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Should you worry about wood decay fungi?

Wood Decay Fungi are not generally serious offenders in damaging wood however they may compromise structural integrity in extreme cases.

What are wood decay fungi?

Wood decay fungi are living organisms that survive on moist wood, causing them to rot. Wood decay fungi can be found in a variety of natural environments, however, they are most commonly found in households with timber structures or timber components.

How do wood decay fungi grow?

There are four basic requirements for wood decay fungi to grow, which include:

  • Oxygen;
  • Water (this is the most critical factor as fungal decay will only develop if moisture levels exceed 20%);
  • Suitable temperature; and
  • Food source (note that certain timbers species are less susceptible to wood decay fungi).

Most damaging fungi produce lightweight microscopic spores. These spores may get carried with the wind and deposited on other wood surfaces. When the conditions are right and moisture levels are attained (approximately 28-30%), these spores will germinate, creating wood decay fungi.

What type of decay fungi do I have?

  • Brown Rot Fungi, also known as brown cubic rot, only attacks the cellulose, leaving the lignin (cell wall) untouched, however, it turns brown when exposed. Wood attacked by brown rot fungi cracks across the grain, often producing large cubes of wood and leaving it darker after the attack.
  • White Rot Fungi, also known as white stringy rot fungi, attacks both the cellulose and the lignin.  The exposed surface becomes white and fibrous, which enables these fungi to be distinguished from brown rot fungi.  The colour of the wood is usually whiter than it was before the attack.
  • Soft Rot Fungi attacks the lignin, cracking timber across the grain, but produces smaller cubes, easily differentiating their attack symptoms from brown rot fungi. 
  • Mold Fungi is the source of many allergies from which people suffer. Spores germinate on moist wooden surfaces often agitating people. However, their activity is superficial and they do not decay wood.  The presence of mold fungi is a cause for concern as they reveal a moisture level problem that, if allowed to continue, could provide an environment for other fungal decay to develop.

Brown Rot Fungi is also known as brown cubic rot

Example of Brown Rot Fungi

White Rot Fungi is also known as whtie stringy rot fungi

Example of White Rot Fungi

Mold Fungi is a common allergan for many people

Example of Mold Fungi

How can you prevent decay fungi?

There are three main tips we have for residents who believe their home is susceptible to wood decay fungi attacks. These tips all focus on controlling moisture as this is the key to prevention.

  1. Subfloor Ventilation - ventilation will help reduce atmospheric moisture levels in subfloor areas.  Small vents are often inadequate for good cross-flow ventilation. Extra care needs to be taken to ensure there are no 'dead spots' where air circulation is poor.  There are a number of third-party ventilation systems that can be installed to properly ventilate your subfloor areas.
  2. Water Drainage - water run-off from higher ground levels, swimming pool run-off, plumbing and drainage problems need to be identified and rectified where possible.  If drainage can’t be avoided, timber needs to be protected in another way.
  3. Protective Treatments - timber can be treated for wood decay fungi with specialised products.  Waterproofing treatments can also be applied that can provide long-term protection. Flick Anticimex offers a number of waterproofing treatments for residences and commercial properties. Our building solutions can be found here. For more information, feel free to give us a call at 13 14 40.

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