Does Your Home have Moisture, Mold, Fungus or Rot Problems?
Moisture, Mold, Fungus and Rot can create Structural and Toxic Issues for Homeowners in the Oregon and SW Washington.
HOMETOWN EXTERIOR DESIGNS is dedicated to making sure that any dry rot-related structural damage, mold issues, or bug infestations are dealt with properly to eliminate any future problems. Unfortunately, it seems that most Siding and Window Contractors know very little about these structural damage and toxic issues and regularly cover up dry rot, fungus, mold, and moisture damage instead of dealing with these structural and toxic issues properly. We have been dealing with correcting and remediating these issues, specifically mold and fungus, dry rot, bug infestations, and moisture/condensation, successfully here in the Southwest Washington and Oregon for over 10 years. We take a very serious approach to what has become one of the biggest problems in the housing market. We try to educate our home remodeling customers about the causes of structural damage and toxic issues and the risks related to mold, rot, and fungus. It is also one of our goals to explain customer options for removing and correcting the problems with options like LP siding replacement, EIFS removal, or professional inspection.
Dry-rot and structural damage to your exterior walls are key signs that mold may be evident. But to the untrained eye the signs of dry rot and fungus may not be evident. There are specific things that we look for to help you determine specifically what steps should be taken to protect your home from structural damage and toxic issues.
There have been at least 11 different man-made composite sidings that have been having failure issues in the last 20 years due to moisture intrusion, de-lamination, and mold (fungal degradation). The most common products out there with these problems are-EIFS/DRY-VIT (or synthetic stucco), Louisiana Pacific, OSB, Weyerhaeuser, OmniBoard, Cladwood, Georgia Pacific, Masonite, ABTCO, and Stimson Lumber. Most of the defective sidings were manufactured between 1984 and 1998. Though not every home has issues like mold, fungus, or dry rot, and not every composite siding is failing, it is a serious problem that homeowners should be aware of and take steps to address the structural issues as soon as possible. This entire issue has become a real concern for homeowners, home buyers, and real estate professionals.
Then there are the health risks involved arising from potentially toxic mold, fungus, and dry rot. Sick-Home-Syndrome is one of the most common effects from siding that has moisture damage. The signs of Sick-Home-Syndrome are typically respiratory issues, and never fully recovering from an everyday common cold. The name of the mold that is frequently found from moisture damage on the exterior is known as Black Mold or Stachybotrys. It is a greenish black slimy mold typically found growing on water soaked cellulose products such as wood, paper, or cardboard. This mold produces Mycotoxins which can result in serious health problems like Sick-Home-Syndrome. Mold will typically begin growing from in a continually wet environment such as a water leak in a wall, water vapor condensation trapped in walls, or from moisture intrusion to the framing or sub-wall from the exterior envelope. Hometown Exterior Designs' goal is to eliminate these problems and provide homeowners in Portland, Vancouver, and all of Oregon and SW Washington with peace of mind.
HERE IS SOME ADDITIONAL INFORMATION ABOUT OTHER HOME DESTROYERS LIKE FUNGUS, DRY ROT, AND BUG/INSECT INFESTATION!
Wood Destroying Fungi
The wood destroying fungus, Serpula lacrymans, is commonly know as DRY ROT. However, the name DRY ROT might be considered rather inappropriate, since like all wood destroying fungi, it requires water for germination, growth and survival. Wood destroying fungi, or dry rot, causes the most structural damage of all pests that we are confronted with. Over $17 billion worth of damage is caused by fungi rot in the United States every year. Especially in, but not limited to western Oregon and Southwest Washington, fungi rot causes more damage than all other home infesting pests combined.
Decay fungi can cause severe structural damage to any wood member, even wood species such as redwood and cedar. All that is needed is a source of water in contact with the wood. Decay will occur in untreated wood in direct contact with ground, concrete, or exposed to a source of moisture such as rain seepage, plumbing leaks or condensation. Wood kept dry will never decay! These are the major types of wood destroying fungi affecting structures here in the Pacific Northwest:
Brown rot fungi feed on the wood's cellulose, a component of the wood's cell wall, leaving a brown residue of lignin, the substance which holds the cells together. Infested wood may be greatly weakened, even before the decay from brown rot can be seen. Advanced infestations of brown rot are evidenced by wood appearing more brown in color than normal, tending to crack across the grain. When dried, wood previously infested will turn to powder when crushed. Often, old infestations of brown rot which have dried out are labeled as "dry rot." This is really a deceiving term since wood will not actually continue to rot when dry.
When white rot attacks wood, fungi breaks down both the lignin and cellulose causing the wood to lose its color and appear whiter than normal. Wood affected by white rot fungi normally does not crack across the grain and will only shrink and collapse when severely degraded. Infested wood will gradually lose its strength and become spongy to the touch.
