Properly sealing and maintaining wooden products are of key importance to preventing dry rot.
Dry rot can be lethal to any wooden product, including wooden windows and doors. Caused by a fungus that weakens wood, dry rot is potentially disastrous and if not stopped early, it can eventually weaken wood so much that it will ultimately disintegrate.
The best cure for dry rot is prevention, says Dylan Miller from leading wooden window and door manufacturer, Swartland. “Your best defence is to ensure that your wooden products never get infected by properly sealing wooden windows and doors with a good quality sealant, and maintaining them on a regular basis.”
Dry rot explained
Dry rot usually affects timber that is damp, but the fungus also has the ability to transport water from wet to dry areas, allowing growth even in relatively dry wood.
Common causes include leaking water pipes, over-exposure to irrigation, or condensation in rooms such as kitchens or bathrooms. It can also come from leaking roofs, rising damp or damp penetrating through walls.
“Wood with a moisture content of 20% or more is particularly under threat and identifying the cause of the damp is an imperative part of any dry rot solution,” Miller explains.
Identifying dry rot
Upon noticing any timber decay, it is important to properly identify the cause to ensure successful treatment, since dry rot is often mistaken as termite damage, according to Miller.
“If you’re uncertain, commission a professional timber treatment company to carry out a survey to find out for sure,” he suggests.
Typical indications of dry rot include:
• Wood that shrinks, darkens and cracks.
• A silky grey to mushroom-coloured skin, which is frequently tinged with patches of lilac and yellow, often develops under less humid conditions. This “skin” can be peeled like a mushroom.
• White, fluffy mycelium, which boasts a cotton wool-type appearance, develops under humid conditions, and “teardrops” may also develop.
• Strands arise that are brittle when dry, and crack when bent.
• Fruiting bodies appear as a soft, fleshy pancake-type formation, with an orange-ochre surface boasting wide pores.
• Rust-red coloured spore dust is often seen.
• Active decay will produce an unmistakable musty and damp odour.
Prevention is better than cure
According to Miller, dry rot can travel through wood and other building materials, potentially spreading throughout an entire building and causing widespread structural damage, which is very costly to treat. If the dry rot has passed through the masonry, it should be isolated using physical containment and/or masonry sterilisation. Any affected timber has to be removed and replaced with pre-treated timber.
“To avoid this from happening, treat and maintain your wood as best you can,” Miller advises. “At Swartland, we have gone to great lengths to make regular timber maintenance as easy as possible by introducing top quality Maxicare water-based sealing products and the Maxicare Wash and Wipe Maintenance kit.”
Swartland recommends treating wood just before the rainy season and again before the sunny season.
Miller notes that water-based coatings are by far the best option for sealing wood, and they are the easiest to maintain and apply. “Essentially, since it uses water as its carrier, the pigments, hardener (resin) and other additives are mixed into the water. When the sealer dries, the water evaporates, and the resin, pigment and some additives stay behind to form a strong protective layer on the wood being treated,” he explains.
“One of the major benefits of the Maxicare water-based sealant is that it protects the wood against fungus and dry rot, as it contains powerful anti-fungal agents.”
Other benefits of this sealant include:
• It is UV-resistant and provides protection against the extreme South African temperatures, humidity, cold, rain and sunlight.
• It is easy to maintain with the new Wash and Wipe Wood Maintenance kit, which is quick to apply and doesn’t require any sanding.
• Drying fast compared to oil-based sealants, it is touch-dry in about an hour and can be recoated within about three hours.
• The slightly gel-like texture prevents it from dripping and colour pigments to settle.
• It is exceptionally hard-wearing and durable.
• Its high elasticity enables it to expand and contract with the wood during temperature changes.
• It enhances the longevity of the interior and exterior wood surfaces it protects.
• It is stain-resistant, water-repellent and long-lasting, preventing future damage.
• In darker colours, such as Teak and Imbuia, the sealant boasts a unique heat-reflective pigment that keeps the wood cooler in hot climates, thereby reducing moisture movement and protecting glue lines.
• It complies with the maximum of < 130g/l volatile organic compounds (VOC) and is ISO 14001 certified.
• It is non-flammable and lead-free.
• Offering a matt finish, it boasts stable colour properties that won’t yellow or darken over time.
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