Without dirt, the biggest trees in the world would not amount to much. Redwoods may not be the biggest trees in terms of volume but they are the tallest trees on earth—reaching as high as 378 feet–longer than a football field including the end zones. They grow in dirt and when they eventually die, as much as 2000 years later, they return a lot of dirt to the earth as well. Even the great redwoods succumb to wood decay/rot and wood destroying insects.
It is very common to see support posts in crawl spaces that are impacted by dirt.
Just like it took dirt to grow the trees that these support posts are cut from, so too will the dirt return them to the earth. This is all part of the natural cycle of life.
In our homes our goal is to sloooow this process down.
In crawl spaces where the support posts are vulnerable to damage from eroding soils, they must be adequately protected from the dirt. When dirt covers the wood, the wood becomes susceptible to moisture and wood destroying insects.
In this first picture one can see the stain on the side of the post where it used to be buried in dirt. Someone knew this was a problem and put a barrier of concrete blocks around it to protect it. Unfortunately the blocks, and the black plastic that covered them (before I moved it out of the way), only help in trapping moisture in the bottom of the post.
While the decay is slowed, it still will continue quicker than if proper clearances for air circulation had been created.
As we look down inside of the space next to one side of the post we can see that the dirt at the bottom is wet and the post is badly decayed. Even though much of this decay occurred before “repairs” were made, the repairs have been insufficient to stop the progress of the decay/rot. This whole post will need to be replaced with ground-contact pressure treated wood or other suitable means of support.
The dirt giveth and the dirt taketh away.
Even if you are a mighty Redwood.
By Charles Buell, Real Estate Inspections in Seattle
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