Rot - Old Wood Vs New

weed_cutterNovember 5, 2009

A little rant here. I do home repairs for a living. I face this situation all the time and just don't have an answer.

Why does 50 year old wood (doors, jambs, windows, siding) just seem to keep going and going. When it's finally gone if I replace it with "new" wood the stuff rots in 5 years.

I use PVC jambs and fiber cement siding whenever I can, but many times PVC isn't in the budget and fiber cement won't match the existing stuff.

Is there a place to buy "good wood"? Is there such a thing anymore? The local lumber yards carry the same quality as the box stores as far as I can tell.

I've used both latex and oil primers as well as back priming. I don't use cheap paint. Might make some difference but not much. The old stuff certainly wasn't back primed. Finger jointed trim just blows up in a year no matter what I do.

The eve overhanging the new door isn't any less than the old door either.

Thanks for listening and throw me a bone if you have one.

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Lumber back in the "good ol' days" was typically harvested from old growth lumber compared to new growth used these days. While I dont condone the timber methods back in the day, the lumber certainly was better. Also faster proocessing from the mills,ie; kiln drying, has negative effects on certain species as well.

    Bookmark   November 5, 2009 at 7:41PM
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Try woods like mahogany and Spanish cedar for exterior woodwork. They seem to be the new equivalents of old white pine in terms of longevity. You still need to backprime and seal all end grain, and practice proper caulking techniques (summed up by: "always leave the water an escape at the bottom")

    Bookmark   November 5, 2009 at 7:45PM
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(summed up by: "always leave the water an escape at the bottom")

Very important to have a drainage plane in many applications.

    Bookmark   November 5, 2009 at 8:05PM
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You do not have to have old growth to have better wood, just slow growth.

Much of the managed wood is from softwood trees bred to grow as quickly as possible.

This produces larger growth ring spacing and wood that is not as rot resistant as even slow second growth wood.

True old growth wood has very tight annual rings and is denser and stronger than modern fast growth trees produce.

    Bookmark   November 6, 2009 at 9:20AM
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Many folks will opt for a Mahogany front door, but I couldn't even talk myself into parting with that kind of dough for the side garage entrance or the shed. A door with just a PT jamb is always special order, double in price and I get an attitude from the millwork guys like "why do you want something like that".

    Bookmark   November 6, 2009 at 10:28AM
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Jambs are easy to make with a table saw.

A split jamb is not really required if you make it up from scratch.

    Bookmark   November 6, 2009 at 4:11PM
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Weedcutter, you're absolutely right.


You're in NoVa, right? Do you know what kind of exterior trim boards (corners, fsscia, etc) they typically use around here, particularly on the multi-unit developments? That stuff also rots like crazy after 8-10 yrs (if not sooner) and I'm just wondering what it is. A couple apt buildings just went up in Bailey's Crossroads with what appears to be the same stuff - can't wait to see how long it lasts.

    Bookmark   November 11, 2009 at 12:46PM
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"Do you know what kind of exterior trim boards (corners, fsscia, etc) they typically use around here, particularly on the multi-unit developments?"

Finger jointed white pine is the one I replace most of the time.

Often with the cheapest primer and a single coat of cheap paint, sprayed and not back brushed.

The lousy finishing makes it go even faster.
With a good finish it would last a lot longer.

I just replaced some trim on a rental in Arlington.
It was the original trim from the 1950s the house was built with.

The previous owner did little to no exterior maintenance, so there was some rot at the ends of the fascia, and the small pieces wrapping around to the gable.
The rest of the wood remained solid enough to make cutting away just the ends and replacing only about 4 feet on each end worth the effort.

I have a house from the mid 1930s that still has some original trim (where additions did not cause removal).

The older stuff looks better than the newest stuff from the mid 1970s.

    Bookmark   November 11, 2009 at 2:49PM
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I just got back from a "door jamb" call. Finger joints swelling all around the jamb, rotten at the bottom, about 6 years old. Factory glass care label still on the lite was in better shape than the door (owners not into cleanliness).

Earlier this week I ordered a door, one of the options was a "rot resistant PVC jamb". That caught my attention due to the "resistant" not being "proof". Turns out the option was for the bottom 6" only being PVC. I went for the full monty.

    Bookmark   November 13, 2009 at 10:06AM
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I had to replace all my windows only 15 years old due to extensive rot. I had even scrape sanded primed 2 coats of high quality paint when they were about 5 years old. My grandparents 100 year old house, windows needed paint badly wood is just fine. If I could my house would be decay proof. Walls cement, 2 ft thick, metal roof, cement/tile floor, plastic and glass. No wood anywhere. The guys who installed my windows were from Russia/Yugoslav area. I got to talking with him and he said in Europe, most newer construction is built way better than what we do in USA. Stupid Americans! I said that, not the window guy.

    Bookmark   November 16, 2009 at 1:01PM
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Ok, folks.. this is an older post but it's about the resins in the wood. As noted here, old wood on houses, some exposed to water without caulk, is very slow to rot. The newer woods used after the late 80's, like Douglas Fir are candy for the fungus and resultant rot. The old trees were full of resins that resist rot.. Slow grown second cut trees prob have good resistant, alway look for the tight growth rings. I'd suggest using vinyl, hardyplank, or a product called miratec instead of wood..

    Bookmark   May 16, 2011 at 12:35PM
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per above, they don't really wood-frame in europe. that avoids a ton of rot. we have a crazy timber industry here in good old les etats unis.

    Bookmark   May 18, 2011 at 2:46PM
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The stuff that rots out rapidly is "windsor one" or "all-trim", a finger-jointed pre-primed trim product. There used to be a version of that made from redwood which was not bad at all, if the glue-up held.

    Bookmark   May 18, 2011 at 7:04PM
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