How To Tell The Difference Between Leak-Rotted Wood and Termite Damage?

Termite damage and wood rot are two common culprits of wood destruction. They can be absolutely detrimental when it comes to the structural integrity of your home, especially when they affect the roof trusses.

Since both leak-rotted wood and termite damage have similar-looking effects, it can be quite difficult to tell the difference between the two. However, there are some tell-tale signs that indicate the presence of these two forms of wood damage. Knowing what problem you are faced with is critical to finding a lasting solution.

Here’s an overview and distinguishing features of leak-rotted wood and termite damage.

What is Termite Damage?

Termites are the stuff of nightmares for homeowners. These little creatures live in large colonies under the soil and are the most economically damaging pest.

The main source of food for termites is cellulose – a complex carbohydrate found in wood, grass, and leaves. Some species also use wood as a building resource in their colonies. Termites are active year-round – even in winter.

Some termites are attracted to damp and decaying wood while others prefer dry wood. Termites typically gain access to the wood in your home either through a crevice in a wall or openings in the foundation.

These small demolition creatures feed on wood from the inside out. Because of this, the damage caused by these pests may go unnoticed until extensive damage has been done. A well-established colony with about 3 million termites can consume the equivalent of a 2×4 wooden beam in a mere 72 hours. Moreover, the queen can lay up to 30,000 eggs a day.

After feeding on the wood, the remains have a discrete maze-like look caused by the pests’ tunneling and boring. Other conclusive signs of termite infestation include:

  • Chewing or clicking sounds in the walls
  • Droppings – as they clean their nests, termites push out light brown faecal pellets into your house
  • Living or dead termites; discarded termite wings
  • Distinct trails also known as “mud tubes” vertically aligned at the edges of your rooms or house

What is Leak-Rotted Wood?

Commonly known as wet rot, this is a type of wood rot that happens when wood is continuously exposed to moisture. Unaddressed roof leaks, for instance, can cause roof sheathing and trusses to rot over time.

When moisture, oxygen, and warmth are present on and around the wood, fungi can set up shop and lead to rot. While you don’t have a lot of control over the warmth and oxygen the wood in your home is exposed to, you have control over exposure to moisture.

Signs of leak-rotted wood include:

  • Damp or musty smell
  • Cracking wood
  • Discolored or distorted wood
  • Soft, spongy wood
  • Wood shrinking in size
  • Ceiling paint bubbling, flaking, or blistering

How to Differentiate Leak-Rotted Wood and Termite Damage

Here are simple ways to the difference between these two forms of wood damage:

  • Pay Attention To The Surface Structure Of The Affected Wood

Wood Rot: Leak-rotted wood will become weak, soft, and spongy in texture. It can also be broken into cube-like chunks by hand. What’s more, the wood has damp spots with growths that look like cobwebs, which are actually the fungi eating away at the wood. The wood may shrink in size as the cellulose break down.

Termite Damage: Wood eaten by termites will have a wavy effect or maze-like appearance. Termite-damaged wood may have a corking effect, which is made by termites transporting cellulose products mixed with their gut protozoa. The wood is often an empty husk that produces a hollow sound when tapped.

In places where termites have been feeding, you may see small holes or sawdust.

  • Check for Organisms 

Wood Rot: Leak-rotted wood may have fungal growth and spores on the outside or within the wood itself. The fungus may develop a mushroom-like body in the final stages of growth.

Termite Damage: Evidence of a termite colony might include termites themselves (dead or alive), droppings, mud tubes, and clicking sounds in the walls or ceiling.

  • Use Your Nose

Wood Rot: You can identify leak-rotted wood by its distinctive damp, musty, and earthy odor, which becomes stronger as the problem worsens.

Termite Damage: This type of damage is often odorless, except when the pests invade wood that has water damage.

Take Immediate Action When You Discover Wood Rot or Termite Damage

Fungal growth or termites can ruin the stability of your home’s wooden structures by eating away at them. If your roof trusses are damaged and remain unrepaired for long enough, the result will be a compromised roof structure that is less able to remain stable against pressure and weight.

That means a good chunk of the roof could eventually fall in, causing significant damage to anything underneath or severe harm to anyone on top of or underneath the roof at the time of collapse. A collapsed roof also represents a huge financial risk.

Because termite damage and wood rot have a tendency to spread fast and escape notice, getting a handle on it ASAP is best to protect your home and avoid costly damages. Addressing these forms of damage often involves replacing affected areas of your framework. In some cases, however, a complete roof replacement may be necessary.

If you are concerned that your roof may have wood rot or termite damage, contact Kelly Roofing today. We will determine the type and extent of damage and provide quality roof repair services so you can rest easy knowing your roof is secure. Our relationship with trusted lumber yards in Florida allows us to find the best type of wood for your roofing projects.