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Wood Rot

Wood rot and mold aren’t the same things, but both can have a detrimental impact on your crawl space’s health. Address them with professional help.

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It’s not easy to stay on top of all the threats to your crawl space. Many, after all, overlap with one another in their attempts to weaken your crawl space’s structural supports. Wood rot can look a lot like mold at first glance. There are distinct differences, however, between these two forces and how they impact the health of your crawl space. Not only does wood rot pose an immediate threat to the stability of your crawl space, but it also indicates the presence of a leak or some other kind of moisture in your space. You’ll want to reach out to the professional contractors serving Cincinnati and Columbus, OH, if you suspect this rot is working against the integrity of your home.   

wood rot in crawl space

Identifying Wood Rot   

Wood rot is a type of fungus that makes its way into your home courtesy of your air ducts or due to air leaks. Known as Serpula lacrymans, wood rot can circulate through your home in a benign state if there’s little to no moisture for it to feed on. However, if your crawl space starts to leak and the humidity in your home starts to rise, wood rot can easily take root and start to damage your wooden supports.   

Wood rot needs to encounter both wood and moisture to be a problem. If it manages to, the effect is immediate. Once this fungus incubates, it starts to eat away at your unprotected wooden supports at a rapid rate. If you don’t make a point of checking on your crawl space regularly, then a wood rot infestation can severely damage your unprotected wood in a short period of time. You may start to see your floors sagging, for example, even if you haven’t had to contend with standing water or any other symptoms of damage.   

It’s worth noting that wood rot is visibly identifiable. The rot tends to appear in earth tones, ranging from a pale brown to black in color. Unlike mold, wood rot doesn’t cluster together but instead appears in spots.   

Wood Rot Versus Mold   

wood rot

Even though the wood rot fungi and mold can look similar, there are plenty of differences between the two. For starters, there’s one common family of wood rot. There are several different comparable species of mold. While all these fungi enter your home via your air ducts, the mold that can take root in your crawl space can be classified as either toxigenic, pathogenic, or allergenic.   

Mold has a more significant impact on the health of a home’s residents than wood rot does. All types of molds can cause your family to suffer from respiratory conditions, even without a history of those conditions to contend with. The damage that mold does to your house, when compared to wood rot, is less significant in the short term and less specific. Mold can nestle in all types of porous materials in your home, whereas wood rot will only grow on unsealed wooden supports.   

In short, mold’s impact on your home’s structural integrity may be less severe than that of wood rot, but it’s still not something you want to let live in your home. If you’re not sure what kind of infestation you’re dealing with, but you know something’s wrong, you’ll want to reach out to the professionals in Cincinnati and Columbus, OH, as soon as you can for a crawl space inspection.   

Why Wood Rot Takes Root in Your Home   

Wood rot won’t take root unless there’s moisture in your crawl space. Your crawl space can start to take on moisture for a variety of reasons. The most common of these include:   

  • Hydrostatic pressure  

Hydrostatic pressure is one of the most active forces to work against your home. As moisture encounters cement and other materials building up your home, it can force those materials to change size on a molecular level. Rapid changes in molecular size can cause those materials to suffer from extreme levels of stress. That stress, in turn, can cause those materials to crack. Cracked materials will allow more moisture into your home while also compromising the structural integrity of your crawl space.   

  • Tree roots  

Tree roots do not attack your crawl space or your wooden supports. Instead, they cause the soil around your crawl space to shift. If your crawl space’s structural supports start to fall into the hollows that tree roots can leave behind, your support beams can start to fall out of place, allowing groundwater or rainwater into your crawl space. That moisture can then allow wood rot spores to incubate and grow.   

  • Pests  

Pests, like tree roots, cause hollows to open beneath your crawl space. Insects, however, like carpenter ants and termites, can also eat away at unprotected wooden supports. As these supports start to give out, the gaps in your crawl space’s protection can allow water into your home. Before you know it, you may have dual infestations on your hands—wood rot and insects. After you’ve reached out to an area exterminator, you can talk to an Ohio Basement Repair specialist to replace or reinforce the wooden supports in your crawl space that have seen the worst of wood rot and insect damage.   

