Ways to Spot Wood Rot Throughout Your Home

How to Spot Wood Rot

Photo by Jp Valery on Unsplash

If you are a current homeowner or you foresee yourself purchasing a home in the future, the topic (and action) of home maintenance will inadvertently come up. Since most homes are built with wood or have wood within the structure, a common home repair that you may find yourself dealing with is wood rot. It is just one of those unavoidable things - like death, taxes... and wood rot.


When water permeates any wooden surface and does not run off or evaporate, you run the risk of having wood rot. Pest infestation and wood fungus can essentially eat away at the strength and structure of the wood as well. 

Wood rot, though it starts small, if left untreated can cause some big problems for your home. If at all possible, once you spot a problem area, it is best to have the damage repaired right away before it gets to be a larger, more expensive problem.


Where are the likely places for wood rot on or in your home? This list contains the most common areas of your home that can be affected by wood rot, but these are not the only places wood rot can appear.

  • Siding
  • Windows
  • Doors
  • Decks
  • Exterior Trim
  • Roof

Most of these are visible from outside inspection. You can spot wood rot by the following indicators.

  • Peeling paint
  • Softness or spongy wood
  • Wood discoloration
  • Cracks or splintering
  • Presence of fungus or pest
  • Damp or musty smell

Another cause of wood rot to be weary of is when you discover "hidden" wood rot, or worse yet, don't discover it. Some issues can happen when there is condensation or leaks from plumbing, and it builds up and goes untreated, all hidden from view.


One of the best ways to check wood rot on the outside of your home, or in the trim is to tap a screwdriver into any of your trim or wood that looks suspect. If your screwdriver doesn't meet resistance, and the wood gives away, it indicates you have an issue. Sometimes wood rot can be isolated into that individual piece of wood, other times it is a larger problem. More important than identifying the presence of wood rot, is locating what is causing it to happen. If you fix the rot but don't address the cause, you will be fixing the same problem again and again.

A good way to keep tabs on whether you have interior hidden wood rot and potentially keep it at bay, and try to determine the source of moisture is to purchase one of these bad boys: Moisture Meter for Wood and Building Materials. There are several different brands, sizes, and styles out there, this is just one of many. Pick the one within your budget and with all the bells and whistles that you like. By using one of these types of meters, you are able to detect moisture behind your walls and know what is within normal limits, and what can be cause for worry. All homes have some moisture in them, depending on your climate - so an indicator of the presence of moisture isn't necessarily a cause for concern. Set a reminder on your calendar to periodically complete a visual inspection of your home, and also to use your meter in common problem areas.

As previously mentioned, wood rot can also happen when there is an infiltration of wood-eating insects that go untreated. Your house will be a delicacy for certain pests, like termites or carpenter ants, so a good bug prevention plan is very important. Listen for wood that has a "hollow" sound to it when tapped, and look for the presence of mud tubes, or sawdust-like droppings around your home for an indication of a pest infestation.


It's natural for wood to want to absorb water, after all, it is a natural material. Using high-quality caulking on your exterior trim will help keep your wood and windows protected. Keeping natural debris away from your home will help keep moisture and pests at bay.

For extensive repairs, it is recommended to seek professional help, especially for any rot on your roof. For simpler, smaller jobs there are plenty of Youtube videos from construction professionals that can guide you in repair, if that is within your comfort level.

The Ask Cathy team is a seasoned and experienced team of professionals that help you identify potential issues when you are looking to purchase a home. We also have several trustworthy and thorough home inspectors that we recommend for our buyers, to make sure you purchase your home with confidence. 

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