Dry Rot vs Termite Damage

During a recent inspection of a unit on your property, you may have discovered something all property managers fear: damage. It could be rotting wood, peeling paint, or loose boards.

But distinguishing the specific type of damage is crucial to knowing how to solve the problem. Is it from moisture? Insects? Follow this overview of dry rot vs termite damage so you can know the right professional for the job.

What Is Dry Rot Damage?

Dry rot is a type of fungal decay that occurs when the moisture content of wood exceeds 20% due to repeated exposure. The fungus then attacks the wood and begins breaking it down, compromising the integrity of the structure and endangering your residents. It is the most serious type of fungal decay and should be addressed immediately. If neglected, the fungus can spread to adjoining structures including flooring, door frames, and more—costing you even more.

In the worst case scenario, the structure will be unable to bear up under the weight and collapse. Sadly, this same scenario occurred in 2015 at a Berkeley apartment complex, claiming 6 innocent lives and leading to the induction of law SB326. Dry rot was ultimately determined as the culprit.

What Causes Dry Rot Damage?

As stated, a fungus is what causes dry rot damage. Airborne spores will first land on the wet wood, then germinate and sprout. Once full-grown, the fungus will consume the wood and suck the moisture from it, further weakening it. In the next phase the fungus itself is full grown, and the cycle begins again.

Dry rot always occurs in moist and damp conditions with poor ventilation. This could be caused by broken roof tiles, leaking pipes, pooling water, or even a leaking washing machine.

What Is Termite Damage?

Like dry rot, termite damage can compromise the integrity of weight-bearing structures. And also like fungus, termites feast on wood. This type of damage looks similar to water damage and usually requires a trained eye, such as from an SB326 engineer.

What Causes Termite Damage?

Termites are attracted to moist areas, as well as warm and humid conditions. On the other hand, drywood termites are attracted to dry wood. They may get in through exterior cracks and crevices around windows, doors, and any wood or plants too close to a property. Other things that attract termites include humidity, as well as moisture from drainage issues, leaky pipes, or improper airflow.

Once they’ve located a suitable structure, termites burrow inside and start developing their colony through a series of tunnels. They will feed on the cellulose in the wood and hollow it from the inside out. As you can imagine, this creates a big problem not only for the value of your property, but the soundness of the structure itself and the safety of your residents.

How to Identify Dry Rot vs Termite Damage

If you suspect damage to your property, you need to be able to distinguish dry rot vs termite damage so you can call in the right professional.

Signs of dry rot include:

  • Damp fungal smell
  • Dry, brittle wood that easily splinters
  • Areas of warping or shrinking
  • Cracks across the grain of the wood
  • Forms of the fungus life cycle:
    • Spores: rust, orange, or brown spore dust
    • Hyphae: fine grey strands growing through the wood
    • Mycelium: white or gray cotton-like substance spreading across the wood
    • Sporophore: rust or orange-colored mushroom body

Signs of termites include:

  • Buckling or blistering wood
  • Wood that feels soft
  • Smell of mildew or mold
  • Visible mazes within walls or furniture
  • Swelling floors or ceiling
  • Small droppings or feces
  • Wood that sounds hollow

Get Help from the Experts at SoCal Structural

Now that you understand dry rot vs termite damage, you need an experienced professional to come perform a thorough inspection of your property. Our SB721 and SB326 engineers will provide fast and professional service so you can have ultimate peace of mind about the soundness of your property. Keep your residents safe and stay in compliance by calling SoCal Structural today.

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