On Wood Water Damage
The biggest single drawback to wood is its’ susceptibility to damage by water. Believe it or not it is easier to build a termite-proof home than one that is water-proof.
All wood contains some moisture. It absorbs it from the air. Under normal conditions, wood exposed to air will contain some water. Usually, seven- to fifteen-percent However, when the moisture content rises to between twenty- to thirty-percent (depends on which scientist you talk to) bad things start to happen. Fungi begin to grow. Fungus spores are inherent in the wood and can only multiply when fed enough water (twenty- to thirty-percent). Once growth begins the fungi destroy the wood’s fibers leaving pockets of softness. This is not a good thing to happen — often structural integrity is compromised. You can actually fall through a floor that has been damaged by fungus. So, even though water itself doesn’t really harm wood, we know that the net result is damage.
The amount of damage that is done determines the type of repair that will be needed. When structural members have been affected replacement is always suggested. On the other hand, replacement is not critical when non-structural parts of your home have been damaged. Non-structural parts are those which don’t hold anything up. Doors, windows, their frames and trim and exterior siding and trim are just a few examples of things on the exterior of your home that are non-structural.
Fungus damage can really ruin the appearance of a wood surface and yet not be damaging in any other way. This kind of problem can be reasonably simple to repair. However, a certain amount of patience is required. Patience, because the proper kind of repair takes time.
A window frame that has peeling paint and cracks in it should be checked for fungus damage. The tool: a sharp pointed knife or an ice pick. Michael Douglas should love this one.
Using the tool of your choice, take several pokes at the surface of the suspect material. When you come to a soft spot, you have found your fungus damage. Finding the damage is half the battle. The rest is time consuming, but easy.
First, you will need to mix phase one of a two-part epoxy, two-phase repair kit (each of the two phases — thin phase, thick phase — is in two parts). The first part to mix will be the thin, liquid material. The liquid will penetrate and seal the surface of the damaged pocket created when you excavated and removed the soft, damaged wood. It is important to let this phase cure (dry, set-up, etc.). Next, mix the two-part putty. This will be used to fill the void.
What is really nice about all this is that — once dry — the putty can be sanded, planed and milled exactly as if it were wood.
One of San Francisco’s most noted restoration and painting companies frequently uses the technique we recommend to bring that city’s most famous painted ladies back to life — and you can too.
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