How to Take Care of Wood Rot in Your Deck

Finding wood rot in your deck is never a pleasant discovery, but fortunately, it’s relatively easy to treat. The first step in treatment is to identify the reason behind the rot: do that, and the next steps will be easy. Regardless of how clean you keep your deck, you may still find yourself at the mercy of rot at some point or another. While some types of wood (especially those that have been pressure treated) are less vulnerable to the dreaded rot than others, there’s no way of making your deck completely resistant.

Some of the most common causes of wood rot include:

  • Untreated Wood: Building your deck from untreated wood is, simply put, inviting problems with open arms. Without proper treatment, wood is vulnerable to everything the climate decides to through its way, whether that be snow, rain, hail, or even sun. Over time, the elements will have their wicked way with your deck, and before you know it, the rot will have set in.
  • Debris: The crevices between boards are a magnet to debris and leaves, which, over time, can start attracting wood-munching fungus and bacteria. Although it’s hard to eliminate the problem entirely, regularly cleaning the boards and in- between the crevices can help.
  • Standing Water: Standing water can be a real problem on slanted or uneven decks. The longer the water is allowed to linger, the greater the chances of rot setting in.
  • Termites: As anyone who’s ever suffered their effects will know, termites never travel alone. Once a termite finds a nice piece of wood to munch on, you can bet your life they’ll be inviting all their friends along to the party in no time. Although there’s plenty of treatments available that promise to keep termites at bay, so far, no single treatment has been created that’s powerful enough to resist these troublesome critters completely.
  • Weather: You might not “care what the weatherman says if the weatherman says it’s raining”, but your deck probably does. Other than the water damage caused by rain, the biggest problem when it comes to the weather and your deck results from the “freeze-thaw” cycle. When wood gets cold, it expands. When it gets warm, it contracts. Repeat that process enough times and sure as night follows day, cracks will start to form in the wood. If moisture seeps into the cracks during a cold spell (or in other words, when the wood is at its most expansive), it’ll get trapped inside once the wood returns to its normal size during warmer weather… and then, “hello, Rot!”

As rot can be caused by a number of different factors, identifying the problem (and recognizing the solution) can be tricky. To make it easier, do as Master My List recommends and consider the following questions:

  • How extensive is the damage? Are only the surface boards affected, or are the frames also under attack? In case of the latter, a little bit of maintenance involving a power wash and seal should be sufficient to resolve matters. If the frames are damaged, on the other hand, you might have to think about a more extreme course of action.
  • Can the rot be traced to water buildup in the wood? If it is, you’ll usually be able to spot the telltale signs of cracks, water pooling, and dampness.
  • Are insects or animals to blame? If so, you’ll need to call in the exterminators to handle the infestation before getting down to any repairs.

The Most Common Causes (And Solutions) To Wood Rot

The two most common types of wood rot are galvanic rot and rot caused by water damage.

Galvanic Rot

  • The Problem – Galvanic rot happens as a result of the chemicals from galvanized nails and screws reacting with pressure- treated lumber. The resulting oxidation can, over time, start eating away at the boards.
  • The Solution – The only way to treat galvanic rot is to get radical. All affected boards will need to be torn up and replaced with new ones. It may be expensive, but it’s the only way of stopping the rot from spreading.

Water Damage

  • The Problem – Water damage is often less a symptom of heavy rainfall and more a sign of shoddy workmanship. If the contractors involved in the initial work didn’t pay close enough attention to how they were laying the planks (and subsequently didn’t lay them all the same way), there’s a risk that over time, the center of the boards will “cup” and the wood will sag. As well as looking a mess, cupped boards are susceptible to developing cracks- and where there’s a crack, water will waste no time in seeping into the wood and rotting it from the inside out.
  • The Solution – Any planks that have been damaged through rot will need to be torn up and replaced. Once in place, a water-resistant coat should be applied to the entire deck, including the support pieces. Any spots left that can create water pooling should be evened out.

Prevention Is Better Than Cure

The secret to treating wood rot, regardless of cause, is to catch it early. If you notice any little signs of rot, acting before it spreads can make all the difference between having to replace a single board and having to replace the entire deck. And therein lies the problem. Spotting wood rot isn’t always as easy as it seems; by the time you notice the first signs, the damage may already have been done. If you’re at all concerned, call in the professionals for a routine “checkup”: not only will they be able to spot rot in the way an untrained eye can’t, they’ll also be able to give you advice on what kinds of rot your deck may be most susceptible to in the future, and advise on any measures that could prevent it.

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