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

Wood is an essential resource with many uses ranging from fencing, furniture, art, insulation, fuel, kitchen utensils, musical instruments, construction, and many other services.

Now, pests like termites or wood rot can attack any of these.

When wood deteriorates due to these two conditions, the nature of the problem needs to be identified to implement necessary fixes.

When damage to structures (mainly wooden parts) occurs, rot and termite damage are two of the most common causes. An understanding of the causes needs to be had to find lasting solutions.

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

Termite Damage Vs. Water Damage

To the untrained eye, termite damage will look similar to wood rot. However, there are subtle differences between the two that tell them apart.

To help you, we’ve provided several tips to use as a guide. Some of these tips will require probing affected areas to see what they’re like.

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 the procedure.

With this article, you can overcome such challenges and apply the right kind of treatment.

i. Identifying Termite Damage

Termite damage is primarily caused by subterranean termites, which mostly live in the soil. Like all termites, these feed on cellulose-rich materials, of which wood is part.

When these termites infest a home, they do so through a crack they find on foundations or walls.

As they get into the structure, these termites rapidly spread to different parts and start to feed on the wood from within. This continues unnoticed until the wood becomes hollow.

Most times, the problem isn’t noticed until significant damage has been done. This might require costly repairs.

It’s also important to note that subterranean termites typically use wet wood. In some situations, you’ll find both conditions (termite damage and wood rot) affecting your wood.

This is a severe condition you should seek immediate solutions for.

ii. Identifying Wood Rot

To avoid generalizations, you’ll have to look for specific conditions pointing to wood rot. Now, wood rot is of two types; wet wood rot and dry wood rot.

Each is caused by specific conditions as mentioned below;

iii. Wet Wood Rot

Wet wood rot is a condition that can damage wood and wooden structures. This mainly arises from the constant exposure of wood to moisture source(s).

Examples include plumbing system leaks, roof damage, condensation, shower & bath trays, and leaky, clogged gutters.

Another cause of wet wood rot includes dampness on walls. As mentioned earlier, such exposure to moisture needs to be constant for corrosion to occur.

Such moisture in the presence of oxygen and warmth brings about fungus growth.

The fungi feed on your damp wood, causing it to discolor and turn spongy and soft. Of course, this weakens the wood and the entire structure, making it unstable.

Often, wet wood rot can lead to dry wood rot. Let’s look at how to dry wood rot develops to find out how.

iv. Dry Wood Rot

The presence of high humidity and the absence of proper ventilation is one condition that promotes dry wood rot.

Conditions for this rot include dry rot spores, moisture, poor ventilation, a suitable medium for growth (wood), and oxygen.

As dry wood rot begins to spread, it weakens the wood. This is also due to the activities of fungi that feed on the wood. What results is a soft and spongy wood that’s weak.

A close observation will also reveal affected wood has a stringy texture.

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: wet and dry.

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 quickly spread to cover more areas if conditions are favorable.

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

Aside from moisture, there’s nothing you can do to control warmth and oxygen presence. Nevertheless, since water can be directed, it gives you an advantage.

  • Causes of Excessive Moisture in Buildings

A home or property that isn’t correctly maintained develops all sorts of issues, including moisture problems.

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 moisture diffusion 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. 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 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 water 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 co-occur on a single structure. This is as worse as it gets as the system 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 don’t translate to total doom for such property.

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

Focusing 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 challenging to differentiate from termite damage because they look 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.

You’ll also find that these create channels when considering subterranean termite activity. 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, termite fecal matter, and saliva. This creates much-needed shelter as they head towards the food source, which is wood.

The critical 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 Prefers 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.

Knowing fungi destroy these components is the real problem quickly.

  • Dry Rot Weakens Wood

When a dry rot problem breaks out, it’s primarily 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 parallel strands of cellulose fibers held together by a lignin binder.

When fungi destroy these components, such wood becomes weakened and spongy. Weakened wood also becomes stringy in texture. Finding any signs around damaged timber 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 fed on from the interior to the exterior.

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 always seems to come up; the contact of such wood with the soil.


The above procedures for distinguishing between termite damage and wood rot should provide a heads-up and lead to urgent action, such as calling for professional inspection and treatment.

A qualified pest technician thoroughly inspects and offers quick solutions to fix the problem.

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.

Because it’s sometimes difficult to distinguish between termite and wood rot, we’ve provided many tips to follow for easy identification. A lot of times,


When termite damage or wood rot goes on unnoticed, it reaches a point where significant damage is caused.

Here, providing the needed fix can be quite costly due to the extensive damage caused. Entire sections of affected structures might have to be replaced.

In the case of termite damage, there needs to be comprehensive elimination of these pests to prevent future infestations. This adds to the overall cost of the project.

Adopting the preventive approach is your best bet at avoiding any of these issues. This has a lot to do with maintenance.

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

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