Basement Rot: Causes, Treatments & Prevention
New Jersey's Experts on Basement Rot Prevention and Waterproofing
Wood is a common structural support for your home's walls, roof, basement, and foundation. But wood is also at high risk of damage and decay due to rot if you have excess moisture in your house.
We're here to explain what rot is, how it affects your basement, what to look out for, and how to prevent it. If you have questions about basement rot, we have the answers.
By the time you finish reading this, you'll know how to deal with rot and how to make sure rot stays out of your basement. Afterward, call Blue Umbrella for a free home inspection and basement waterproofing estimate. Let's keep your basement rot-free.
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What is Basement Rot?
So, what is basement rot exactly?
Basement rot, or wood rot, is a fungus that breaks down dead organic wood. It is an essential part of the ecosystem when it's out in nature, but a destructive catastrophe when it happens to the wood in your basement.
Rot requires a food source and moisture to grow in your basement.
The wood in your home is the food source for fungus, meaning all that's missing is moisture. Moisture in your basement can come from flooding, leaky pipes, basement wall leaks, and in places like New Jersey, even high humidity.
So, if your basement has wood structures, very likely, and it is not waterproofed, allowing moisture, dry or wet rot in your basement is almost a certainty.
What is Dry Rot?
Dry rot, AKA "brown rot," is the most common type of rot found in basements. However, the name is misleading, as "dry" rot still requires moisture to grow (30+ percent wood moisture content).
Brown rot is a fungus called Serpula Lacrymans, characterized by dry, cracking wood covered in what looks like red brick dust.
Brown rot spores can survive without water for a long time in your basement. However, once the moisture level in your basement breaks 30%, the spores open, and the fungus spreads.
What is Wet Rot?
Compared to dry (brown) rot, wet rot requires wetter conditions - a wood moisture content of at least 50%, making wet rot more likely to grow if you have a burst pipe or basement flooding. In addition, wet rot is much easier to spot. Wood with wet rot will appear swollen and spongy.
Both dry rot and wet rot can grow in your basement, and both can be incredibly destructive, so identifying early warning signs of basement rot can save you thousands of dollars in later repairs.
Signs of Basement Rot in Your Home
Common signs of basement rot that you need to watch out for when you are down in your basement include the following.
- Soft or Crumbling Wood. Look for cracks in the wood beams and walls in your basement. Feel the wood, ensuring it is sturdy and does not fall apart in your grip (dry rot) or feel wet and spongy (wet rot).
- Dark Patches of Wood. An early sign of rot is wood discoloration. So keep an eye out for dark patches of wood in your basement. These dark patches are water absorbing into the wood.
- Sagging Floors. Watch for any dips, sagging, or bounciness in the floors above your basement. Rot weakens the support beams below your floor, causing it to sag downwards.
- High Humidity. While humidity does not necessarily mean you have basement rot, wood rot grows in high-humidity spaces. If your basement feels stuffy or damp, rot may be just around the corner.
- Musty Smells. As a waste product of eating the wood in your basement, rot fungus expels a musty, mildewy smell. This smell can permeate through walls and mortar and spread throughout the house. The worse the smell becomes, the bigger your wood rot problem is.
- Fungal Growth. Eventually, as the problem grows, you will see visible fungal growth in your basement as round, rusty-colored circles.
If you walk downstairs to your basement and spot rotted wood, what should you do? Let's discuss how to treat and get rid of basement rot.
How to Repair and Prevent Rotted Basement Wood
How to repair basement wood rot depends on the extent of the rot growth and wood damage. If you catch the problem early enough and remove the moisture source from your basement, the wood will dry, and the rot fungus will die out.
But, if the rot has had time to grow, there is a good chance you will need to remove the source of moisture and some of the damaged wood. If the wood crumbles in your hand or has a spongy feel, your best bet is to replace the damaged portions.
- As a rule of thumb, you need to cut away any wood that shows signs of decay and any wood within a 1-meter radius. This is because even if the surrounding wood doesn't show signs of rot, it can still contain fungal spores.
- You will also need to remove any plaster and drywall in the affected areas and thoroughly clean the area.
- After removing the damaged wood and cleaning the area, apply a fungicide to kill lingering spores and inhibit regrowth.
- Finally, you'll have to replace the damaged wood with fresh, fungicide-treated wood.
While you can wait for wood rot to grow bad enough to require repair and replacement, the better option is to take preemptive measures to keep rot out of your basement.
How to Prevent Basement Rot
Since basement rot requires moisture to grow, eliminating water in your basement is the only reliable way to prevent rot. Here are steps you can take as a homeowner to keep moisture out of your basement.
Fix Your Roof & Gutters
Moisture in your basement can often start at the roof. Inadequate or faulty gutters mean water pooling in the soil surrounding your foundation, where it can make its way inside through windows, doors, or even through the basement walls. Fix your gutters, and make sure your downspouts route water safely away from your home.
Fix Yard Grading
You need to have your yard graded so it slopes downward away from your home. Proper yard grading helps water rainwater drain away from your home, keeping it out of your basement where it could cause basement rot.
Moisture can find its way into your basement simply from the humidity in the air. As warm, outside air enters your home and comes in contact with your cool basement wall, the moisture in the air condenses and drips down along the walls, creating a perfect environment for mold growth.
A professional basement dehumidifier removes moisture from the air, keeping the relative humidity too low for rot to grow.
Most importantly, you need to have Blue Umbrella install a basement waterproofing system to ensure water stays out of your basement. The system removes any entering water from your home and pumps it safely outside and away from your foundation before it becomes a problem.
Adding proper gutters and drainage, grading your yard away from your foundation, installing a basement waterproofing system, and adding a basement dehumidifier keep your basement moisture-free, preventing basement wood rot.
In the long run, this is a much simpler and less expensive option than basement rot repair. Your next step now is to call Blue Umbrella to start protecting your home.
Blue Umbrella Stops Basement Rot
Blue Umbrella Waterproofing keeps rot out of your basement by keeping out excess moisture. We safeguard your home from wood rot and damage.
Our waterproofing services and basement dehumidifiers are available throughout New Jersey. We have helped thousands of NJ home and business owners like you. So don't risk basement rot destroying your home - call us today for a free, no-obligation inspection and estimate.
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