Most decay fungi are unable to conduct water very far and can only attack moist wood. However, Poria incrassata, called dry rot or the water-conducting fungus, will decay wood which would not be attacked by typical decay fungi. Poria incrassata infested wood is often mistakenly identified as subterranean termite damage. This type of dry rot fungus can transport water for several feet through large root-like structures called rhizomorphs. Once established, it can quickly spread through a building and destroy large areas of flooring, walls, or older siding in as little as a year or two. Typically, infestations of Poria incrassata begin where there is condensation or moisture, in places like dirt filled porches, damp crawl spaces and basements where wood is in contact with the soil. They also begin in moist concrete or damp bricks. At first, yellowish mycelial fans grow over the surface of joists and sub-floors, or in protected areas. Irregular root-like rhizomorphs may appear on foundations, framing, sub flooring and other moist areas. The rhizomorphs are dirty white when young but turn brown to black with age. They are typically 1/4 to 1/2 inch wide, but can be an inch or more in diameter in old infestations. Fugus is often hidden in concrete, masonry or behind wood structures. Fruiting bodies do not always form, but when they do they are found on well rotted wood and are flat, up to 1/2 inch thick, and pale olive-gray with a dirty white/yellow rim when young. With age the dry rot fungi become dry and turn brown to black. The under surface is covered with small pores. When Poria incrassata infested wood dries it usually shrinks and cracks across the cracks or depressed areas in painted woodwork. This may be the first evidence of a Poria incrassata infestation. The best tool for discovering a Poria incrassata infestation is a moisture meter. If wood has a moisture content above 40% and there is no apparent source of water, you are probably confronting Poria incrassata or an infestation of subterranean termites. In either case the wood should be treated as soon as possible by home remodeling professionals.
The Principles for the Elimination of Dry Rot and Fungus
The most vulnerable feature of the fungus is it’s requirement for water. And it is the control and elimination of this essential requirement that forms the fundamental measure for the control and elimination of DRY ROT!
1. Locate and eliminate the source of water causing and maintaining the dry rot or fungus.
2. Promote and maintain rapid drying conditions to facilitate the elimination of dry rot.
The removal of the source of the water is the first point of attack in the elimination of dry rot. It is therefore absolutely essential to stop further water ingress. This action alone will eventually control and eliminate the fungal activity. Indeed, it is the fundamental measure in eradicating the organism. Included in this action is the promotion and maintaining of rapid and good drying conditions. The control of wood destroying fungi like dry rot requires addressing the moisture or condensation problem contributing to its growth. Such corrective measures may include one of more of the following:
UNDER THE HOUSE In the control and elimination of dry rot, It is extremely important to have good ventilation in your crawl space plus a substantial vapor barrier covering all exposed dirt. If excessive moisture, condensation, or standing water is in the crawl space it will require a system to remove it. Also, check for any plumbing leaks under the home (frequently a problem).
INSIDE THE HOUSE Again, check for plumbing leaks. Small plumbing leaks can be there for years without detection causing huge problems eventually due to resulting moisture. The next is roof leaks. Also ensure that there is adequate ventilation in the attic, bathrooms, kitchen, and any other areas that may generate moisture.
OUTSIDE OF THE HOME Sealing the envelope of the structure is critical. Sealing the home with a high quality paint on a regular basis (in Portland, Vancouver WA, and other cities throughout Oregon and SW Washington re-painting is recommended every 3 to 5 years). Inspecting all caulk joints annually and re-caulking as needed to prevent moisture from getting behind siding materials. Make sure that roof flashings and gutter systems are working properly to prevent water infiltration and moisture build up.
If wood is damaged from wood destroying fungi and dry rot it must be removed to prevent the spread of the damage. Painting over rot damaged wood will not repair structural damage or improve it’s load-bearing strength. It will only trap the Poria incrassata fungus under the paint where it will continue to grow and spread. In some cases where the infection from fungi is limited and still in its early stages , wood can be professionally treated with a fungicide to kill the fungi before serious damage takes place.
The above preventative measures can also be applied to non-wood destroying molds and mildews that also frequent structures in the Oregon and Southwest Washington.
Carpenter ants, vary in size and color but are usually large (1/4-1/2 inch) and blackish. Occasionally, swarms of winged carpenter ant reproductives will emerge inside a home. Carpenter ant swarms usually occur in the spring and are a sure sign that a colony is nesting somewhere inside the structure.
Winged carpenter ants can be distinguished from termites by their larger size and shape of their antennae, waist and wings.
Besides being objectionable by their presence, carpenter ants damage wood in your home by hollowing it out for nesting. They excavate galleries in wood which have a smooth, sandpapered appearance. Wood which has been damaged by carpenter ants contains no mud-like material, as is the case with termites. Shredded fragments of wood, similar in appearance to coarse sawdust, are ejected from the galleries through preexisting cracks or slits made by the ants. When such accumulations are found (typically containing dead ants and bits of insects which the carpenter ants have eaten), it's a good indication that a carpenter ant nest is nearby. Oftentimes, however, the excavated sawdust remains hidden behind a wall or in some other concealed area.
