Maintaining a healthy home is impossible without ensuring a healthy foundation. When your home sits on a crawl space, wood rot is the last thing you want to see. This fungus can severely damage the structure of the wood and make it extremely fragile. Since beams and joists in your crawl space are made of wood, rot outbreak can even compromise your home’s structural stability.
Identifying Dry Rot
Dry rot has a distinctive, yellowish shade, while the wood it affects is brown. While its name suggests that this fungus can survive without moisture, that is false. Dry rot thrives in damp environments, which is why it is important to invest in quality crawl space waterproofing measures. This type of rot leaves a dry, crumbling wood behind, which is how it got its name. Unlike wet rot, dry rot can spread incredibly fast over a larger area and when it infects wood, it leaves deep cracks running across the grain. It also leaves behind evidence of mycelium growth.
Wood that has begun to rot will be brown and will crumble because the rot is removing cellulose from its cell walls. Most of the time, the rot will manifest only as decaying wood. However, sometimes large flat mushroom-like bodies will appear on the wood as well.
One of the biggest problems regarding dry rot is that it grows on surfaces where moisture is around 20%. That means that it will easily thrive in crawl spaces that haven’t been waterproofed in any way.
If dry rot isn’t noticed and addressed on time, it will surely cause major structural issues.
What Is Dry Rot and What Causes It?
Wood rot is wood decay caused by a fungal infestation. If your crawl space contains standing water or even just increased humidity levels, rot can occur. When rotting wood is not addressed on time, it will eventually disintegrate. This happens because the fungus feeds on the wood’s cellulose. Since cellulose is the main component of its cell walls, when it is removed, the wood will decay. Homes in Alabama, Tennessee, Georgia, and Mississippi are prone to issues caused by wood rot.
There are several types of fungi that feed on wood, but dry rot is the most dangerous. It can cause immense damage to your foundation and compromise your home’s stability. While it can be complicated to tell dry rot and wet rot apart, especially for a non-expert, several dry rot characteristics do stand out.
The Problem Signs
Here are several telltale signs that will help you recognize a dry rot outbreak.
The first sign that something is happening with your wood is mycelium growth. It will appear as a white or greyish wool-like substance on the surface. Mycelium, the vegetative part of a fungus, can spread across numerous building materials in search of food and quickly infect large areas.
Another sign that your wood has been affected by dry rot is the forming of the fruiting body or sporophore. This body usually looks like a pizza. Although it comes in various shapes and sizes, depending on the conditions. Mostly it is round with rusty deep red color on the inside and white outer parts. These fruiting bodies release spore dust which can alarm you that dry rot is present.
Dry rot completely removes moisture from the wood, leaving it dry and brittle. Such wood is a clear indication that you are dealing with this type of rot. Since it has lost all of its moisture, wood will also shrink and warp. Furthermore, you will be able to notice cracks forming across the grain.
If a musty, fungal smell hits you the moment you enter your crawl space, you probably have a problem with wood rot. Although the smell doesn’t have to indicate that dry rot is present, it will alert you that your wood is damp and that it has probably started to decay.
Addressing Wood Rot Issues
While you should not panic when you notice dry rot in your crawl space, you should take immediate steps to address this problem.
Avoid Fixing Wood Rot Yourself
First and foremost, repairing the damage that has been caused by wood rot is not something you should try to do on your own. Wood rot can be tricky and only a trained eye will be able to notice all the parts that have been affected by it. If you only fix visible damage, hidden problems will continue to fester and eventually cause structural damage to your home. Therefore, if you have noticed wood rot in your crawl space, contact experts at AFS and be at ease knowing that we will permanently solve this problem.
Invest in Waterproofing Measures
Wood rot will only thrive in a damp environment. Therefore, if rot has appeared in your crawl space you will need to consider investing in waterproofing solutions. Rot is a telltale sign of moisture issues, and the only way to permanently resolve them is to waterproof your foundation. Water leakage can be caused by so many things, from broken pipes and appliances to a high water table. Either way, with proper waterproofing solutions in place, such as a sump pump or a crawl space drainage system, you will be able to keep water and excess moisture at bay.
