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Wood Rot Treatment 101: What You Should Know

Rot: the word is alarming for most homeowners, bringing to mind uncomfortable images of decay. Although a natural and integral part of nature, in your home it’s another problem entirely. Wood rot in particular is an issue for many Princeton homes, especially if you live in a historic building built more than a century ago.

Although wood decay is not entirely avoidable, there are a few tricks you can employ to prevent it from spreading. If you’ve noticed signs of decomposition in your home, it’s too late for preventative measures. But the team at Mr. Handyman of Princeton and Robbinsville can help.

What’s the Cause?

Wood rot is a type of decay. It happens when damp timber becomes infested with microscopic fungi. There are many types of fungi, including mushrooms and toadstools you may be more familiar with. In fact, there are more than 5 million species of fungi in the air and soil around us. Over time, the fungi slowly breaks down the structural integrity of wood. This causes it to get soft and fall apart. Although rotting timber can be quite the headache in your home, it’s a beneficial process in nature. The fungi’s purpose is to break down trees that have died and make compost, creating a nutrient dense forest floor for new things to grow.


There are three types of wood rot. Soft rot decomposes the slowest, but thrives in a wider range of temperatures—from 0 to 110 degrees Fahrenheit. It breaks down cellulose (a natural part of a tree's structure), creating a honeycomb-like appearance. This variety is generally found in fallen logs, but it can affect your home in the right conditions.


Commonly called “dry rot” because it makes the affected surface look dry, this fungus also breaks down cellulose. The process causes timber to shrink, turn a deep brown color and break into tiny cube-like pieces. Although brown rot only thrives between 65 and 90 degrees Fahrenheit, once it starts growing it spreads swiftly.


Lastly, if wood appears whitish or light yellow and feels spongy, the culprit is white rot. Whereas brown and soft rot impacts cellulose, this variety of fungi breaks down lignin, another structural part of wood. Similar to brown rot fungi, this variety also occurs in temperatures between 65 and 90 degrees.

Where to Find It?

Dry timber does not decay, as fungi need moisture to spread. Any area of your home that’s humid, moist or exposed to water—including rainfall—runs the risk of rotting. This is especially the case if damp timber is not exposed to fresh air or sunlight. More often than not, decomposing wood goes unnoticed, potentially causing severe issues with your home’s structure. That’s why it’s important to familiarize yourself with high-risk areas.

  • Exterior Doors / Window Frames: Water from rain or melting snow will penetrate any gaps and cracks in your door or window frames, moistening and decaying the surrounding areas.

  • Windows: Likewise, improperly sealed windows let water seep through and potentially cause the decomposition of nearby surfaces.

  • Decks: Over time, even treated boards and planks can become damp and rot—particularly the supports that are below the deck and areas that are often shaded.

  • Roofing: Water can leak through missing and damaged shingles, possibly rotting the supporting frame.

  • Basement: Since basement walls are surrounded by moist soil, particularly after rainfall, the room can be damp, moist, and humid. This may cause fungi to spread.

  • Humid Rooms: Similar to basements, any room that’s regularly exposed to moisture—for instance the bathroom—can create an environment where fungi will develop and spread.

How to Find Decay

As we’ve established, there are certain areas of your home that are more susceptible to decomposition. You should check these areas for signs of decay one to two times a year. The best time to do so is either in the fall or spring, around the same time you would have your gutters cleaned.

To check for spreading fungi, you’ll need a screwdriver and a flashlight. Simply poke the timber around door frames, decks, windows, humid areas and in the attic with the screwdriver, using the flashlight if needed. The wood should always be firm and hard. If the screwdriver sinks in, you have a problem.

Prevention Tips

Rotten timber needs to be replaced. Unfortunately, structurally compromised supports, jambs, and planks could be a serious hazard. If left unattended, these areas might collapse—taking down part of your home. However, there are a few ways to keep wood dry and avoid fungal growth:

  • Seal all cracks around exterior doors and windows with caulk

  • Scrape away old, hard, or cracked caulk and replace it

  • Clean gutters at least twice a year; this prevents clogs that lead to water running down the side of your home

  • 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

  • Repaint exterior windows, siding, porches, and fences if paint is cracking or peeling

  • Sweep pooling water away from your deck, porch, or entryway as soon as possible

Hire the Pros at Mr. Handyman Today!

With homes dating back to the early 1700s, some of America’s most stunning examples of historic architecture can be found in Princeton. Our city’s homes have been built with a lot of timber that is susceptible to damage from moisture. Thankfully, our handyman experts are repair professionals. If you’ve noticed soft timber around your window trim, front door, garage, or basement, our technicians will carefully replace the decaying areas.

Not only are our technicians experts at meticulously fixing rotted frames, siding, and steps, but we are also recognized throughout Princeton for our unparalleled customer service. Our handyman professionals will arrive promptly, be transparent about the entire repair process, and treat you and your home with the utmost respect.

To book one of our technicians today, we invite you to give our friendly office staff a call at 609-372-5867. Alternatively, you can request a service through our website. We look forward to meeting you and helping with your repairs.