The collapse of a wooden deck in San Francisco in 1996 was a tragic reminder that life safety and structural inadequacies are not just earthquake-related concerns for Bay Area property owners. Dry rot was the culprit in the failure of the third-floor balcony, which collapsed during a party and left one person dead and several others injured.
There are no half-measures or quick fixes, The only repair option is remove and replace. Identification of the beginning stages of dry rot before it gets out of control is crucial. Unlike leaky roofs that boldly announce "there's a serious problem here," the full extent of dry rot damage is not always obvious. The structural damage caused by wood-destroying fungi goes way beyond what the human eye can usually see.
The average cost of a dry rot repair job in the Bay Area is $20,000, because most people don't catch dry rot early - leading to more extensive and expensive repairs.
Preventing Dry Rot
The best way to prevent dry rot from getting a toehold is to minimize the moisture it needs to survive. Drainage problems and poor maintenance can quickly lead to structural problems. If you direct rainwater away from your house, eliminate debris that holds moisture and properly maintain decks and outdoor stairs, you've eliminated the most common sources of dampness that breeds fungi. The destruction of wood can be very rapid - deck supports, for example, can rot away in a matter of years, not decades.
Where to Find It
Common dry rot sites include crawl spaces under homes with inadequate drainage, poorly sealed window and door trim, and ledger boards under decks that are fastened directly to a home's siding - places where water from rainfall can soak deeply into cracks or debris caught between boards, keeping the wood damp for long periods of time.
Get Help Identifying Dry Rot
Call a handyman, a pest control company or licensed contractor to have your home inspected. I do these inspections for free and with my final analysis, I inform the home owner that what has been initially discovered may only be the tip of the ice berg. Further discovery is required during the removal process of what has been initially identified.