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How to Protect Your Cedar Deck from Dry Rot

wood rotDry rot is one of the biggest killers of cedar decking. Dry rot is a fungal condition that affects the wood decking materials Portland homeowners use. Contrary to its name, dry rot occurs because of excessive moisture, and if left unchecked it can lead to deck collapse.

For small dry rot repairs to their decking, Portland, Oregon residents can fix the problem with some basic materials. Otherwise, it is wise to employ the services of a Portland cedar decking contractor to fix and prevent further rot and ensure the stability of your deck.

Causes of Dry Rot

Hot summers, foggy fall days, cold winters and constant rain create the perfect combination of meteorological events that can cause cedar decking to decay. Microorganisms within the dry rot-causing fungus destroy the cellulose within cedar decks, which causes the wood to become brittle and easily fall apart. This fungus thrives in moist, dark places, which is the reason decking materials Portland homes contain often fall victim to this condition.

Detecting Dry Rot

Dry rot looks grayish in color and can cover your cedar decking in sheets of fungus, or it makes the wood look darker in color and decayed. Dry rot can also attract pests that eat wood, such as termites. Even if you have covered your decking materials, Portland homeowners can still find dry rot under a deck or in areas that are constantly moist.

To help prevent the extensive damage dry rot can cause to cedar decking, it is important to inspect your deck regularly. Look at all the areas of your deck for areas of weakness, paying special attention to the spots where the support posts meet the ground. If you see an area that looks suspicious, insert a screwdriver or ice pick into the wood. If it goes in easily, dry rot may be the culprit.


It is vital to the health of your deck to remove all the dry rot you find immediately, because it can quickly spread and enter your home. Consequently, it is crucial that you find all the dry rot on your cedar decking before you begin the repairs. In instances of a mild dry rot that has barely penetrated the wood’s surface, you can clean out the fungus and apply a deck sealer.

In the event of a small dry area rot that has not reached the bottom of the boards in the decking materials, Portland hardware stores can sell you the supplies to fix this situation on your own. You will need a chisel or a drill with a blade bit, liquid wood hardener, polyester or epoxy wood filler, putty knife, wood file and sandpaper.

Use the chisel or the drill and bit to remove all of the affected wood. Apply the liquid wood hardener with a brush to the areas where you removed the rotten wood, and allow it to dry for two hours. Use the putty knife to fill in the cleared area with the wood filler, and allow it to dry for ten minutes. Remove the excess filler with a wood file and smooth it with sandpaper immediately. Paint the wood filler the same color as the deck and apply a deck sealer.

For large sections of dry rot, remove all of the affected areas, replace it with new cedar decking and reseal the entire structure.

Preventing Dry Rot

By using pressure-treated wood for structural decking, Portland, Oregon resident have already taken a first step toward dry rot prevention. Cedar is naturally strong and resistant to ageing caused by fungus and molds. The easiest way to prevent dry rot is to eliminate water sources that can cause cedar decking to rot, such as pools of water, leaking hoses or poorly aligned gutters that drain onto an inappropriate location. Inappropriately placed sprinklers and debris on a deck (such as leaves) can also cause dry rot.

Because the dry rot fungus thrives in humidity, seal your deck every other year keep moisture out of the wood’s fibers. You can find varieties of outdoor wood sealants for your cedar decking that are easy to apply. If you are building the deck on your own, prime, paint and seal all of the lumber before you begin the project, and seal the cut ends of the lumber, as well. When working on an already completed deck, apply the sealant with patience, making sure you cover all areas. Your cedar decking is an investment worth maintaining.

[ photo by: Jesse Kruger ]

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