Wood repair is one of the most common home repairs because your house has a lot of wood. Most (not all) wood rot occurs on your home's exterior where your home gets wet and water doesn't run off or evaporate. While some home repairs might seem optional, you'll save money by making wood rot repairs as soon as you find the problem.
How can you save money? Wood rot is caused by wood destroying fungi that breaks down the wood cells which are a food source, producing wood rot or decay. When you repair wood rot, you are essentially removing the fungi which is causing the damage and replacing or repairing the damaged sections of wood. Until the fungi is gone along with the conditions (moisture and temperature) needed to support the fungi, more damage will occur.
Where to Find Wood Rot On Your Home's Exterior
Your home's exterior is exposed to the weather year round and many homeowners don't realize the most important role of exterior paint is to protect the wood from water damage. The wood trim that bumps out from your home is vulnerable to wood rot because it takes a beating from the weather, and if you don't paint frequently enough, water finds its way into the wood where it can support wood eating fungi and yes, carpenter ants which we found frequently in my handyman business.
Sadly some homeowners remain in denial like the woman in Salem, NH who didn't believe her house was infested with carpenter ants (photo shown). It wouldn't surprise me if her home is condemned because she refuses to deal with the Masonite siding problems that are destroying load bearing walls (learn about the Masonite class action lawsuits).
So where should you be inspecting your home to find wood rot before it gets bad?
- Wood trim just below the roof line, both the vertical fascia boards and the horizontal soffits.
- On the gable ends of a house, there's also wood trim and gable vents. My handyman business replaced many gable vents, and one homeowner who insisted on wood vents, had us install metal vents about 6 months later.
- Corner boards bump out from the house, so they're a common home repair.
- Window trim and especially window sills have lots of wood rot, making them a top home repair. Even though the sills are sloped down for runoff, fine silt from the air collects in the corners and traps water … and you know the rest of the story.
- Wood trim around doors, and the door itself, suffers wood rot damage when not painted often enough. A common problem is not realized doors have 6 sides that have to be painted.
- Vertical board just below exterior doors (front door, side doors and sliding patio doors) is one of the worst for wood rot because rain hits the step and splashes back up onto this board.
- Columns and other decorative trim around your home and especially near the ground (splash back similar to the front door) is prone to wood rot.
- Decks attached to a house using a ledger board, are another common home repair that's very stressful for homeowners and your handyman. When do-it-yourselfers install their own decks, they don't understand how critical flashing is to keep water away from the house.
Different Ways to Repair Wood Rot Damage
This article isn't meant to scare you. This article is to open your eyes to potential wood rot projects you want to prevent, or when they do happen, motivate you to make required repairs right away. There are numerous options available and they're gaining more visibility via YouTube. Here are factors to consider when deciding if you're going to handle wood rot repairs yourself, or hire a professional with lots of experience.
- Do you have the tools and experience working with the materials needed for the job?
- Can you reach the area in need of repairs from the ground, or will the work need to be done from a ladder?
- Most important, is there potential impact to the structural integrity of a window, door or a load bearing wall that supports the weight of your house?
Running a handyman business for 8 years involved lots of wood rot and rotted window sills so everyone I interviewed had to explain the tools, type of window sill they'd install and the steps to get the job done.
There are lots of great videos on YouTube. They don't always tell the whole story, so if you don't know what a sawzall is, or what window sill nosing looks like, then you should find someone who's done more than 20 window sill replacements. If you want to learn more, here are 2 videos I liked.
- How to Fix Wood Rot with 2-Part Epoxy, from This Old House.
- How to Repair Shutter with Wood Rot, from RonHazelton.com.