One of our service division teams was contracted to remove a small 8’x5’ deck landing that led into the front of an 1800’s home. The house has been standing for nearly two hundred years and yet this deck, which was less than a decade old, had seen better days and desperately needed to be removed. Decking boards easily popped off of the frame to which they had been so painstakingly screwed, and that is when the trouble began. Once the decking boards were removed it became quite clear that one inexpensive, but very important, piece of material had not been installed when the deck was originally constructed. There was no drip cap sitting on top of the leger board which tied the entirety of the deck back to the building. Without that drip cap, water had free-reign to migrate behind the leger board and sit against the trim board at the base of the home. This had been allowed to happen for nearly ten years and once the layers of the onion were peeled away, what we found was downright scary.
This house had been framed from trees most likely milled off of the property. The basement had been dug by hand and the foundation consisted of nicely stacked field stone. In today’s world you would see a pressure-treated sill plate 1 ½” thick sitting on the house’s foundation. This building had a timber that was approximately 10”x 10” x 30’ sitting on the foundation running the entire length of the house. This timber had rotted completely though and now literally crumbled in your hands. The 6”x 8” posts that rested on this timber, carrying the weight of the second story and roof for the building, were completely rotted nearly 3 feet up. Water has saturated the blown-in insulation rendering it useless. It created an environment perfect for mold to flourish. The deck was 8 feet wide and everything directly behind and above that deck ledger was completely rotten. Now, what’s amazing about rot is that it had spread 6 feet to either side of the deck as well. Rot is like a plaque and, if not eradicated, it will continue to spread, infecting everything it touches.
A one-day deck replacement job turned into a full day of rot removal and another day of structural framing repair and framing installation. This was followed by a third day of installing insulation, siding, trim, and painting. Two full extra days of work all because a drip cap, which retails for less than ten dollars, was carelessly not installed. As contractors, we are always thinking about installing everything with a proper watershed in mind; water and moisture are powerful forces. Making sure that there is a plan in place to deal with moisture so that rot cannot take hold is imperative. If you think that you might have a rot problem, please do not ignore it as this will only lead to more problems down the road. As contractors, we have seen first-hand what deferred maintenance and shoddy installations can do to a building. Rot is amazing but let’s keep it relegated to the forests, where it belongs, and not in our homes.