  • Poor construction  

Sometimes the problems you’re dealing with in your crawl space can be traced back to the original construction of your home. If the team who built your home used inappropriate or unprotected wooden materials when establishing your crawl space, you may see more water damage than you expect.   

Preventing Damage in Your Crawl Space   

Getting rid of your wood rot is a great first step in terms of your crawl space repair, but it’s not the only step you need to take. Once you’ve had someone remove the wood rot, you’ll want to make sure that any leaks and cracks in your crawl space get repaired, as well. If you leave this kind of damage unattended in your crawl space, it won’t matter what kind of removals or replacements you’ve invested in. Instead, any remaining wood rot spores will have access to the moisture they need to thrive. Even home waterproofing measures that you install in a damaged crawl space will have a shorter lifespan than they would if you had invested in comprehensive repairs.   

There are a few different ways to prevent damage in a crawl space. You can request a crawl space inspection from the professionals in Cincinnati and Columbus, OH, to first determine what the source of moisture in your crawl space is, then what repairs might suit your needs best.   

Waterproofing Your Crawl Space   

Once you’ve removed any wood rot growths from your home and invested in additional repairs, you should think about waterproofing your crawl space. By waterproofing this space, you can deny any remaining spores the nutrients they need to kick off another infestation. Some of the most effective crawl space waterproofing measures include:   

crawl encapsulation
  • Interior drains and sump pumps – Interior drainage systems and sump pumps are designed to actively intercept seeping water and remove it from your crawl space.  
  • Crawl space encapsulation with a vapor barrier – Crawl space encapsulation allows you to seal your crawl space from moisture and vapor intrusion. A vapor barrier is used to cover the walls and floor in this process. Vapor barriers are made of a thick plastic-like material. This material is dense enough to keep water in its liquid and gaseous form out of your home. You can also rely on vapor barriers to keep most gases out of your home.   
  • Dehumidifiers – Non-commercial dehumidifiers can help you control the humidity in your crawl space by pulling moisture out of the air. These dehumidifiers will not rid your crawl space of moisture entirely but rather keep your crawl space at a humidity level of roughly 55 percent.   

To keep your crawl space as rot-free as possible, make sure you’re getting your HVAC assessed at least once a year. Your HVAC system, as mentioned, is the gateway for both mold and wood rot to get into your home. The cleaner you keep it, the lower the chances are of a repeat infestation.   

Wood Rot


Wood rot acts quickly once it settles in your home. If you notice signs of wood rot damage, you may be tempted to try and address the problem on your own, if only to protect your sensitive wooden supports. While this ambition is admirable, it’s not in your best interest to try and DIY your crawl space repair. There are a few different drawbacks, including the cost and the damage that you may accidentally leave behind.   

The Cost of Clearing Out Wood Rot   

Many homeowners express interest in DIY crawl space repair because they think it’s less expensive than professional repairs. This is actually rarely the case. Anyone who tries to repair their crawl space on their own time is going to have to invest in the single-use tools and materials that they need to get rid of their wood rot.  

These initial investments can run through a homeowner’s repair budget in no time at all. If you never intend to use the tools you purchase again, then your financial losses can be more significant than they initially seem.  Additionally, people who know how to DIY other home fixes may not be great at handling wood rot issues, which can lead to other concerns. 

The Risks of DIY   

If you’ve never repaired your crawl space before, then tackling a challenge as complicated as wood rot damage can be overwhelming. Part of the problem of wood rot management has to do with addressing the parts of your crawl space that have taken on damage and what parts can go untouched. If you don’t know much about this process, you may be tempted to replace every wooden beam of support in your space.   

Unfortunately, this kind of mass overhaul takes a lot of time and can compromise the structural integrity of your crawl space and home as a whole. If you don’t go about replacing your wood appropriately, your crawl space may be permanently destabilized. When it comes to something as important as your home safety and stability, DIY simply might not be the best option.   

