If left unaddressed, rotting wood can silently compromise the structure of your home. Obvious issues such as a broken pipe or major leak allow you to take immediate corrective action and make necessary repairs in a timely fashion, but wood rot occurs gradually and behind the scenes. Severe cases can eat away at roof supports and weaken walls from the inside. If you’re not actively looking for it, you may not know it’s happening until significant damage has been done.
Read on for some of the top signs of potential wood rot. If you observe these signals and suspect an issue, either as a homeowner or prospective buyer, schedule an examination with a licensed home inspector as soon as possible.
Sign #1: Rotten wood is soft. It can become brittle and crack or crumble. It may be hidden by paint or wallpaper, but carefully and gently pressing with a screwdriver – or any other metal tool – may help to expose it.
Sign #2: Spreading rot can cause discoloration. It may spread out organically in a rough circle, which may happen when a pool of water is sitting in the same spot on the ceiling. It may be a long streak of discoloration where water is dripping down the inside of the wall. Anything that looks unnatural is an indicator of a potential problem.
Sign #3: Paint or drywall may bubble or crack where water is seeping in. If the paint is concealing rot in the underlying wood beams, this surface change can tip you off to what’s happening out of sight. Cracks in paint are also problematic because paint is not just there for aesthetic purposes — it’s there to protect the wood or drywall, which can become more susceptible to moisture when cracks are present.
Sign #4: Floorboards often darken from water damage. This could happen, for instance, if there’s a leak under your refrigerator. You may not notice water seeping out, but looking underneath with a flashlight may reveal darkened wood, which would signal a potential issue.
Sign #5: Remember to consider the climate in your home. Pay special attention to high-moisture areas such as the bathroom, kitchen, and attic. If you notice a musty odor, this may signal a mold issue — which can be a precursor to potential rot or a symptom of existing rot.
If you suspect moisture damage in your home or potential home, talk to a professional as soon as possible. As a licensed Washington State Structural Pest Inspector, John Pittman specializes in identifying wood rot. Contact us for an inspection and tackle this structural issue before it escalates.