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Wood Rot, Facts you should know.


For centuries man has relied on wood for many different uses such as heat, shelter, art, decoration, furniture and others. It is an integral part of our daily lives, yet it is under constant threat of decay and insect attack. Wood used in decks, floor and ceiling joists, posts and beams are rotting due to excess moisture. This article will try to explain wood, how to protect it and what to do when you start having problems.

Wood is composed of a complex mixture of substances, but the main component of all wood is a sugar called cellulose. Cellulose serves as the primary source of energy and nutrition for many forms of life including decay fungi, termites and beetles.

Once a tree is cut down, its own natural defense mechanisms are cut off and mother natureís job is to return it to the earth. Therefore, property managers have to be very pro-active in terms of wood protection. The use of pressure treated wood is always recommended when wood will be exposed to the elements, in contact with dirt or cement. Pressure treated wood is impregnated with a preservative that is chemically fixed in the wood and will last 30 years or more in most cases.

The worst enemy of wood is excessive moisture. The prevailing challenge is to keep wood dry and protected. Proper design, product selection and maintenance of facilities are a means of preventing excessive moisture. When untreated wood is exposed to excess moisture, wood decay can establish itself very quickly and can fail in 5 years or less. In addition, decaying wood provides a natural environment for termites, carpenter ants, plus a host of beetles and other boring insects. Wood destroying organisms need three things for survival: water, food (cellulose from wood) and oxygen. Take away any one and the organisms canít survive. Logs at the bottom of any lake are still in good shape because there is no oxygen. Kiln dried lumber wonít rot because there is not enough moisture. Pressure treated wood wonít rot because the food supply has been poisoned.

In the United States more than 10% per year of lumber production is destined for replacement of decayed wood. Decks are a particularly tough application for wood. Paint, potted plants, outdoor carpets and doormats can trap moisture and cause the wood to rot. Trapped water will accelerate the decay process. Deck boards, joist and posts donít last half as long as they would otherwise.

During inspections, you may encounter wood decay in floor joists, attics, baseboards, behind sinks and bath areas, and certainly in the crawlspace under the building. When doing an inspection of your facility look for areas where moisture may cause wood decay such as:

1) Areas exposed to frequent rain (decks, handrails or support posts).

2) Where wood may be in contact with the ground (resting on cement slabs or supports or where water can wick up from ground surface).

3) Water or rain runoff onto unprotected wood (no side guttering or run off from shingles or fascia ends) 4) Splashing rain (onto decks, fascia, exposed wood ends or steps).

5) Plumbing leaks (behind sinks, bathtubs, toilets, and dishwashers).

6) Seeping rain area (in attics on rafters or under soffits).


Other areas prone to wood rot are the following: Lam Beams, Deck boards, Floor Joists, Logs, Sills, House framing, Eve ends, Rafter tails, Fascias and Fencing. Probe any suspect areas with a knife. Rotten wood is very soft and the knife blade will go into the wood with very little resistance. Another method is tapping the wood with a hammer. You will be able to hear the resonant tone of solid wood versus the dull thud of rotten wood. If you have a moisture meter, look for wood with moisture content in excess of 25%. When the diagnosis has been determined the proper products need to be addressed.

Borates and epoxies are quickly being discovered as a very cost effective solution to rip out and replace. Using borate wood preservatives is simple and effective. Borates are highly toxic to all wood destroying organisms and unlike other wood preservatives borates are non-volatile, odorless, have less toxicity than table salt to humans and mammals. They do not discolor the wood and are non-corrosive. Environmentally safe and known to be effective in controlling over 45 different species of wood decaying fungus, they are also effective in controlling beetles, termites, carpenter ants and a host of other insects. Epoxies can be either wood consolidants or wood fillers. Often times when a rot pocket is detected, the rotten wood is excavated. The surrounding area is treated with borates. Then, the liquid epoxy consolidant is applied to harden the soft wood. Once that has cured, the epoxy wood filler is packed into the void. When that cures, it can be sanded flush and repainted.

Steps to take when wood decay has been detected: Deal with the source of moisture. Redirect the water away from he wood whenever possible. Treat the wood with borates to kill the decay fungi and poison the wood as a future food source. Use a liquid wood consolidant to harden and strengthen rotting wood. Use wood filler to fill in missing areas. Re-paint or stain. This process revitalizes the usability of wood that was once damaged to a point that replacement was the only option. Now, you can combine proven technologies into the best of all options allowing wood to be resuscitated at a fraction of the cost of replacement. Here are some True and False statements about wood:


1. When you see dry rot, you have to cut it out and replace it.2. Epoxy stops Wood Rot.3. It is always cheaper to replace rather than treat in place.4. Cutting out only the visible Wood Rot stops Wood Rot.5. Replace only, (do not stop cause) and the new wood will not rot.6. There are no environmentally long-term safe ways to treat wood 7. Dry rot is only in more humid areas.8. Painting untreated wood preserves it.


1. Decay is wood cancer; wood epoxy replaces ONLY the area of soft wood.2. Replacement costs can be much greater than in place treatment.3. The decay organism extends microfilaments or roots from the main body, which can infect adjacent areas. These areas can worsen quickly if left untreated.

4. Wood decay organisms can cross butt joints to begin decay in adjacent areas.

5. Borate based wood preservatives utilize environmentally safe, scientifically proven, natural elements, which are effective in stopping and controlling wood decay.

6. Water or moisture content above about 25% is the prerequisite for decay (rot, dry rot, white rot, soft rot, brown etc.) and most insect problems.

Epoxies can harden soft rotten wood but will not kill the decay organism. Borate treatments followed by epoxy treatments are the most cost effective, long-term cure. Painting wood that is exposed to constant wetting can trap moisture in the wood and accelerated the decay process. We supply borate based wood preservatives like Penetreat, Timber Saver, Armor-Guard and Impel Rods to contractors, homeowners and institutions that solve problems such as rot, and wood destroying insects like termites, beetles and carpenter ants. Call with any questions, I can be reached at 800-726-0708 and ask for Dave Carter Jr. or email me at

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