Other Timber Pests
Wood Decay Fungi is often not considered a serious pest of timber, but it can become such a severe problem that structural integrity is affected.
Wood decay fungi have four basic requirements for growth:
Food Source - the timber
Of these requirements, the most critical (which can be controlled) is water (moisture levels in the timber).
Most fungi that affect wood produce microscopic spores that are very light weight and can be carried long distances by the wind and air currents. These spores fall onto wood surfaces and if the moisture conditions are suitable (approx 28-30%) they will germinate.
If moisture content is kept below 20%, fungal decay will not develop.
Different timbers species are less susceptible to wood decay fungi.
A bit more about specific types of wood decay fungi.
Brown Rot Fungi. Also known as brown cubic rot, these fungi only attack the cellulose, leaving the lignin, which turns brown when exposed. Wood that is attacked by brown rot fungi cracks across the grain, often producing large cubes of wood and often darker in colour than it was before attack.
White Rot Fungi. Also known as white stringy rot fungi, attack both the cellulose and the lignin. The exposed surface becomes white and fibrous, which enables these fungi to be distinguished from the brown rots. After attack the colour of the wood is usually whiter than it was before attack.
Soft Rot Fungi. These organisms attack the cell walls of wood. Affected timber cracks across the grain, but the cubes are mostly smaller thatn those of other brown rots.
Mould Fungi. The spores of mould fungi are the cause of many allergies in humans. These spores germinate on moist wood surfaces, but their activity is superficial and they do not decay wood. However their presence does betray a moisture level problem that, if allowed to continue, could provide an environment for other fungal decay to develop.
What Can Be Done?
Controlling Moisture is the key focus - so here are some management options:
- Subfloor Ventilation. Ventilation can provide good reduction in atmospheric moisture levels in subfloor areas. Often the small vents installed in these areas can be inadequate to properly allow for good cross-flow ventilation and 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 these areas.
- Water Drainage. Water run-off from higher ground levels, swimming pool run-off, plumbing and drainage problems need to be identified and recitified where possible. If draininag cannot be avoided, timber needs to be protected in some way.
- 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.
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