You know you’ve got *something* going on with your crawl space foundation. Your home symptoms are not presenting like the usual foundation settlement signs for a pier and beam home you’ve read about.
Could it be wood rot? *Yikes* Termites?? *Gasp* Your mind is spinning trying to figure it out.
At Anchor Foundation Repair, we have been inspecting and repairing Brazos Valley slab and crawl space foundations since 1985. We have diagnosed so many issues in pier and beam homes, that we can usually tell what the problem is just by walking around your house or listening to you talk about it.
This article will explain wood rot and termite damage in a crawl space foundation and how to tell the difference between them based on symptoms. We’ll talk repair methods and costs, as well as preventions for the future so that it doesn’t come up again after you fix the issue.
Cause and Symptoms of Dry Rot
Dry rot is a form of wood decay caused by fungi. The condition is brought on by excessive and constant dampness and moisture in a crawl space. The wood structure under your home is not immersed in water or anything, it’s just in humid air and on damp ground that releases water vapor so that makes it dry rot.
The damp conditions cause the fungi to grow and flourish and then destroy your wood. Don’t ask me why *dry rot* is caused by *moisture* because that must be above my pay grade.
The symptoms that give away dry rot present themselves in your home like this:
- Soft, squishy floors that feel like they will give way
- Often near wet areas or water fixtures of the home like bathrooms, kitchens, laundry
- Usually, the wood looks brittle or flakey, but sometimes could look okay visually
- Often has some evidence of fungi growth on the surface
- Could be isolated to wet areas, or widespread depending on the source of dampness
Cause and Symptoms of Termites
Termite problems are caused by the delightful insect that eats wood. Home inspectors call them “Wood Destroying Insects” or WDI for short.
There are other types of wood-destroying insects besides termites, but termites seem to be the predominant ones that we run into around these parts. I suppose that’s why the inspectors use the general WDI term to include other critters, but I don’t know what they are – also above my pay grade apparently . . .
Termites also love damp conditions. It kinda makes sense because the wood is likely easier for them to chow down on when it’s softened with moisture. So the damp conditions are still the original source of the issue, but a different organism does the destroying in your crawl space.
Termite symptoms are going to look and feel different than dry rot:
- Loose, bouncy floors resulting from lack of support due to compromised wood
- Often results in roller coaster-feeling floors with high and low spots
- Cracking or brittle-sounding breakage could be heard with pressure put on floors
- Visual appearance could look like tunnels or mazes within the damaged material
How Can Crawl Space Dry Rot or Termite Damage Be Fixed?
Dry rot and termite damage have compromised the wood in your crawl space. This kind of problem does not get better on its own. Once the wood is destroyed and its structural support is failing, the only thing to do is replace the wood under your house.
Well, for termites you need to get an exterminator at some point to come and treat the WDI infestation. But for right now, it’s time to replace some wood.
About Crawl Space Foundation Structure
A crawl space foundation is a complicated layer-by-layer structure where everything is interconnected and interdependent on one another. If one part is destroyed the problem cascades and can begin to affect other parts as well.
Piers on a crawl space home are penetrating the ground – sometimes they are made out of wood but most are cement or some type of masonry. Next up from the ground are the main sill beams. After that, floor joists span distances between sill beams.
Lastly, sub-floor material is laid on top of the joists to create a solid surface of rough floor that your finished flooring is laid upon.
What Gets Affected by Dry Rot Damage
With dry rot, the wood affected first is the wood closest to the dampness. If it’s coming from a leaking fixture in the home then the destroyed area might be fairly isolated. If moisture is being created by poor ventilation and/or drainage issues in the crawl space, or if the home is too close to the ground and being affected by ground vapor then the damage could be throughout the foundation structure.
What Gets Affected by Termite Damage
With termites, they begin to attack the wood closest to the ground and then move their way up. It usually takes a long time for them to get all the way to the subfloor. But you have to watch out because termites can also start moving up walls and begin to damage home parts beyond the foundation structure up into the bottom wall plate and studs.
Repairing Damaged Crawl Space Wood
You usually need to get a foundation repair company or house leveling company to replace wood material under your home. Even though you don’t have a traditional “foundation problem caused by settlement” many of the same remedies will apply.
A house leveler or foundation company will replace the damaged stuff with new wood. Then, they will also stabilize and shim everything so that the fit of the new structure is snug and secure in addition to being well-supported again with undamaged wood.
Most repairs to piers, sill beams, and floor joists can be completed by accessing the underside of the home unless you have a subfloor that needs replacing too. With subfloor issues, the only way to get it all removed and replaced is by cutting in through your floors from above and replacing things from the top down.
Once all the damaged wood had been replaced, then it’s time for a termite treatment if termites were your original problem. In our experience, the exterminator wants to treat the new wood as well as the old wood so that your home is fully covered by the treatment.
Average Costs for Repairing Damage from Dry Rot or Termites
The average cost for repairing damaged wood under your home due to dry rot and termites is usually around $8,000 to $10,000. But really, the cost depends a lot on how much wood needs to be replaced and how much of the home is affected.
Here are pricing estimates for our general house leveling repairs, which can include similar amounts of wood replacement needed for dry rot and termite issues. We find that dry rot and termite problems tend to run on the *high side of average* for house leveling projects.
If your subfloor needs to be replaced, extra costs are going to be higher and the work more extensive. You might have to temporarily move out and flooring might need to be replaced. Plan for something closer to 18K or more if the damaged wood reached the subfloor level.
How to Prevent Dry Rot or Termites After Repairs
Once you get your compromised wood problems repaired, it’s wise to figure out how things happened in the first place so that you can hopefully prevent them from happening again.
Evaluate your crawl space and work to:
- Address poor ventilation issues,
- Improve grading and ground drainage problems,
- Better handle roof runoff and guttering issues,
- Repair leaking pipes and fixtures right away,
- Continue termite treatments and monitoring, and
- Maintain a clean and tidy crawl space so that you can spot developing problems easily.
If dry rot or termites happened once, they can certainly happen again if nothing else changes in your crawl space environment. It’s up to you to determine root causes, be proactive, and take steps to optimize your crawl space conditions moving forward.
Ready to Repair Your Dry Rot or Termite Damage Now?
Now you know how to tell the difference between dry rot and termites. You even have an understanding of how these issues get fixed (and at what cost) and how to prevent them in the future.
Are you ready to get started with a house leveler to repair your crawl space foundation?
At Anchor Foundation Repair, we have been leveling homes and fixin’ foundations in the Brazos Valley for 35+ years. We offer fair and impartial assessments, empowering education, and a fully transparent repair process for whatever type of foundation problem you have.
Ready to tackle this like a pro? To get your quoting process started to fix your damaged crawl space, call 979.690.2020 during business hours, or use our online contact form 24/7 to avoid the phone tag hassle.