Dry Rot

Dry rot is one of the very most common causes of “change orders” (when your contractor discovers an unexpected problem, which most often results in an unexpected cost). In fact, reports of dry rot are so frequent that many homeowners believe contractors just use it as an excuse to make money.

That belief is mistaken. Dry rot is a very serious problem that, left untreated, can cause serious problems both for your project and your pocketbook.

What kind of problems? Dry rot is decay that is caused by fungi that digest the parts of wood that lend it its strength and stiffness. Without that strength and stiffness, wood isn’t a good material for construction. Dry rot looks dark and crumbly at first, but eventually becomes brittle, cracks, and crushes the wood into a powder.

In the long run, dry rot can weaken your building (or a portion of your building) and cause it to collapse. That’s why contractors like to fix it.

They can do this in several ways: epoxy treatments that kill the rot and restore the structural integrity of the wood; commercial anti-freeze (yes, the kind you use in your car), which both kills and then prevents dry rot; and copper compounds that can be brushed on. In many cases, dry rot has to be removed and replaced with new wood. In some cases, the area around the dry rot also has to be removed, to prevent it from spreading.

Of course, good contractors design and build to prevent dry rot in the first place – mostly by sealing off areas vulnerable to moisture intrusion, like the roof and walls, doors and windows, decks and trim. Even if built well, however, those areas need to be properly maintained to keep the water out in the long term – something your contractor can advise you on.

By the way, most contractors don’t make up change orders. They hate them! There’s nothing worse than having to tell a homeowner a job will cost more than they thought. Except, of course, leaving dry rot and watching it cause major, major problems.