If you’re concerned about your crawl space’s repair budget, you may be reluctant to invest in preventative care. After all, that’s just another expense you’re going to have to factor into your yearly losses. If you make a point of caring for your crawl space before wood rot sets in, you can prevent worse—and more expensive—damage from taking root. When you work with area professionals to regularly inspect and protect your home, you can:   

React to Immediate Damage   

The professional contractors serving Cincinnati and Columbus, OH, have a lot of experience under their belts. As a result, they can identify the weakest parts of your crawl space before you even notice that something’s gone wrong. This is the benefit of yearly crawl space inspections—even if life seems like it’s normal in your home, area professionals can help you react to any immediate, even insignificant, damage.   

The great thing about the ability to react to this damage is the cost mitigation. If you’re able, for example, to respond to your crawl space’s damage immediately, before it has time to spread, you can get ahead of wood rot’s worst effects. As a result, your repairs are going to cost less than they would otherwise.   

Get Ahead of Rot   

One of the best ways you can care for your crawl space is to seal off your wooden supports before damage sets in. You don’t need any special tools to do this. Instead, all you need is a bit of paint. Your average hardware store paint can serve as a barrier between your wooden supports and the wood rot spores that might otherwise compromise the integrity of your crawl space.   

That said, you can invest in more specialized materials if you so choose. Certain wood stains can create a barrier between your supports and the outside world. Similarly, there are waterproof wood paints that you can use to limit the amount of water damage that your crawl space endures. You don’t need a professional’s help to paint the supports in your crawl space, but if you’re not sure what materials might best protect your wood, don’t hesitate to reach out for an initial protective consultation.  

When you invest in regular crawl space inspections, you can get ahead of the worst of the damage that wood rot can do to your home. These inspections are typically quick and non-invasive. By the time area professionals finish looking over your space every year, you’ll have a better idea of what kind of condition your home is in and what means you need to invest in to protect it.   

The Cursory Inspection   

To kick a crawl space inspection off, the professionals serving Cincinnati and Columbus, OH, need to look over the entrance to your space. To be up to code, your entry point needs to be two feet wide and 18 inches tall. If an inspector cannot safely enter your crawl space, you will fail your inspection and need to have your entrance expanded or otherwise remodeled with modern safety requirements in mind.   

As long as a professional can get into your crawl space without putting themselves in danger, they’ll move on to the superficial inspection. A superficial inspection lets professionals identify anything obviously wrong with your space, including wood rot, mold clusters, vapor barrier damage, standing water, and so on. If an inspector is able to identify any of these things in your crawl space, professionals will call off the rest of your inspection to start discussing your potential repairs.   

In-Depth Crawl Space Assessments   

You’re not out of the woods if you pass your initial and superficial inspections. Professional contractors serving Cincinnati and Columbus, OH, will also conduct full assessments of your crawl space if they believe your space may benefit from additional protections.   

Crawl space inspectors, at this point, will take a closer look at the nooks and crannies of your crawl space. They’ll want to identify any early signs of rot or damage before those symptoms start to spread. Alternatively, if it doesn’t appear that your crawl space is suffering from even mild damage, they’ll want to identify any weak points that may need protection from external forces. This stage of your crawl space inspection is effectively preventive and designed to ensure your space remains secure in the months and years to come.   

Let Area Professionals Help Safeguard Your Home from Wood Rot   

Are you dealing with bouncing floors and an unusual smell throughout your home? You may have wood rot in your crawl space. The good news is that you don’t have to try and address this problem on your own. Instead, you can reach out to the professionals at Ohio Basement Authority who serve Cincinnati and Columbus, OH. Together you can inspect your crawl space for signs of damage and react to any wood rot you find. At the end of your initial home inspection, you’ll even walk away with a free services quote detailing the cost of any repairs and preventative measures you may want to invest in.   

Our crawl space experts can help you

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Request free inspection
Our crawl space experts can help you

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Serving Greater Columbus, Cincinnati, Dayton, and Northern Kentucky

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1270 Hillsmith Dr.
Cincinnati, OH 45215

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2421 McGaw Rd.
Obetz, OH 43207

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Beavercreek, OH, 45440