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Termite Damage Vs Wood Rot – How to Safeguard?

Cracking, discoloration, swelling, and peeling off paints are primary indications of wood decay. If you have found any of these issues and hope that it doesn’t penetrate too deep, you just have landed on the right page.

Starting with the basics. There can be two reasons behind this type of wood degradation, termite damage, and wood rot. Either situation needs to be fixed right away.

So, how can you tell which one is the culprit? Well,  you must first distinguish between wood rot and termite damage to correctly assess and restore your home. After that, you must identify which type you have.

What is Meant by Termite Damage?

Termite damage is caused by termites—small wood-eating insects—on wooden structures. Termites eat wood from the inside out, leaving hollows that look like speckles which weakens the wood.

Normally, termites live under the soil in large colonies and feed on cellulose. Cellulose is a plant-based complex carbohydrate, the most crucial component of plant cell walls.

Cellulose is found in grass, leaves, and most importantly, wood, making them one of the most damaging household pets. Termites are a year-round problem.

Termites look for holes in the foundation of the walls. These notorious pets are excellent at chewing your wooden foundations and can eat out a significant section of your structure without you having any knowledge about the damage. Subterranean termites are the most infamous type of wood-boring termite. The United States is the natural home of this kind of termite.

What Does Wood Rot Mean?

Wood rot is the most prevalent type of wood degradation. This structural damage of wood is most commonly associated with damp conditions. Excessive moisture is damaging to the wood. This excess moisture attracts a type of fungi that causes even more damage to the wooden structures.

Similar to termite damage which is caused by an insect, wood rot is caused by fungi, burrowing deep into the woods and causing a great deal of harm over a very short period of time.

There are two major types of wood rot that may affect your home, which is dry rot and wet rot. Although both types of wood rotting are caused by fungi the way they cause the wood to fall apart is very different.

Wet rot occurs when fungi grow on wood that has 50% or more moisture content, while dry rot occurs when fungi grow on wood with 20-30% more moisture content.

What are the Reasons for Termite Damage and Wood Rot?

Now that you know what wood rot is and what is termite damage and what causes both situations, it’s time to look at the typical signs and their reasons for destruction. Both eventually destroy your timber structures, but they do so for various reasons.

Reasons for Termite Damage:

Termites typically prefer too much wet wood. If your house is situated in a damp place, you are at high risk of termite damage. Moreover, termites favor wood that’s in close proximity to the house’s foundation.

This is possible because they can move through the ground and into the wood to begin feasting. And lastly, cracks in the walls and other wooden structures are perfect for termites because they let them into the centre of the wood. All in all, termites look for cracks and holes in your walls and other wooden structures so they can get in and start munching.

It’s a good idea to regularly check on your wooden foundation for termite damage. If you have wet wood or cracks in the wall you should take all the precautionary measures to keep these creatures at bay.

Signs of Termite Damage:

  • You see the hugs themselves
  • Peeling paint
  • Hollow sound of wood when tapped
  • Tiny holes in the wood that looks like a cork
  • Discarded termite wings
  • Buckling floor or lose tiles and squeaky flooring
  • Discolored drywall that covers the wood
  • Fecal pellets from swarmers

Reasons of Dry Wood Rot:

Dry wood rot is caused by fungi known as Serpula Lacrymans. It’s the most common type of rot that causes the decay of wooden constructions. It happens due to poor ventilation and humid conditions with a 20-30% moisture content.

The fungi thrive in this type of environment. A few circumstances that must exist for dry rot to develop include:

  • Serpula Lacrymans fungi spores
  • Oxygen
  • Wood
  • Moisture content between 20-30%
  • Poor ventilation

The spores of the dry rot fungi constantly floats in the air because homes that meet these typical conditions are at greater risk for dry rot damage. However, dry rot spores don’t settle on wood unless they meet the above-mentioned conditions, which makes an ideal place for them to proliferate in.

But, once the fungi start to eat away the wood, the dry rot can quickly spread to other parts of the building in your home. That makes it crucial to treat it straight away.

Signs of Dry Rot Damage:

  • Damp and musty odor
  • Cracks along the grain of the wood
  • Yellow tinge to the wood
  • Presence of fruiting bodies that appears like mushrooms
  • Brittle wood that crumbles in your hand

Dry rot has the unpleasant tendency to leave the surface layer intact, concealing the existence of the rotten wood inside. When dry rot is found, it needs to be treated right away. Otherwise, as time passes, the risk of damage to the structure becomes more acute.

Reasons for Wet Wood Rot:

The main reason for wet rot is due to leaking pipes or gutters. Wet rot happens when the wood is constantly exposed to some water source.

Wet rot requires a much higher moisture level to grow. While dry rot can grow in 20% humid conditions, wet rot only grows in the timber where the moisture level is around 50% or higher, which is mostly due to some kind of water damage either outside or inside the building.

Typical Reasons for Wet Rot are:

  • Damaged roof
  • Leaky plumbing systems
  • Shower and bathtub trays
  • Dampness penetrating the walls
  • Condensation
  • Gutter blocks or leaks

Wet rot and dry rot are similar in some aspects, but wet rot is easier to identify since the surface veneer is weakened. So, it’s easier to treat because it’s easier to detect.

