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Deck in need of wood rot repair service

The Complete Fairfax, VA Guide to Wood Rot Repairs

Did you know that the natural process of decomposition that occurs in wooded areas also affects structures in Fairfax and other nearby communities? Within the boundaries of nature, that process is important for creating new, rich soil. Within human communities, wood rot is a serious issue that weakens structural integrity and creates safety hazards.

Natural decay is a serious threat for any wooden surfaces, both inside and outside homes in Fairfax. It will spread uncontrollably and cause serious damage to everything from outdoor wood trim to the crown molding running along your ceiling. If it isn't stopped quickly, it will cause damage that decreases comfort, security, and safety.

As part of their dedication to their local community, the professionals at Mr. Handyman of Fairfax and Eastern Loudoun Counties are here to tell you everything important about wood rot — and how professionals like our team go about completing repairs.

With the essential information that we're happy to provide, you can increase your own protection against the serious threat of wood rot. If you know everything there is to know about the different types, how to identify them, and what causes them, then you'll be able to respond more quickly with effective repairs — especially if you schedule an appointment with the trusted, local professionals who helped you identify the issue.

How Do You Identify Wood Rot?

There are three different types of wood rot that affect properties in Fairfax and other communities across Virginia: Brown rot (a.k.a. dry rot), white rot, and soft rot. Each variety has its own distinct appearance and effects, but they also all have one thing in common. All decomposing wooden surfaces are weak — and continually get weaker over time. That means there's an easy test anyone can do to check if their wooden surfaces are rotten or simply damp: the screwdriver test.

The Screwdriver Test

What You'll Need:

This technique is called the screwdriver test because screwdrivers are a common, pointed tool that many people have. However, it isn't necessary to use a screwdriver. Any sharp, metal object will do — such as a nail, safety pin, or even a small, dull knife from . If the extent of the decay is severe, even a finger is enough to identify the issue.

What You're Looking For:

The purpose of this test is checking any surfaces for spongy, soft textures. If you can press your finger or chosen tool more than one eighth of an inch into any surface, that's a sign of active rot. If the area is not soft enough to easily penetrate or push in, then you probably don't have to worry about repairs right now — at least, not for that area.

If the area you check is still wet, you should continue your inspection to find out why. Excess moisture accumulation will create wood rot — along with many other common types of water damage. Finding out what's causing moisture build-up and getting repairs for those issues will save you from costly repairs in the future. The solution may be as simple as gutter cleaning.

Common Signs of Rotten Wood:

  • Dry, dark-brown surface discoloration

  • Surfaces shrinking & breaking into small, cube-shaped pieces — this is called cubical fracture

  • White or yellowish discoloration

  • Spongy textures

  • Honeycomb textures

Where Should You Look?

The most common areas in Fairfax that show those signs are outdoor structures like decks, patios, wood siding, and trim. However, it's possible for your interior areas to be affected as well — especially if outdoor growth spreads indoors through window frames and other structures.

Check for warning sign across your entire deck and other outdoor areas. You should also pay attention to indoor trim around windows and doors, as well as near any areas where there is excessive moisture build-up or existing water damage from issues like roof leaks.

Top-to-Bottom Checklist:

  • Roof shingles

  • Siding, soffits, & fascia board

  • Deck boards

  • Deck posts

  • Railings

  • Stairs

  • Window trim

  • Exterior door frames

  • Interior trim boards

  • Basement walls & crown molding

  • Basement ceiling joists

What is the Cause?

The simple answer is high moisture content. More specifically, wood rot is caused by fungi that thrive under a high moisture content and specific temperatures. The dry (brown) variety and the white variety both grow between 65 °F and 90 °F.

The soft variety has a larger range, between 0 °F and 110 °F, which means that it will survive under temperatures that are too hot or cold for the other types of fungi. That's why soft rot is more common on outdoor surfaces like fallen logs and tress — but it can still find its way indoors.

How Do You Repair Rotten Structures?

Repair methods for structural damage caused by rot vary based on the extent of the damage — and the location of the issues. If there are large areas of decomposition, wood replacement is the only reliable option. That might mean replacing whole sections of your deck, entire frames, or longer lines of trim.

There are two additional options for less extensive damage. If discoloration is minor and there are no other issues, you might get away with just drying and treating your wood with sealer. If the extent of dry rot damage and other issues is relatively isolated, you can also complete spot repairs to remove rot and repair damaged areas. Spot-repairs are an option if less than fifty percent of your structure is damaged. Otherwise, replacing the entire area is your only option for guaranteed, safe, effective repairs.

Spot Repair Steps:

1. Investigation:

All professional wood rot repair services start here, and you shouldn't overlook this step if you're attempting DIY repairs. Confirm that less than fifty percent of the structure is compromised, and also determine what the source of moisture is.

If you fail to find the source of your problem, you won't be able to effectively avoid future issues. Attributing outdoor rot to weather is an easy assumption, but don't forget to check your gutters — especially if the issue is affecting your siding or trim. Clogged gutters can send water running down exterior surfaces, resulting in rot and many other issues.

When investigating indoor issues, look for signs of leaks and poor weather proofing around windows and doors. Investigate areas around appliances that use water for puddles and other unusual signs. Don't forget to consider how areas are being used. Long, hot showers in bathrooms with poor ventilation can create rot.

2. Remove & Repair Soft Wood

Use a sharp tool to remove all soft wood. A chisel works best for this. Be gentle and apply careful pressure. Poor handling at this stage might result in more damage — and more costly repairs. Once you've removed all the problematic wood, you can use wood filler and a putty knife to repair damaged sections by replacing everything you removed.

Wait for your filler to dry. Once it's secure, use a sanding block or sand paper to clean-up the surface so that it aligns with its surrounding structure. A careful hand is essential here too, as any imperfections you miss will remain until the next time you need repairs.

3. Seal, Prime, & Paint

The final step for any successful wood rot repair job is refinishing surfaces. Applying a layer of sealer will help prevent rot from returning. Repainting any affected areas will help hide signs of your repair — and remove any lingering reminders of that annoying issue.

These repainting jobs are why you should always keep the buckets from previous paint jobs, so that you can easily match existing colors. If matching your existing paint color isn't possible, then you can also treat this repair as an opportunity to update your older color choices with new, amazing touches!

Do You Need Wood Rot Repairs in Fairfax, VA?

The pros at Mr. Handyman of Fairfax and Eastern Loudoun Counties can help! We proudly serve Fairfax and nearby areas like Reston and Leesburg with an extensive list of local handyman services. If you need expert advice or assistance with your home maintenance and repairs, we're here! We even help local business owners with commercial property repairs!

For more information or a convenient appointment, contact our team at 703-962-1202! You can do it all with just one call!