I'm new here (thought I've lurked for a while). I'm also a total ignoramus
WRT wood, so I'd appreciate some expert opinion :)
Long story short: I live in England and I've just inherited some wood. A
useful amount for a few small jobs. It is hardwood (not sure which type,
might be mahogany). It's been stored in a leaky garden shed, unused and I
hate wasting good wood so I had planned to salvage it.
Problem is, the shed is rotton and the wood's been getting wet, mostly where
it's sitting on the floor. I really don't want to run the risk of storing
wood that *may* be at risk of dry-rot (I've seen advanced dry rot before.
but not in its early stages).
If I showed you some piccies, any advice on the wisdom of keeping the wood
would be very welcome. If I kept it, I would definitely cut off the rotton
bits and use the good sections for various random projects.
Here goes (warning, 2.2MB per photo over my DSL, but I didn't want to lose
The bugs in no. 2 are woodlice, which I know like rotting wood but aren't a
threat in themselves. Some of the white fluff may be fungal growth or it
may be the product of spiders or insects - I don't know.
Many thanks in advance.
'Dry rot' is a misnomer. Dry wood doesn't rot. Rotten
wood can dry but it is still rotten. Once the wood is dry,
the rot will stop spreading and the rotten parts can be
cut away. The rot will not spread so long as the wood is
kept dry. An airconditioned building is generally dry enough,
a typical unairconditioned basement is not.
Before wood rots, it spalts. Spalting is just the early stage
of rot, after the wood discolors but before it gets soft.
Spalted wood is prized for turnings and other specialty
work, so much so that turners will sometimes saturate
the punky parts with super glue to keep it useable.
The wood looks like mahogany to me, but it may also
be one of the African or Asian woods commonly called
Mahogany even though they are not. The latter are highly
variable in their rot-reisstance (because there are so many
different species called 'foo' mahogany). Real mahogany
is highly rot-resistant so there should not be much rot in
Fred the Red Shirt coughed up some electrons that declared:
I'll be storing it in a garage which isn't very dry.
I just looked that up on google - very interesting.
It's hard to be sure. We're a bit short of good wood over here, especially
since Queen Liz I chopped most of the oak down to build her navy. Most wood
(hard and soft) is imported and there's a lot of futzing around with
Well, it doesn't look too bad, just blackened and some white bloom. I was
just worried about storing wood that might be an infection risk to the rest
of my house.
Cheers and thanks,
I wouldn't worry about it, the spores that cause rot are omnipresent and
already present in your house. It takes a particular set of conditions for
them to cause damage.
If the old wood is solid (not punky), use it. At least one of the boards is
ribbon stripe mahogany. Just a guess but probably Khaya (African mahogany).
More on rot: it has a distinctive odor. I can't describe it exactly bit
once smelled it isn't forgotten.
I won't proclaim to be an expert, but here's what I would do.
Make some cross cuts at what you perceive to be the most damaged areas.
Now make a few other cross cuts at what appears to be the least damaged
areas. Using an awl poke and dig top, sides and cut side (probably end
grain). Also test a few random areas at what appears to be non-damaged
surfaces that have been at least 18" above the floor and as far away as
possible from walls, ceiling, windows and doors. Good stock may be just
slightly softer at the fresh cut end grain. Well dried stock should not
have that much deviation in softness. Try the same test using a known
well dried piece of lumber you think is the same species. This is a
general dry rot test. If it's rotten it will be soft and easy to push the
awl deep into the wood and will crumble if scraped.
Within the cuts look for color variations, mold, fungus, water stains,
etc.. Try planing or sanding down a section that is discolored and see
how deep the stain continues.
Good wood especially old growth mahogany can be exposed to moisture for
many years without failing. Look at some old boats.
Cut off the worst sections and discard or try and plane down to a good
surface. Brush off any fungus, wipe down with an anti-fungal (only if you
really think you need it, they often will discolor the wood). Sticker and
stack as if it was freshly milled wet wood. Start of stack should be at
least 18" above ground. There should be air gaps between sides of each
board and stickers between each layer. The entire stack should have
preferably 18" of clear space around all sides, top and bottom. If
possible have a fan to circulate the air.
I hauled away a junk mahogany and teak boat and recovered well over 70%
of the wood. Essentially free wood except of course for quite a bit of
labor involved in reclamation. I still have a few pieces and I feel it is
of higher quality than many of the young new-growth mahoganies being sold
today. The teak was near perfect after re-surfacing. Plus it can be a
sales point. Many of the yuppies prefer to purchase items made from
recovered product like fences, barns, broken furniture, etc..
I have the luxury of not having to warehouse purchased exotics with
recovered wood. I would keep a careful check on the drying condition and
possible contamination if I needed to mix expensive stock with recovered
stock. I have not yet had a problem with cross contamination from trees
recovered from the ground or other mold and stain issues. I have however
rejected wood/trees that appeared too rotten to recover enough to be cost
effective. I am more concerned about possible termite and beetle transfer
in my sheds, although I haven't had that problem yet.
The wood in your pictures doesn't appear to be that damaged but I would
go on feel (above awl test, and cut density) rather than sight.
Thanks Joe. I need to cut the frames up anyway for storage (their original
purpose was to be a conservatory, which is now irrelevant) so I'll make
inspections as you suggest as I go.
I've seen what dry-rot can do to a house in advanced stages, so I was a bit
wary of cross infection issues. I expect I'm over worrying.
Many thanks for the good advice. I might be back in a while to get some tips
on wood working - I plan to start learning to make things once we've moved
Both. The stored wood is actually made up into a set of door and window
frames for a conservatory (outbuilding slapped onto the back of an
Englishman's house to get more living area whilst being exempt, more or
less, from building and planning regulations).
It is of no use for that for me, but the wood is quite substantial so I see
other potential uses.
The shed happens to be stained a similar colour.
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