of wet rot, then you’ll need a specialist. There are specialists available; you can find someone to handle structural repairs pretty easily. They’ll be able to handle the problem. You may also need help if you’ve lost a large section of cosmetic work. Things like hardwood flooring can be affected if they’re consistently exposed to water and the rot can spread without you knowing. In that case, you may need to hire a flooring specialist to take care of the section that’s rotted out. You’ll usually know if you need an extra helping hand. If in doubt, pick up the phone.

Don’t Suffer Rotting Timber

Wet rot can hit when we least expect it, but knowing how to identify it and how to take care of it in the early stages can help. It’s important to keep an eye out for it in the home at all times, especially if you own an older home that’s primarily comprised of timber. Have you got a patch of rot in your home? If so, the time to act is now.

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