Wood Rot

Wood Rot Solid State Home Inspections

When we look around our neighbourhoods it is easy to think that we humans are in control but nature does not agree. Our homes on our wet Canadian coast were built over a former coastal rain forest and that forest around us carries spores and organisms designed to break down wood back into soil. Given the right conditions, these organisms will attach to our homes and the damage done as our homes deteriorate we call ‘rot’.

Where Does Rot Grow?

Organisms that create rot grow where there are organic materials, moisture, and warmth. Organic material is commonly wood siding or trim materials but if the rot is advanced, it can also be the wood siding and even structural walls of our homes. We have all seen images of old farm houses and barns left to rot and over time they suffer from structural collapse.

Rot can grow in temperatures as low as five degrees Celsius and with up to 100mm of rain a year in the Vancouver area, there is no shortage of water in our climate to help promote growth.

What areas are susceptible to Rot?

Air movement and sunshine are the best tools at drying the exterior of our homes. Unfortunately, the north sides of our homes see very little sun in the winter months which makes this area the most susceptible to rot. Allowing vines or other vegetation to grow against the sides of our homes can also prevent the sun and air to dry out our homes. Storage placed against our homes can also restrict movement with one of the worst stored items being wood piles which are a constant source of rot causing organisms and wood eating insects.

Another high source of moisture can come from the ground itself either through direct contact with soil or through water wicked up concrete. Flower beds and planters placed along the side of the house can quickly create rot at and below the soil level causing non-visible damage to the exterior and structure. It is best to have 6-8” of foundation visible around your entire home to ensure the house is held above the water found in soil.

How do I Stop Rot?

Wood is an amazing building product as it can absorb and release water without damaging the structural integrity of the wood fibers. However, once rot has done damage to the wood fibers, the damage is permanent. It is possible to repair areas with small amounts of rot and protect them with a new coat of paint but when large areas are effected by rot, wood products may require replacement.

Replacing wood trim occasionally is considered regular home maintenance. Keeping wood trim and siding painted or stained regularly can also encourage drying and slow the effects of organic growth. If regular maintenance, particularly on wood sided homes, is neglected for a long period the costs of repair and replacement can be very significant to the home and may involved repairing structural areas.

What Does a Home Inspector Look for with Rot?

Home inspectors are looking for signs of rot to determine if there is maintenance needed, minor repairs needed, or major repairs needed. Home inspectors are looking for visual signs of rot and may probe sample areas to see if rot is perhaps concealed under paint.

Unfortunately, rot can often be hidden by soil levels, storage and vegetation, or concealed with paint which will not be visible during a home inspection.

Our gallery of maintenance needed pictures show many pictures where rot has set in.

Final Thoughts

Preventing rot is about regular maintenance. Ensuring that your home has adequate clearance from the ground, removing vegetation and storage from the outside of the home, maintaining paint and caulking, and doing minor repairs as needed can keep your home free of major rot for its lifetime.

By James Bell - Owner/Operator of Solid State Inspections Inc.