And unlike wet rot, there are several different types of fungi that create wet rot. One thing about wet rot is that wet rot doesn’t spread as much as dry rot. It tends to be more localized.

Signs of Wet Rot:

  • Cracks in the wood
  • Soft or spongy wood
  • Wood that is discolored or warped
  • Damp smell

If these problems are not taken care of, wet rot may develop and spread subsequently throughout the house. The sooner the rot is treated, the less probable you will experience recurring problems.

How to Safeguard the Termite Damage and Wood Rot?

Ways to Prevent Termite Damage:

  • The best way to avoid termite damage is by doing routine pest control done every one to two years. If you can already predict termite damage, you should immediately reach out to professionals who will treat the cause using fumigation or chemicals.
  • Purchase anti-termite chemicals, which are easily available in local stores, and apply them directly to the affected area. Keep in mind that these chemicals should be handled carefully as they may emit a strong poisonous odor.
  • Next, you should try to keep your furniture away from moisture. Clean your wooden furniture with a dry cloth instead of water. Make sure your furniture is kept in a well-ventilated area to get rid of any excess moisture.
  • Fix leaking pipes and damp walls because termites thrive in dark and damp environments.
  • Because termites can infiltrate wood directly from the soil, avoid keeping wooden furniture outside, especially on the lawn.
  • Use termite-resistant wood polishes, which creates a glossy thick layer to protect the wood from termite damage and preserve it.
  • Wet wooden furniture or termite-damaged wood should be exposed to direct sunlight for at least 3 days. Termites are cold-bodied insects that cannot survive in heat so they die quickly.

Ways to Prevent Wood Rot:

  • Your first step towards safeguarding your wood from wood rot is choosing the right type of wood. Mahogany, Teak, and Redwood are rot-resistant woods. If you cannot afford hardwood, your best option is to go with pressure-treated wood.
  • Secondly, you need to choose the right type of sealant to seal the moisture from getting inside. Depending on the level of humidity, you can choose varnish or lacquer, or polyurethane.
  • Look for gaps, damaged caulks, and paint that has peeled off. Replace the old caulk by removing it. Use a sander to remove flaking paint before repainting the affected area.
  • Do not let water sit on the wooden furniture for long. Sweep away water and snow from the patio, decking, and other surfaces, and wipe down the furniture.
  • Install exhaust fans in the bathroom to pass the steamy air outside.
  • For indoor moisture level control, consider keeping a dehumidifier.
  • To prevent water damage from the source of moisture, address water leaks and clean waterways like gutters and kitchen sinks.

What are the Differences Between Termite Damage and Wood Rot?

It can be challenging to distinguish between termite damage and wood rot because either situation resembles similar issues. In any case, if you are predicting termite damage or wood rot, we advise you to consult a professional.

Nonetheless, there are a few crucial indications you may look for that will suffice as proof of the guilt of any pest.

Termite Damage Wood Rot
Damaged wood by termites has chewed through tunnels and galleries inside.


Rotten wood often has a spongy or stringy texture.

It may crumble into chunks or dust if you apply pressure.

The veneer is intact in most cases The outer veneer is damaged
Hollow sound of wood when tapped Wood shrinks in size
Evidence of insect presence. Droppings, broken wings, clicking sound in the walls. Presence of fruiting bodies, spores, and fungal growth
Small holes in the wooden structures The wood becomes spongy and soft to the touch

Which Causes More Damage, Wood Rot or Termite Damage?

Both termite and wood rot can cause severe damage to the overall structure of your house. What’s worse is they both can influence each other.

For example, a termite colony may attract a dry rot infestation because they love wood that is soft as their food and source of habitat. Whereas, wood chewed up by termites leaves behind holes where moisture accumulates and makes a perfect habitat for wood rot fungi.

Either situation can be dangerous, and if it goes unnoticed your home can experience moderate to severe damage to the wooden structures.

You might even have to replace all the damaged wood. Because both termite and wood rot spreads quickly, it’s important to immediately contact experts that deal with termite damage and wood rot. Remember that you need to address any type of wood damage you have noticed, no matter how slight it appears.


Wood rot and termite will continue their damage. So, keep your timber away from moisture. Fix any leaking pipe or gutters where water can leak into the foundation of your home.

Remember, both termite and wood rot thrive in dark and damp conditions. So, keep your wooden furniture dry and expose them to strong sunlight wherever it’s possible. And if you have problems with water collecting and pooling, don’t be hesitant to make foundation or roof modifications.

Try to buy high-quality wood, especially hardwood like Teak, Mahogany which is termite and wood rot-resistant. Do periodic checks by professionals for termite damage and wood rot especially if you live in an area that is known to be termite-friendly. Experts in this field assess the level of damage and take preventive measures if necessary.

Above all, stay alert. Paying attention is the best method to stop the damage from occurring. Don’t ignore cracking, discoloration, or swelling for too long. There’s no need to be overly attentive or obsessive, but you shouldn’t entirely let your guard down. Doing this will give you a better chance of seeing any problems before they become significant and expensive complications.

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