What is Wet Rot?

May 20, 2018

 

 

It’s unlikely that homeowners here in Tampa are strangers to the problems associated with moisture-saturated wood. Our humid climate tends to cause our timber to be more saturated with moisture than it does in more dry regions. As a result, the homeowners in this region have been dealing with problems associated with moisture-saturated timber ever since people started building houses here.

Humidity isn’t the only source of this moisture, however. Appliances that run on water malfunction all the time, and leaky pipes and deficient plumbing systems also play a major role in moisture-saturated wood. However, the one phenomenon that is most likely to cause the wood in our houses to become saturated with moisture on a large scale is something we’ve been lucky enough to avoid for nearly 100 years: flooding. That luck is not going to last forever, and we think it’s important for our community to know what will go wrong with the wood in their homes and how to deal with it in the event that we experience a major flood.

The most important thing to be aware of when it comes wood that is saturated with moisture is fungal decay, specifically wet rot. While this fungal organism can cause plenty of damage on its own without a flood, it’s inevitable that it will wreak havoc in the event of a flood. Below you’ll find out what this organism is, what conditions it thrives in, how to identify it, and what to do if you find it in your home.

 

What is Wet Rot?

 

Wet rot is a common name typically used to refer to a species of fungi called Coniophora puteana. However, the term ‘wet rot’ is used in various places throughout the world to describe a wide variety of different fungal species. As the name implies, wet rot requires a significant amount of moisture in order to invade timber. More specifically, a piece of timber must possess a moisture content of at least 50% for it to be susceptible to wet rot infestation. In the event of a major flood, this is the fungus that is most likely to cause major damage throughout the city of Tampa. However, if there hasn’t been any flooding in your area, and you discover wet rot in your home, it is usually indicative that there is a major leak occurring somewhere in your home.

Wet rot, like most fungi, undergoes its reproductive part of its life cycle by producing an unfathomable amount of microscopic spores. An individual wet rot organism that has successfully infested a piece of wood will produce hundreds of thousands if not millions of spores in its lifetime. These spores, much like seeds, will germinate if they land on wood that is sufficiently saturated, and grow into a mass of stringy white tissue called mycelium. The mycelium will penetrate deep into the wood, and like hundreds of microscopic straws, the mycelium will suck up all the adjacent moisture. As they suck up the moisture, they will also suck up and absorb nutrients from the wood they live in, which will cause the wood to become structurally compromised.

 

How to I.D. Wet Rot

 

Identifying wet rot in the home is straightforward. First off, if you detect any smell that seems damp or musty, you should begin inspecting your home for the other warning signs of wet rot. You will likely find wood that is slightly discolored, soft and wet feeling, and it will likely have some kind of black mold growing on it. If you find these signs, you have discovered actively growing wet rot. You may also find wood that is discolored, but is dry, cracked, and crumbles easily. This is most likely wet rot that has used up all of the available moisture nearby and has gone dormant, waiting for more moisture to come along.

 

How to Treat Wet Rot

 

The first thing to do if you have discovered wet rot in your home is to have the source of moisture identified. This is very straightforward if the infestation is flood-related. However, if there hasn’t been a flood, you’ll need to find out where that water is coming from. After the source has been identified and mitigated, the next thing you’ll need to have done is an assessment of the damage to your timber. Regardless of whether the infested wood needs to replaced, a chemical fungicide will need to be applied to your home. If the wood is not too compromised, this will kill the fungus and prevent any more damage from occurring. If the wood is so compromised that it must be replaced, you’ll need to have your new timber treated with a fungicide to ensure that any remaining spores in your home will be destroyed. This will prevent a new infestation occurring in your new wood. Having to have your wood replaced is certainly not a fun thing to have to do, but it can help to look at it as an opportunity to do some home re-designing and spruce things up a bit.

 

Conclusion

 

If your home is subjected to flooding, you are going to need to get in touch with a restoration company. Luckily, restoration work is our top specialty here at Premiere Builders. The sooner you get in touch with us, the sooner we’ll be able to come out and get to work preventing wet rot from getting a foothold in your home. In the event that you discover wet rot in your home in the absence of a flood, you’ll want to have an expert come out and identify the source of the leak in your home and get that fixed as quickly as possible. It is likely in this event that you will still need restoration work to get your home rid of the presence of the fungus, and depending on the amount of damage caused, you may need to have your affected timber replaced.

 

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