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Wood Rot: How to Address this Common Problem

Updated: Jan 15

Wood is one of the most-used construction materials, both for structural support and cladding. Wood rot is one of the most common problems that affect wooden parts, and is something that you should keep an eye out on.

Dry Rot Vs. Wet Rot There are two varieties of wood rot: dry and wet. Dry rot is somewhat a misnomer as it is actually caused by one or more species of fungi, with Serpula lacrymans and Meruliporia incrassata being the most common. Visually, dry rot is easy to identify: in its early stages, it looks like thin sheets of cotton growing on timber. Mushroom-like growths may also be present. As it spreads, deep cracks will run on the wood grain. When you firmly tap these areas with a long-handled tool, parts will fall off. Wet rot, on the other hand, is caused by contact with moisture. Unlike dry rot, wet rot is a natural process, and is not caused by an invading organism. Of the two, wet rot is easier to prevent. Simply make sure that the wood is coated with paint or a protective stain, and reapply them as needed (see below).


Sources of moisture must also be controlled, such as leaky gutters and plumbing, to minimize contact. Dry rot, on the other hand, is far more serious, and often requires removal of all infected wood parts. Fungicide may also need to be applied. Inspecting for Wood Rot, both types of rot have one thing in common: they happen in moist environments. If you have a leaky roof, chances are, parts of the attic, ceiling and walls may be affected. Inspect moist and closed environments like under the sink on within an unfinished basement for telltale signs. If your home is equipped with wood window frames, look out for areas where paint has started cracking, chipping or peeling. Large wood installations such as decks and gazebos are susceptible to dry rot, which is why remodeling contractors recommend adhering to a regular deck maintenance routine. If your home has wood shake or shingle siding and/or roofing, you should also make sure you follow their recommended cleaning and maintenance schedule.


Sealing and Painting Wood


Sealing and painting wood around your home is crucial for both aesthetics and protection. It keeps moisture out, prevents rot and decay, and enhances the overall look of your property. But knowing where to start and how to do it right can be confusing. Fear not, DIY warriors! This guide will equip you with the knowledge and techniques to tackle wood sealing and painting like a pro.


Step 1: Assess the Wood

Before diving into paint, give the wood a thorough inspection. Look for:

  • Cracks and gaps: These need to be filled with caulk or wood filler to prevent water infiltration.

  • Loose or peeling paint: Scrape away any existing paint that's flaking or blistering to ensure good adhesion for the new coat.

  • Mold or mildew: These require special cleaning before painting to prevent further growth.


Step 2: Choose Your Weapons

Selecting the right tools and materials is key for a successful project. Here's what you'll need:

  • Sealant: Opt for a high-quality exterior wood sealant like acrylic or elastomeric. Choose a finish that matches your desired sheen (glossy, semi-gloss, or matte).

  • Paint: Select an exterior paint specifically formulated for wood. Acrylic latex paints are durable and easy to clean.

  • Caulk: Use a silicone caulk for filling gaps and cracks around windows, doors, and trim.

  • Sandpaper: Medium-grit sandpaper will roughen the surface for better paint adhesion.

  • Paint brushes and rollers: Choose brushes for trim and tight spaces, and rollers for larger areas.

  • Drop cloths and painter's tape: Protect your surfaces from splashes and drips.


Step 3: Prep the Wood

Now comes the prep work, which is essential for a long-lasting finish.

  • Clean the wood: Remove dirt, dust, and cobwebs with a damp cloth and mild detergent.

  • Sand the surface: Lightly sand the wood to create a smooth base for the paint.

  • Fill gaps and cracks: Apply caulk to any gaps around windows, doors, and trim, ensuring a watertight seal.


Step 4: Sealing Time!

Apply the sealant according to the manufacturer's instructions. Typically, one or two coats are sufficient for most woods. Let the sealant dry completely before moving on to paint.


Step 5: Paint Like a Pro

  • Prime, if needed: For bare wood or heavily stained surfaces, apply a primer for better paint adhesion and coverage.

  • Cut in with a brush: Use a paintbrush to apply paint to edges, corners, and trim.

  • Roll on the color: Use a roller for larger areas, working in smooth, even strokes.

  • Apply multiple coats: Two or three thin coats are better than one thick coat to avoid drips and ensure even coverage. Let each coat dry completely before applying the next.


Step 6: Admire Your Work (and Clean Up!)

Once the final coat is dry, step back and admire your newly protected and refreshed wood surfaces! Don't forget to clean up your tools and materials.

Bonus Tips:

  • Work in good weather conditions: Avoid painting in direct sunlight, extreme heat, or rain.

  • Follow the drying times: Let each coat of sealant and paint dry completely before applying the next.

  • Maintain your paint job: Regularly inspect your wood surfaces for signs of wear and tear, and touch up the paint as needed.


By following these steps and using the right tools and materials, you can successfully seal and paint wood around your home, increasing its lifespan and boosting its curb appeal. So grab your brush, roll up your sleeves, and get ready to transform your wood surfaces into something truly beautiful and long-lasting! TCS Handyman


House with wood siding and trim


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