What You Should Know About Wood Rot Repair

No homeowner wants to deal with wood rot. While it might be a beneficial decomposition process in nature, spotting rotted timber in your home is a stressful and worrisome experience. Decaying door jambs, steps, porches and beams are a common problem for many Frederick County homeowners.

And although it's likely you'll have to deal with decay from time to time, there are a few important preventative tips you should know that will help you avoid wood rot repairs. That said, if you've already noticed the signs of decomposition in your home, you'll need the help of a qualified wood repair technician like the team at Mr. Handyman of Greater Frederick and Hagerstown.

What’s the Cause?

Wood rot is a type of fungi that breaks down wood. There are more than 5 million types of fungi, including the mushrooms and toadstools that likely come to mind when you hear the word. But wood rot is a type of microscopic fungi. You can't see it, but you can see its effects. These fungi set up shop in areas of damp timber and slowly break down its structural integrity. The wood eventually becomes soft and falls apart. Although a nightmare for homeowners, wood rot is actually meant to decompose trees that have died and fallen on the forest floor. The process creates compost and enables new trees and plants to grow. Wood rot can roughly be grouped into three categories:


Commonly called “dry rot” because it makes the wood’s surface look dry, this fungus breaks down cellulose (a natural part of wood’s structure). The process causes timber to shrink, turn a deep brown color and break into tiny cube-like pieces. Brown rot only thrives between 65 and 90 degrees Fahrenheit. But once it starts growing, it spreads quickly.


This type of rot decomposes wood the slowest and also breaks down cellulose. It makes the affected timber look like honeycomb. It thrives in a wider range of temperatures—from 0 to 110 degrees Fahrenheit. Generally found in fallen logs, this fungus can affect your home in the correct conditions.


Lastly, if wood feels spongy and appears whitish or light yellow, the cause is white rot. Whereas brown and soft rot impacts cellulose, this variety of fungi breaks down lignin. Similar to brown rot fungi, this variety also spores in conditions between 65 and 90 degrees Fahrenheit.

Where to Find Wood Rot

Fungi need moisture to spread; meaning that dry timber does not decay. This means that any area of your home that’s moist, humid, or regularly exposed to water—such as rainfall—will have a higher chance of rotting. This is especially the case for areas of your home that are not exposed to fresh air or sunlight, like the underside of your deck. More often than not, homeowners in Frederick County don't notice decomposing wood since it's difficult to spot in areas you don't easily see. This is dangerous because the fungus could be causing severe issues with your house's structure without your knowledge. That’s why it’s important to familiarize yourself with high-risk areas:

  • Decks: Even treated boards and planks can become damp and rot; particularly areas that are below the deck and don't dry out in the sun.
  • Roofing: Water can seep through missing and damaged shingles. This might enable fungus to grow beneath the supporting frame.
  • Exterior Doors: Any gaps and cracks in your door frame can moisten from rain or melting snow, which will decay the surrounding areas.
  • Windows: Improperly sealed windows let water leak in and saturate the surrounding siding, causing it to decompose.
  • Basement: Generally, basement walls are surrounded by moist soil. During rainy weather, the area can become very moist and humid. This may cause fungi to spread and decompose your home's foundation.
  • Humid Rooms: Any room that’s regularly exposed to moisture, like the bathroom, can create an environment where fungi will spore and grow.

How to Find Decayed Wood

Now that you know what parts of your home are more susceptible to decomposing, you should take it upon yourself to check these areas regularly for signs of rot. We suggest inspecting your home at least twice a year: once in the fall and once in the spring. You could take time to check for decaying wood at the same time that you have your gutters cleaned.

Looking for rot is easy, if a bit time-consuming. All you need is a screwdriver and a flashlight. Use the screwdriver to poke any timber around door frames and windows, beneath your deck, in humid areas, and in the basement/attic. Use the flashlight to check areas that are not exposed to sunlight. Wood should always be firm and hard. If your screwdriver sinks in, you have a rot problem.

Prevention Tips

Unfortunately, rotten timber needs to be replaced. Once it sets in, the fungus will continue to spread and impact supports, jambs, planks and boards. These structurally compromised areas are a serious hazard. They might collapse, taking down part of your home, or injure you and your family. Prevention is key for keeping decay at bay. There are a few ways to keep wood dry and avoid fungal growth:

  • Scrape away old, hard or cracked caulk and replace it
  • Seal all cracks around exterior doors and windows with caulk
  • Repaint exterior windows, siding, porches and fences if paint is cracking or peeling
  • Clean gutters at least twice a year; this prevents clogs that lead to water running down the side of your home
  • Sweep pooling water away from your deck, porch or entry way as soon as possible
  • Add an awning or covered porch above doors to protect against rain
  • Put a dehumidifier in the basement or any room subject to moisture
  • Ensure all your bathrooms are properly ventilated with exhaust fans to mitigate moisture

Hire the Pros at Mr. Handyman Today!

Since many homes in Frederick County have been built with a lot of timber—and we have a climate that can be humid, rainy and snowy—many areas of our homes are susceptible to damage from moisture. That's why our service professionals are experts at wood rot repair. If you’ve noticed soft timber around your basement, deck, entryways, window trim or garage, call our technicians. We will carefully replace the decaying areas and prevent the fungus from spreading.

To book one of our contractors or carpenters today, we invite you to give our friendly customer service representatives a call today. Alternatively, you can request a service online. We look forward to meeting you and helping with your wood rot repairs.