Dry Rot Damage
Fixing beams and joists affected with dry rot is not an easy task and certainly not one you can complete on your own. Therefore, avoiding dry rot outbreaks altogether is your best strategy. Here are several ways you can defend your crawl space.
Dry Out the Crawl Space
Do you have high humidity levels in your crawl space? You must dry it out as quickly as possible. Excess moisture can not only cause dry rot, but also mold and other infestations that can harm your home and your health as well.
To regulate humidity levels in your crawl space, invest in a quality dehumidifier. Since a regular, store-bought one is not powerful enough to dry out the entire crawl space, you will need a professional dehumidifier. Our AquaStop Air System is a small yet powerful, high-performance dehumidifier that can remove over 90 pints of moisture per day for less electricity cost than standard models. It will easily keep humidity levels in your crawl space under control, thereby creating an inhabitable environment for rot growth.
Seal Crawl Space Vents
In the past crawl space vents were extremely popular as it was believed that they prevented mold growth and kept the air in the crawl space fresh. However, over time it became clear that open vents were the number one cause of humidity issues. They let moisture-laden air into the crawl space, where it creates a whole array of problems, including dry rot.
If you wish to keep your crawl space dry and rot-free, seal those vents as soon as possible. Not only can they let humid air in, but various pests can also use it as an entryway.
Encapsulate the Crawl Space
When you have a dirt floor in your crawl space, moisture can easily infiltrate this area. To regulate humidity levels in your crawl space and keep it dry and clean you should encapsulate it. Encapsulation involves attaching a thick vapor barrier to the floor, walls, and columns in your crawl space. This is not your ordinary plastic sheet. It is a durable liner designed to stop moisture from passing through your floors and concrete walls.
Our contractors will also seal the vents and install an airtight crawl space door. In the end, they will install a crawl space air system that improves the air quality in this area and removes moisture from it. With encapsulation, you will minimize the risk for dry rot as well as other types of structural failures.
If your floor joists have been infected with dry rot, you should contact a professional who will remove the rot. This should not be a DIY project. Here are some of the most common fixes for dry rot that our expert may use.
Removal and Replacement
Unless you completely remove all of the infected wood and remaining spores, dry rot will quickly spread across wooden areas and cause more damage. To prevent this problem from recurring, it is important to remove not just the decaying wood, but all wood within a three-foot radius.
When the wood is removed, a professional can replace it with new wood that has an anti-fungal treatment on it. Since this is a delicate process that requires professional equipment, it is not something you should do on your own. If there is dry rot in your crawl space, contact professionals at AFS and find out what your next steps should be.
When all the infected wood has been removed along with some healthy, surrounding wood and it has been replaced, it is important to check that there is no rot on brickwork and stonework around the affected area. Of course, dry rot is not able to thrive on these surfaces, but it can be present on bricks and stones.
Using fungicide to remove spores from the brickwork and stonework will prevent them from carrying over to the new wood. Using these toxins requires certain skills, and if they are not handled properly, these chemicals can affect your health. This is another reason why you shouldn’t engage in rot removal on your own.
Additional Antifungal Treatments
Finally, you should invest in antifungal treatments. There may still be some lingering dry rot spores in your crawl space and it is best to remove them before they cause any problems.
Antifungal treatments are tricky since sometimes they can fix dry rot without the need to replace the wood, but in most cases, they won’t be so successful. A lot of antifungal treatments are toxic, so they shouldn’t be handled by a non-expert. Dry rot removal is a complicated subject, so before you decide to do anything on your own, schedule a free inspection with our AFS experts. After a thorough assessment, they will help you understand the situation better.
Call AFS Foundation & Waterproofing Specialists for Crawl Space Repairs
For more than two decades, AFS Foundation & Waterproofing specialists have been helping homeowners across Mississippi, Georgia, Tennessee, and Alabama keep their homes dry and stable. If you are in a rush and looking for high-quality fixes for your crawl space that will permanently stabilize your home, you can count on us. Contact us today to schedule a free inspection and repair quote. Find out what is aching your crawl space and the best ways to fix it. Our specialists will never recommend something you do not need. Instead, they will come up with a personalized plan tailored. With our team by your side, your home can once again become a safe haven for you and your family.