What to do when wood-destroying fungus invades your home


Q: We had a big liquid amber tree faraway from our entrance yard in Santa Cruz, Calif., about three years in the past after the roots invaded the sewer line and raised the concrete driveway. The stump was floor and has been decaying.

Nonetheless, after the primary rains of the season, I famous that, throughout the area of a number of days, a white fungus had crept out at a fee of not less than a foot a day, and the mycelium unfold all through the encompassing soil. It’s about 10 ft from the muse. We now have tentatively recognized it as Poria incrassata. Is my home at risk? Will it have an effect on reside plantings? Are wooden planter containers in danger?

A: If it’s the fungus lengthy often called Poria incrassata however now formally known as Meruliporia incrassata, you’re good to be involved. Usually known as the house-eating fungus, it’s thought-about one of the crucial devastating of all of the fungi that destroy wooden. Provided that fungi trigger extra injury to constructions than termites and different bugs, that rating is fairly scary. Lengthy discovered principally within the Gulf states, it’s now exhibiting up alongside the West Coast, however it’s nonetheless uncommon sufficient there that many structural pest-control specialists have by no means seen it.

This fungus is one in all many “brown rot” fungi, as a result of it digests the sugary cellulose in wooden however not its lignin. Lignin is brown, so the weakened wooden nonetheless has that coloration. (White-rot fungi digest each cellulose and lignin however go away some cellulose, which is light-colored.) However in contrast to different brown-rot and even white-rot fungi, the house-eating fungus doesn’t simply destroy wooden that’s damp due to plumbing leaks or contact with soil. This fungus additionally sends out rootlike constructions known as rhizomorphs that deliver water to wooden that might in any other case be dry, thus making the wooden damp sufficient for the fungus to digest. The rhizomorphs can lengthen into new wooden by a number of inches a day, a exceptional velocity.

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In nature, this fungus serves a helpful goal by serving to to interrupt down useless wooden and useless roots. It could actually assault dwelling bushes — one examine discovered it in redwoods — however it normally spreads to dwelling environments by trucked-in soil that accommodates compost constituted of contaminated wooden. The remnants of the tree you eliminated might need change into contaminated that approach.

Whether it is simply within the soil away from your home and there’s no approach for the rhizomorphs to worm their approach into your house, and for those who don’t have a water supply close by, reminiscent of sprinklers that trigger water to puddle subsequent to the muse, then the planter containers may succumb, however your home is perhaps secure. It might positively be sensible to have a pest-control knowledgeable — one who focuses on structural pests reminiscent of termites, somewhat than mildew remediation — fastidiously examine the world.

If your home has an elevated basis with a crawl area, that might be one place to examine for the rhizomorphs, which seem like tan or black roots however lack bark. When damaged open, they odor like mushrooms. They are often fairly slender, becoming by cracks in a basis, however usually tend to be pencil-thick and even thicker. The College of California’s Cooperative Extension service supplies an excellent primer with images of the rhizomorphs and different proof of the fungus, in addition to diagrams exhibiting the way it received into a number of properties.

If the fungus has gotten into your home, the one efficient therapy is to dry out the moist wooden, take away and substitute what the fungus reached, and take away all contact with the water supply. Fungicides aren’t efficient at killing this fungus.

Jehremy Foster, chief estimator for Precision Environmental (, which treats for this fungus and gives a variety of different remediation providers in Southern California, stated the therapy protocol may appear easy, however really doing it may be very time-consuming — and costly.

“You should take away all indicators of the fungus — something it’s touched,” he stated, explaining that this precaution will take away spores that might begin a brand new infestation if a leak had been to happen sooner or later. “So there’s lots of demolition. A whole lot of the wooden is pretty destroyed. Then you’ll want to monitor down the rhizomorphs, the roots which are pulling within the water, normally from the soil.” Investigators normally begin inside, opening up partitions and flooring as wanted, and work backward to the place the fungus received into the home.

“Outdoors, it’s form of like an archaeological dig,” Foster stated. “We now have to watch out as we take away soil, so we don’t lose monitor of the place it’s rising.” Typically there’s a single water supply and a “main root ball” with an enormous bundle of rhizomorphs. However discovering one water supply or that root ball might be deceptive; a rhizomorph could proceed on to a second moisture supply.

The therapy value varies significantly, relying on the scenario. Typically, the work has to incorporate fixing building defects that made the home weak, reminiscent of direct contact of wooden to soil or to damp masonry, or relandscaping to maintain water from pooling alongside the home.

Foster stated his firm at all times prices for time and supplies, somewhat than bidding a certain quantity. In latest months, one job value solely $3,000. However then there was the five-story seashore home in Marina del Rey the place the fungus had reached up a staircase to the highest ground. Tracing that and eradicating the broken wooden value $50,000 — and that was earlier than the house owners paid to construct new stairs.

Have an issue in your house? Ship inquiries to [email protected]. Put “How To” within the topic line, inform us the place you reside and attempt to embrace a photograph.

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