The Rot Doctor


Subject: Dry Rot in Substructure of 1927 custom home, PLEASE HELP.
Date: Mon, 27 Jul 1998

Dear Rot Doctor,

My husband and I purchased a 1927 tudor style home last September near San Francisco CA. The house is multi story with exposed unfinished walls in the garage and has a partial basement under half of the house. The construction is of redwood and lathe and plaster. It has a stucco exterior. There has been water intrusion over the years and we are told we have dry rot. The areas affected are hopefully limited to the substructure which is completely accessible.

I really don't want to replace the wood. I would much rather fix it and stop further damage. Before I found your web site I didn't think this was possible. How can a strengthen affected areas and keep the rot from spreading? Also, I need to stop the water from coming in. Some of the water seeped in through 8 feet of concrete to fill the lower basement this spring. ( I now know a lot more about sump pumps). This may have been a one time occurance since it rained for 30 days straight and every thing was flooding and the ground was supersaturated (very unusually for a non flood plain area in California). I think this water is contributing to my concrete crumbling (should I and can I stop this?) but the other water is coming in either coming in through cracks or other openings or seeping through the stucco. Are there any other sealants I should use. We can repaint the house if necessary. The rain gutters used to be a problem but they were replace in 1995. The gutters run along the wall of the house since we have no overhang or eaves. I know my house sounds like a real fixer-upper but it is really pretty to the unknowing eye. It is really easy to forget about the problems but I know I must fix them.

Please let me know if you need any other information from me to offer advise on products and procedures. I really want to fix the problem.I have received over 10 bids for the work, from licensed contractors, and am very distraught by the extremely varied bids I have received from same Class three inspection report. No two contractors have come within $1000 of each other for supposedly the same work. The bids have ranged from $4,000 to $18,000. If you have the products I can do the work my self and feel good about it.

Thank you,



Okay, you have two problems. The first is that water leakage is contributing to the deterioration of your wood, and two, the water is getting into the house. I can tell you from long experience that trying to keep water out of a house, especially under the extreme conditions you experienced last winter, can be almost impossible. I too have learned more than I care to know about sump pumps, and have lived in houses where sump pumps were just part of the environment. These kinds of considerations are what causes the great discrepancies in the price quotes you requested. It's a tricky issue for the vendor. You are asking that they tear into your house, not knowing for certain what they are going to find. If it's more than they thought, then they have to up the price (possibly making you angry), or, alternately, come in with a bid high enough to cover just about anything they will find.

Our particular concern is with restoring and protecting wood. Wood that has been treated with our Clear Penetrating Epoxy Sealer (CPES) will be extremely rot resistant, no matter how much water flows over it, because it has been saturated with a high-grade epoxy resin. The wood needs to be reasonably dry (you can dry it with blower/heaters) and reasonably accessible. For timbers larger than 2-3 inches, it should be drilled half-way through for CPES injection. The holes should be 5-7 inches apart. The CPES is injected, giving the wood all it will take, and then allowed to cure, which can take up to a week. There will be a strong odor, which will go away and leave no residual smell. If you work in closed quarters you will need a respirator mask that will filter organic fumes (3-M makes one that sells for about $25.00). This process should be repeated if the wood is really soft.

It can be a prolonged job, but it does save the timber that's there, and your costs are small compared to re-builds. Gaps and vacancies can be filled with our Epoxy Filler, which will bond at the molecular level with the CPES and produce a strong structure. Our products are always in stock and shipment from Seattle to SF is about 2 days. We will work with you on the project and give guidance. We'll look at pictures and get back to you via e-mail if that's what you think would be helpful.

Now, for stopping the water coming into the house: There are multitude of products and techniques, and combinations of the two. My suggestion would be to care for the wood first, and then see what (hopefully) more normal SF weather will bring this winter. If the wood is protected, then it at least will be much more rot resistant. Just consider the water entry a separate problem. The satisfactory solution usually involves injection techniques from inside and outside the house and are best done by a contractor. The solution is a simpler estimate that what you are asking for now.

Come back if you have more questions. We'll be as helpful as we can.