Wood Rot Vs Termite Damage: 3 Differentiating Signs

In this guide, we will be comparing termite damage to wood rot.

When damage to structures (especially wooden parts) occurs, two of the most common causes are usually rot and termite damage. In a bid to find lasting solutions, an understanding of the causes needs to be had.

The two (wood rot & termite damage) are usually mistaken for each other.

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Misidentification of such wood problems is due to ignorance of what they are and how to spot the difference. As a result, proper wood treatment becomes a problem as there is a misapplication of treatment.

With this article, you’re able to overcome such challenges and apply the right kind of treatment.

Understanding Dry And Wet Wood Rot

Wood rot is a type of wood damage that occurs mainly due to fungal presence, growth, and activity. Now, there are two types of wood rot namely; wet rot and dry rot.

Either of these two rot types is likely to affect your property.

Three factors are usually responsible for wood rot. They include warmth, oxygen, and moisture. As long as these are constantly present, wood rot is almost a certainty. It’s important to know that fungi feed on wood.

These will easily spread to cover more areas as long as conditions are favorable.

So, can these favorable factors influencing fungal presence and activity on wood be eliminated? That’s a tall order.

In other words, asides from moisture, there’s nothing you can do to control warmth and oxygen presence. Nevertheless, since moisture can be controlled, it gives you a bit of an advantage.

  • Causes of Excessive Moisture in Buildings

When a home or property isn’t properly maintained, it develops all sorts of issues including moisture problems.

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Several things can be responsible for moisture apart from the climate. They include a leak around your air conditioning system and planting shrubs too close to your walls.

Other causes include diffusion of moisture through floors, roofs, and walls, groundwater intrusion into crawlspaces & basements, and also leaky or burst water pipes.

There are also rainwater leaks through walls and roofs, leakage of moist air, moisture from construction, and indoor moisture sources.

As long as there is prolonged excessive moisture, wood rot is almost a certainty. Now, how you handle such a situation determines how far wood rot continues.

Having explained the causes of wood rot, it’s time to shift our attention to the main topic of discussion.

  • Wood Rot Can Occur in the Absence of Moisture

Remember we earlier mentioned dry rot as one of two types of wood rot?

Now, this type of wood rot (dry rot) doesn’t require the presence of moisture. It’s caused by a particular type of fungi that attacks and degrades wooden structures.

When wood is in contact with excessive moisture, fungi are known to transfer such moisture to dryer parts of the wood. Hence the term dry rot.

Can Wood Rot and Termite Damage Occur Simultaneously?

Wood rot and termite damage can occur at the same time on a single structure. This is as worse as it gets as the structure is easily destroyed within a short time.

This is the last thing any homeowner will want to experience on their property.

However, wood rot and termite damage on the same property doesn’t translate to total doom for such property.

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The property can be saved when these problems are detected and treated early enough. Speaking of detection, you’ll need to be able to spot the key differences between wood rot and termite damage.

Differentiating Between Wood Rot and Termite Damage

Having focused on wood rot and the factors influencing it, it’s necessary to state that termite damage follows a much different pattern.

Instead of fungal presence and growth, termites are responsible for attacking and damaging the wood.

Dry rot is often difficult to differentiate from termite damage because they look almost similar.

In the case of dry rot, damage appears in the form of bricks. This pattern often results due to how fungi consume wood while transporting water.

A close inspection will show channels in the wood.

When considering subterranean termite activity, you’ll also find that these also create channels. However, theirs is a bit different from those made by fungi because they have to make shelter tubes to reach their wooden targets.

These shelter tubes are also known as many tubes. They’re built from soil particles, and termite fecal matter in addition to saliva. This creates the much-needed shelter as they head towards the food source which is wood.

The key difference between the two (fungi and termite channels) is that termite channels may be branched out.

On close examination, you’ll find that all such channels connect to the main trunk that leads to the ground where the termite colony is.

  • Termite Prefer Wetter Wood

Because of the similarities in damage between fungal and termite damage on wood, dry rot tends to happen more on dry wood. On the other hand, termites thrive better on wetter wood.

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Knowing this key difference enables you to quickly identify the real problem.

  • Dry Rot Weakens Wood

When a dry rot problem breaks out, it’s mostly due to weakening caused by the feeding activity of fungi. These fungi are notorious for consuming wood components that make them rigid and strong.

Such components are known as parallel strands of cellulose fibers being held together by a lignin binder.

When these components are destroyed by fungi, such wood becomes weakened and spongy. Weakened wood also becomes stringy in texture. Finding any of these signs around damaged wood is a sure sign of wood rot.

You’ll need to take immediate action to save your property.

  • Termites Consume Wood from the Inside Out

Unlike wood rot which starts from the surface and moves in, termites will consume wood from the inside out.

Subterranean termites are efficient destroyers of wood. They need cover while they feed. As such, the cellulose in wood is being fed on from the interior to the exterior parts.

One Thing is Common for Both Wood Rot and Termite Damage

When it comes to wood rot caused by fungi and termite damage, one thing seems to always come up; the contact of such wood to the soil.


To get rid of dry rot, it’s necessary to eliminate moisture sources. Check for any water leaks within the area. Also, consider treating such wood.

For termite damage, it’s best to call a termite exterminator to handle the problem.

These are clear differences between wood rot and termite damage. Both of these aren’t good and should be treated with dispatch once detected.

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