“Difficulty” is not on their radar!

OK, this is the question of the day.

Why would “anyone” deliberately dump a 5 gallon bucket of sawdust in a crawl space?

Carpenter Ant Frass

Carpenter Ant Frass

I see all sorts of things dumped and stored in crawl spaces. I have even seen sawdust from when the home was built, or from floor refinishing that has filtered down through the cracks in the floor boards–making neat parallel lines on the black vapor barrier covering the ground.

But this stuff was just piled–more or less in one location–along the foundation. It was nowhere near the access to the crawl space, so one might think it was difficult to get it to where it was as well.

But the “someone” that dumped the sawdust, I am quite sure, never contemplates “difficulty.”

carpenter ant frass

This is especially true when you realize this stuff got there ONE BITE AT A TIME!

Carpenter Ants make amazing carpenters–although they seem much better at taking things apart than putting things together.

These carpenters have been working on this home for quite some time and have piled up their construction debris as prove of their industriousness and patience.

“Difficulty” and “impatience” are something that they obviously do not consider.

By Charles Buell, Real Estate Inspections in Seattle

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Beware the “Kleenex Effect”

While some would argue I am “nit picking,” the fact remains, sometimes it is very important to understand the terms we use.

kleenex-effect1I am sure there are interesting studies as to just how things become “generic.” Take Kleenex for example. Kleenex is a brand name that is commonly used to describe any kind of nose-wipe. While Kimberly-Clark Worldwide, Inc. may have an issue with the misuse of its brand name “Kleenex,” the fact remains when someone says they need a kleenex it really won’t matter too much who the tissue is made by as they all do pretty much the same job.

The term “Dry Rot” is similarly used to generically describe wood decay/rot in homes. The problem with using this term in a generic fashion is there is a huge difference between actual Dry Rot and other types of wood decay/rot and requires quite different protocols for elimination.

All types of rot require that the wood have sufficient “free water” to support growth (for this discussion we will assume oxygen, food and temperatures are suitable). Moisture levels to support Brown Cubical Rot, Soft Rot, and White Rot (the three most common types of rot) typically have to be above 30% for the organisms to be happy and prosper. With Dry Rot the wood moisture content will also have to have sufficient free water, but the wood gets to be at this level because the fungus is bringing the moisture to the wood as opposed to the wood being already wet.kleenex-effect2

This is a very important distinction because fixing a leaky roof or leaky toilet will be sufficient to stop the growth of most wood decay rot brought about by these conditions, but will not be sufficient to stop the growth of a fungus that is growing to the wood—bringing moisture to the wood from the ground.

Dry rot has the potential of attacking huge areas of a home’s structure without any real moisture issue already existing in the wood. Generally speaking brown rot or soft rot are more likely to be more localized. It can be more widespread if venting is inadequate or some other condition is present that elevates moisture levels in the woodwork above 30 percent, but generally speaking it will be more localized to the area of leaking—whether a plumbing leak or otherwise.

To date, there have been few to no documented cases of true “Dry Rot” in Washington State, but because of the Kleenex Effect—many people think it is common.

By Charles Buell, Real Estate Inspections in Seattle

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Your house may be more than dirty—it may actually BE dirt!

If wood has a goal it is to decay so that it can become food for new growth.

Human beings and beavers like to take wood and do useful things with it–but sooner or later–no matter how we try, wood eventually finds its way back to the earth–back to being dirt.

houseisdirt1The best homes are the ones that successfully slow down this transition as long as possible. Some structures are obviously better at it than others. With others, it is almost as if we don’t even try. Water is obviously the enemy for the preservationists, and just as obviously the friend of the decay process–whether from insects or rot.

If we dump water on our hardwood floors, and throw some seeds in the water, typically nothing will happen. The water will evaporate long before the seeds sprout because of the protective coatings on the floor. If the seeds are unlucky enough to sprout, there will be nothing for them to take root in or to sustain them once the water is gone.

With enough time and enough water the wood will eventually decay and those seeds might actually sprout and be able to take root because the wood has become dirt again.

In some cases we are so busy trying to keep our houses free of dirt we don’t notice the areas where it is turning into dirt.

Sometimes there is evidence that tells us what is going on.

houseisdirt2

Sometimes we do not listen

By Charles Buell, Real Estate Inspections in Seattle

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