Wood Rot vs Termite Damage. Identify the Signs.

For homeowners, two of the most challenging issues that you face in protecting your property is wood rot and damage from termites. And while both causes can be quite damaging to your home, they both require different treatments. It is why you need to understand the difference, the types of wood rot you may face, and what to do if it happens to your residence.

Difference Between Wood Rot and Termite Damage

Wood Rot vs Termites
How can you tell the difference between wood rot and termite damage?
Admittedly, the decay can appear similar in some ways, but there are definite differences. The most obvious is the presence of termites which will tell you who is the culprit. But since it is possible that the termites might not be present or that noticeable, here are the major differences.

Termite damage leaves the wood looking hollowed out and wavy in its appearance. Wood rot, depending on the type, will either leave the wood spongy and soft to the touch. Or, it will be dry and fragile, falling apart at a touch.

Another difference is that rot may leave a distinct odor which is the decay of the wood that is not present when termites do damage. Unless of course that the termites have invaded rotted wood. Plus, you may see fungi present in rotted wood that is another indicator.

If you are still not sure, then you should call a professional to conduct an inspection. They can tell the difference and provide guidance on what to do next.

Type of Wood Rot – Dry Rot vs Wet Rot

Two major types of wood rot that may affect your home are, dry and wet. They have a similar effect and are both fungi but are very different in terms of what causes the wood to fall apart.

Wet rot is fungi that will grow on wood that has a moisture content of 50% or more. While dry rot will grow and consume wood that has a moisture content of 20% to 30%. Keep in mind that there are several types of wet rot, but only one type of dry rot.

1. Dry Rot

Caused by fungi known as Serpula Lacrymans, this is a widespread form of rot that causes wooden structures to decay. Any unprotected wood that has a moisture content of 20% is vulnerable to this form of rot. Because the moisture content of the wood is relatively low, dry rot can spread quickly and consume a complete structure in relatively little time.

  • Cracks along the grain of the wood
  • Musty, damp odor
  • Presence of fruiting bodies, similar to mushrooms in appearance
  • Yellow ting to the wood

One annoying issue with dry rot is that it may leave the surface veneer intact which hides the presence of the rotten wood. When dry rot is detected, it must be addressed immediately. Otherwise, the risk to the structure becomes more acute as time passes.

Dry rot can appear anywhere there is untreated wood. When it happens the fungi will start growing and eroding the wood and ultimately shrinks grains and turn them into brown color.

Despite its name, dry rot is created by humid conditions that allow the one type of fungi that causes dry rot to flourish. Because of this, experts now tend to classify this type of decay as brown rot instead of dry rot.

2. Wet Rot

This is due to water damage that may accumulate slowly over time, such as with leaking pipes or penetrating damp caused by the presence of moisture in the air.

  • Cracks in the wood, but not like dry rot
  • Soft, spongy feel to the wood
  • Discoloration
  • Damp odor

In some ways, dry rot is like to wet rot, but one of the major differences is that the surface veneer is compromised, so that wet rot is easier to spot.

Wet rot will generally grow in humid conditions. Any piece of wood present in the home that is not protected is vulnerable to wet rot. Unlike dry rot, there are several types of fungi that may create wet rot.

Wet rot tends to be more localized and does not spread as much as dry rot. This makes it easier to treat and repair once it has been detected. Still, once you discover wet rot in your home, you should have it treated immediately.

What Does Wood Rot Look Like?

Drywalls, paint and veneers that are on the wooden part often conceals the deterioration. The easiest way to identify wood rot is to look for discoloration. If you find a difference in color, poke the surface with a screwdriver to find out if the wood feels dampened.
Do an annual checkup at rot susceptible areas such as the roofing, door frames, wood joints, windows, sidings, patio, decks, and outdoor furniture.

How to Repair Rotted Wood?

Extensive dry rot degradation in softwood is often irreparable. On the other hand, wet rot can be repaired and restored if identified early.

I recommend using a product like rotofix to repair minor wood degradation.

Rotfix System Three Resins for Rot Repair
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7 Ways to Prevent Wood Rot

Here is how you can stop wood rot at your house or apartment.

  1. The first step is to choose the right type of wood. Species such as Mahogany, Teak, etc are high rot-resistant woods. If you cannot afford expensive hardwood, then the next best option is to go for pressure-treated wood.
  2. Next, stain the wood with an appropriate coating to seal it from moisture. Depending on the level of exposure to moisture and the use, you may have to do use varnish, lacquer or polyurethane coating.
  3. Check for the gaps and cracked caulks, peeled off paint. Remove the old caulk and replace them. In case of paint peeling, use a sander to remove paint and repaint the area.
  4. Do not let water stay on the wood for long. Wipe off the water from the furniture and sweep away water and snow from the patio, decking, etc.
  5. Install hood in kitchen and exhaust fans in bathrooms and toilets to let the steamy air escape.
  6. Consider getting a dehumidifier to reduce indoor moisture levels.
  7. Finally fix water leaks and clear waterways such as gutters and kitchen sink to prevent the source of moisture from causing water damage.

Termite Damage

Initially, termite damage may seem like dry or wet rot, but there is an important difference. As you can guess, rot is caused by fungi while termites are responsible for the decay of the wood in your home.
Photo of Termite damage on wood
Termites are tiny insects that feed on wood, paper, etc. They are often called white ants although they are not ants and are more closely related to the family of wood-eating cockroaches.

Signs of Termite Damage to Your Home?

There are some similarities in the damage caused by termites that might resemble dry or wet rot. But apart from the appearance of the termites themselves, the most obvious sign is small, pinpoint holes that appear in the wood. These are the holes that termites have burrowed into the wood for sustenance. Other signs of termite damage include the following.

  • Peeling paint
  • Hollow sound to the wood when tapped
  • Buckling floors, loose tiles, and squeaky floorboards
  • Discoloration to the drywall covering the wood

It is important that you quickly act and take the necessary steps to prevent further deterioration, especially in the case of subterranean termites which are very varocious.
In some ways, the termite damage might appear like water damage, but the wood itself is being compromised by the termites consuming its grains.

Does Rotting Wood Attract Termites?

The answer is yes. This is especially true of wet rot which contains plenty of moisture that the termites seek along with the nutrients. Dry rot is not as conducive to termites, but they may still be present.

How Much Termite Damage is Too Much?

Any termite damage is too much, but if the harm is minor and contained, then the compromised wood can be replaced. The first step is the elimination of the termite infestation, followed by a complete examination of the wood. Although it is possible that the termite infestation might be caught in the early stages, in most cases the part they have consumed will need to be replaced.

Can Termite Damage be Repaired?

Yes, once the termites have been eliminated and the wood that has been compromised removed. This will require inspection by a professional. This means a full evaluation of the wood still present and its condition. Wood that can be repaired will usually require some reinforcement. This is why replacement of the spoiled area is preferred.