DIY Calendar: July - Fixing Rotten Woodwork

July is the perfect time to start doing some outdoor DIY work.  If the exterior of your home has some problems - such as rotten window frames or cracked fences, then you've probably been itching to tackle these jobs. It's a bad idea to do those kinds of tasks in the spring, however.  You can be sure that no sooner than you apply the "needs 12 hours to dry" varnish, the heavens will open and your hard work will be ruined.

Of course, you can't trust the weather in the summer either, but by waiting until July, and watching the weather forecast carefully, you can increase the chances of the job going well.

Finding the Cause of Rotten Woodwork

Before you even think about fixing rotten woodwork or cleaning up mould and repainting areas damaged by damp, you should try to figure out what has caused the problem

Common causes of water damage are:

  • Leaking roofs
  • Blocked drains
  • Clogged gutters
  • Leaking pipes

Sometimes, the cause will be obvious - if you have a leaky roof there should be signs of plaster damage, for example.  Sometimes, you might have to take a look in the attic, or crawl around under counters to see if there are signs of damage hidden away in rarely seen places.

Leaking Roof Leaky roof after a storm. Photo: Paul McCord Jr.

Repairing Rotten Woodwork

Once you have identified, and fixed, the cause of your problem, you can focus on fixing the issue at hand.  In some cases, the damage is superficial and you can just sand away the peeling paint, treat the good wood underneath with a water-resistant sealant, and call that a job well done.

For cases of more serious damage, however, you may need to remove large sections of damaged wood.  To do this, follow the instructions below:

  • Using a hammer and chisel, chip away at the rotten wood until you get down to a layer of healthy, yellow coloured wood.
  • Using a ¼-inch drill bit, drill holes ½ an inch deep into the healthy wood.  Drill several of these holes approximately 2 inches apart across the frame.
  • Clean up the wood shavings using a stiff bristled paint brush
  • Fill the holes with an epoxy consolidant, and cover the entire surface of the wood with it.  Once the first coating has dried, apply a second coating.
  • Apply more epoxy coatings until a hard layer has formed.
  • Now use an epoxy filler to fill in the area that you've chiselled away - mould the filler with your hands until it matches the shape of the frame.
  • Use sandpaper to sand down the filler so that the frame is smooth, and repaint the frame so that the filled-in area is almost invisible.

If the rot has spread too deep for you to be able to just chisel away the damaged area, you may need to replace the entire frame.  Consider investing in a hybrid wood/aluminium frame or a UPVC frame that is more weather resistant.

If the damaged wood is part of a fence, it may be easier to just remove that one piece of wood and replace it entirely.

UK Oak Doors
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