Rot is one of the necessary evils in the world. It is a natural component of the decomposition process that makes our world self-sustaining, but for all its necessity, it can be a real thorn in homeowners’ sides. If you’re worried about wood rot on your fence or home, here are some things you should know.
The Rot Problem
Wood rot is a form of decay triggered by moisture, and places where the moisture content is high (fence panels touching the ground, shady areas, and spots near gutters or around plant life) are trouble spots you should keep your eye on. When rot is left on its own, it spreads rapidly, eating away at wood and compromising its structural integrity.
When wood is slated to be used in construction, it is first treated. However, this is not always a failsafe to prevent rot from taking hold. No amount of painting over rot will remove it, and this is one of the reasons why you should pressure wash wooden surfaces before painting them. Otherwise, trapped rot can cause the paint on your fence, deck, or exterior walls to peel, letting in even more moisture.
Catching Wood Rot Early On
Wood rot looks different depending on the stage of its growth and medium on which it grows. Homeowners should learn to recognize rot at any stage to catch and get rid of it before it can spread. Again, be especially careful of wooden areas that can soak up a lot of moisture, places like deck posts and the base of fences.
- Early-stage rot often looks like cotton wool. It is also common to see mushrooms sprout. If you see mushrooms growing near your wood, take action at once.
- Discoloration may also be an indicator for rot. If the discolored area is soft or spongy to the touch (we recommend checking with a screwdriver or the handle of a fork), rot is clearly indicated.
- Visible dampness is also a red flag. Keep an eye out for beading water droplets or other condensation. If you don’t have rot development in these areas yet, the likelihood that you will is high if you don’t make a change to prevent it.
Can Rot Damage Be Repaired?
Unfortunately, rot damage cannot be reversed. Doing so would require regrowing the cellulose that the rot consumed. If your deck or fence does sustain rot damage, the first step in addressing it is eradicating the wood rot. This can be done with antifreeze which is toxic. If the damage is minimal, you can also fill in any channels or holes with epoxy, strengthening the planks. If, however, the damage is extensive, the best course of action is to replace the compromised wood.
The Importance of Addressing Wood Rot
When wood is rotten, its structural integrity takes a hit. A fence cannot adequately protect your property if the wood is soft in the same way a rotten deck cannot support the weight of gathered parties. If you have plans to clean or paint your wood, pressure washing rotten areas will only exacerbate the damage. If you plan to pressure wash your deck or fence, checking for rot is an essential prerequisite.
Homeowners have several tools at their disposal for preventing rot development on their property. East coast homeowners especially should make these checks and precautions a priority to protect their properties despite humid conditions.
- Watch your plants—Dripping trees, tall grass, and closely growing shrubs all run the risk of wetting wood enough for rot to develop. Be mindful of your foliage, and do what you can to keep your wood dry.
- Block out the moisture—You can’t keep your wood dry all the time on the New York coast. Preparing your wood by staining or painting it is a good way to prevent moisture from soaking into your wood and creating a climate for wood rot growth.
- Consider pressure-treated wood—This precaution also helps keep moisture out. The pressure-treating process combines chemical treatment and pressure to make wood even hardier.
- Caulk exposed gaps—If you notice gaps or cracks in your wood (especially around exterior doors and windows), a fresh coat of a latex exterior caulk can keep rot at bay.
Alternatives to a Wooden Fence
If you are still very concerned about rot growth on your property, you can eliminate the risk for your fence at least with a structure made of a material other than wood. Some materials like Trex mirror the appearance of wood without having the same susceptibility to rot. Others like vinyl, stone, or ornamental metal lend a different look but the same kind of protection.