Carpenter ants nest in both moist and dry wood, but prefer wood which is moist. Consequently, the nests are more likely to be found in wood dampened by water leaks, moisture, and condensation, such as around sinks, bathtubs, poorly sealed windows/ door frames, roof leaks and poorly flashed chimneys. Nests are especially common in moist, hollow spaces such as the wall void behind a dishwasher, or in a hollow porch column. Since there often will be no external signs of damage, probing the wood with a screwdriver helps reveal the excavated galleries. Another technique for locating hidden nests is to tap along baseboards and other wood surfaces with the blunt end of a screwdriver, listening for the hollow sound of damaged wood. If a nest is nearby, carpenter ants often will respond by making a " rustling" sound within the nest, similar to the crinkling of cellophane.
Carpenter ants may establish nests in a number of different locations. It is important to realize that these locations can be either inside or outside the structure. Carpenter ants actually construct two different kinds of nests: parent colonies which, when mature, contain an egg-laying queen, brood and 2000 or more worker ants, and satellite colonies which may have large numbers of worker ants but no queen, eggs or young larvae. The carpenter ants inside a home may have originated from the parent colony or from one or more satellite nests. For example, the ants may be coming from the parent nest located outdoors in a tree stump, landscape timber or woodpile, or from one or more satellite nests hidden behind a wall in the kitchen or bathroom, or perhaps from wood dampened by a roof leak in the attic.
The extent and potential structural damage to a home depends on how many carpenter ant nests are actually present within the structure, and how long the bug infestation has been active. Although large carpenter ant colonies are capable of causing structural damage, the damage is not normally as serious as that from termite infestations. In some cases, the damage may be relatively insignificant, but this can only be determined by locating and exposing the carpenter ant nest area.
Dampwood termites (Zootermopsis angusticollis) typically infest damp and decaying timber. This species is commonly found in the Pacific Coast states, such as Montana, Idaho, Northern Nevada, Oregon, Northern California and Washington. Other but less damaging species are found in areas of Southwest USA and Southern Florida.
Dampwood termites are generally much larger than subterranean termites. The swarmers may be up to 1” in length, including their wings. The soldiers of dampwood termites have a large reddish-brown head and large multi-toothed mandibles (pincers). Dampwood termites contain various species, and are known to "swarm" to set up new nests during the year from January to October.
Dampwood termites do not create shelter tubes as with subterranean termites. The appearance of timber damaged by dampwood termites can be varied but they always eat across the grain, consuming both spring and summerwood. While doing this, they make a series of chambers or galleries connected by tunnels whose walls are smooth as though they are finely 'sandpapered'.
Dampwood termites as the name suggests, will only infest wood with a high moisture content.
Dampwood termites may infest Oregon and SW Washington homes or structures where timber is in contact with the soil or with moisture say from plumbing leaks, ventilation or drainage deficiencies. Old gutters filled with leaves may also cause excessive moisture to accumulate in wall cavities making it attractive to infestation by dampwood termites.
Dampwood termites require wood with a high moisture content. Wood in contact with the ground or with a constant moisture source is most prone to attack. Dampwood termites attack the wood directly and usually do not burrow in the soil.
If you suspect that you have a termite infestation, it requires a complete thorough inspection of the buildings and surrounds by a professional. They will provide a detailed written report on areas inspected, evidence found of termite activity, high risk termite entry areas inaccessible to inspection and termite control options and limitations thereto.
It is essential that the inspection and report be received before any protective measures are commenced by the homeowner or home remodeling company.
Moisture exclusion from inside the wall cavities, around the base of the building and sub-floor area (if any) is extremely important in preventing infestations. Water can be excluded from a sub-floor area by the installation of ag-drains. Make sure there is adequate cross flow ventilation in the sub-floor area. If moisture is present under the house or interior wall areas, a qualified plumber should be hired to ensure there is no water leakage from plumbing pipes in the bathroom, the shower recess, kitchen, down pipes, guttering and air conditioning unit overflow. Look for signs of dampness or condensation in the wall cavities, broken roof tiles, faulty guttering and the like. Please note: high humidity, dampness or moisture accumulating in a wall cavity is of high risk to encouraging large scale termite activity inside the building.
Carpenter Ant and Termite Infestation Prevention
A number of steps can be taken by homeowners to reduce the potential for future insect infestation problems from carpenter ants and termites.
1. Correct roof and/or siding leaks and other moisture problems which will attract carpenter ants or termites.
2. Eliminate wood-to-ground contact such as where landscaping has moved soil up against the wood siding of a home.
3. Trim back tree limbs and vegetation that is touching the roof or siding (Vinyl siding, lap siding, vertical siding, etc) of the house. Limbs and branches serve as a bridge for carpenter ants between the dead tree limbs and the structure.
4. Seal cracks and opening in the foundation, especially where utility pipes and wires enter from the outside.
5. Stack firewood away from the foundation and elevate it off of the ground. Never store firewood in the garage or other areas of the home. Firewood is a prime nesting area for carpenter ants and termites.
Without a high moisture content in their nesting areas these species of insects cannot survive.
The best prevention for dry rot, mold, fungi and insect infestation is insuring that your home's envelope is moisture tight.