Beware of the “Kleenex Effect”

By
Home Inspector with Charles Buell Inspections Inc.
http://actvra.in/Qlk

 

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

wood decay rotI 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 that 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 that 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 that 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.Decay rot at a drain

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 no documented cases of true “Dry Rot” in Washington State, but because of the Kleenex Effect---many people think it is common.

 

Charles Buell, Real Estate Inspections in Seattle

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Comments 16 New Comment

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Charles Buell
Seattle Home Inspector
Charles Buell Inspections Inc.

Jay, feel free to use it---then just throw it away :)

Robert, I can hear it now---"You've got some serious nits in the sill plate!"

February 06, 2013 05:38 PM
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Donald Hester
NCW Home Inspections, LLC
NCW Home Inspections, LLC

Charlie, This is a rotten post. Even here I see my share of the old "Rot" and we have to earn it in most cases.

February 07, 2013 08:00 AM
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Barbara-Jo Roberts Berberi
Palm Harbor Florida Residential Real Estate
Charles Rutenberg Realty

Yuck, that looks nasty! I would indeed want an inspector finding things like that!

February 08, 2013 05:09 AM
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Charles Buell
Seattle Home Inspector
Charles Buell Inspections Inc.

Don, "earning"---great way to describe the difference :)

Barbara, yup---that is what we do :)

February 08, 2013 07:12 AM
Rainmaker
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James Quarello
Connecticut Home Inspector
JRV Home Inspection Services, LLC

This is not unlike a generic term here, powder post beetles. Rarely are the beetles infesting wood in most homes PPB's, they are usually anobiids. Get's my nits a pickin'. 

February 09, 2013 01:50 PM
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My blog is intended to provide information related to home inspections in Seattle, surrounding communities and anyone else interested. Sometimes I will provide information that has nothing to do with home inspections. Enjoy!

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