Hi, Todd Dermody here with Dunn Lumber. Today we're talking to Kyle Peterson, an independent manufacturer's rep for System Three products, whose products include laminating resins and epoxies such as SculpWood and RotFix. Kyle has many decades of experience as a rep with Daly's Wood Finishing Products of Seattle, and years' experience as a sales rep for numerous other painting-related products and finishes.
In the first part of this two-part series, Kyle answers our questions about the basics of rot damage, including how to determine whether it’s time to repair or replace a rotten area.
Q: What are some of the most common places we see rot damage on buildings here in the Pacific Northwest?
A: After 15 years, most houses will have dry-rot damage, particularly on the rafter tails or the gutter fascia boards. Those are probably the two areas that break down the soonest. With older homes, there's the framing around the garage door, for instance. Usually on the bottoms of those planks or boards of the framing, those will, with exposure, have a tendency to develop dry rot. Door frames, window sills, and window casings are other likely areas.
Q: Does damage tend to occur on one side of the house?
A: The weather typically blows in from the southwest, so between the sun and the brunt of the weather, that’s usually the side of the house that has the most damage.
Q: Is there a guideline on when to repair rot versus replace the wood?
A: That’s the million-dollar question—or the $500 question or the $50 question. There isn’t a rule of thumb. I think there’s a tendency for people to immediately think replace, and that involves materials and labor that can actually exceed the cost of repair. Really, it’s just a calculation of how much time you’re going to have to spend and the expense of hiring someone to rebuild something—if you have wood that’s part of a structure and have to pull that out, it can get complicated. I feel that it’s valid to look at a repair because ultimately, it can save you time and money.
Q: What are some common situations where one might choose to repair rather than replace?
A: I had some deck stairs, and the actual tread portions of the stairs were so damaged that there was no question I’d replace those. The stringers that supported those stair steps were heavily damaged at the bottom of the staircase—I couldn’t easily replace those myself, but I was able to repair the bottoms of the stringers where I had areas of damage that were almost a square foot in volume. It saved me a ton of labor and money to dig out the worst wood and then bring it through the process of treating it with the topical borate application and the Bor-8 Rods, hardening it with the RotFix, and then rebuilding the wood itself with SculpWood putty.
That’s just one example of replacing part of something but then having this other portion that’s salvageable.
Q: How far does rot extend? Just as far as I can see?
A: The insidious thing about dry rot is that it creeps into the structure of the wood, so it’s not always the most evident damage you’re seeing because you have potential damage and degradation occurring even in wood that appears to be fairly stable.
For instance, my garage door frames were definitely rotting out on the bottom portion; the exposed area. If you looked at it, there would be a tendency for people to think, “Well, gosh darn it, I have to replace it.” What I did in that case was even though the wood was rotted, after I cleaned it out about three or four inches up from the concrete, I was able to treat the wood and successfully repair it.
Q: From a time-is-money standpoint, is it more cost-effective to replace rotten wood with new wood or properly repair rot?
A: It depends on the carpentry skills of the individual or the contractor. If you’re well-versed in how things are put together and you can look at it and think, “I can just quickly pop that board off, slap in a new one, and then I’m done,” you’re going to do that.
It’s in the eye and the skills of the beholder, but what we really try to convey is that these permanent repairs can be done very easily, and it really gives you a great option instead of having to think you always have to replace.
We believe we have the products that can take the intimidation out of the repair option. If it’s something where you have damage in the middle of a board that’s intertwined with other wood—if you think about the amount of effort that would have to be expended to pull that out, shore it up, and replace it versus using these products to legitimately and easily repair the damage, I’d think you would want to repair it.
Join us next time for part two of the series, where we explore advanced applications for repairing rot—including System Three’s suite of repair products, and best practices for using them.