With the leaves mostly fallen and yard clean ups nearly complete, homeowners should take advantage of the fleeting autumn days to inspect, protect and perform any necessary repairs to their wood exteriors prior to the winter freeze. Wood siding, decks, fences and other structures take a beating in every season, from blistering heat, humidity and heavy rainstorms to sleet, hail and snow. Wisconsin’s seasonal climate variations can be particularly unforgiving with the pretty dramatic swings in humidity and temperature throughout the year, easily damaging wood exposed to the elements.

While many homeowners have turned to variations of wood alternatives for siding and other outdoor structures, due to lower cost and easier maintenance, more often families embarking on a custom luxury home won’t settle for anything but the real thing. The classic natural beauty of wood is unbeatable, yet proper maintenance is critical for longevity and preserving the structural integrity. Water is the number one enemy of wood, and winter moisture is often more damaging since there are few, if any, warm, sunny days to dry the wood after a good soaking; therefore, it needs protection, and waterproofing is the key.

The first step to proper maintenance: regular inspection.

A harsh winter will exacerbate any current problems in exposed wood such as rot, decay, cracks, loose boards and splintering and mold.

What to inspect:

  • Wood siding, for cracks, rot, weak spots
  • Inspect entire exterior for leaks, cracks, gaps and unpainted areas to find places where water gets in, including eaves and rooflines
  • Window wood frames, for rot or decay
  • Check for cracked, peeling or bubbling paint on any surface
  • Drought around exterior doors
  • Decking, for splintering, decay, warping and dirt between planks
  • Wood Railings
  • Gutters, for proper drainage and to prevent ice dams

Potential Problems:

  • Dry Rot tends to occur after extended periods of heavy precipitation; it loves moisture and destroys wood
  • Mold – siding that is saturated with water and unable to dry will begin to rot, leading to toxic mold, compromising integrity of home as well as health
  • Structural damage – weaknesses in siding allow moisture to get through and damage parts of the house that it is supposed to protect

New owners of luxury custom built homes have likely received a good education from their builder on how to protect their investment, especially during the winter freeze months. To serve as a reminder, the following are a few necessary steps that should be taken each Fall to protect and preserve your home from unnecessary damage.

Steps to protect:

  • Exterior wood, siding, decking, etc. should be treated every 3-12 months, depending on climate and wood type.
  • Untreated wood is most susceptible to rot and general weathering (should be treated every 6 months); pressure treated wood offers longer protection yet is still not weatherproof (treatment every 12 months).
  • Proper preparation of wood prior to treatment is important: clean and dry thoroughly before application.
  • Caulk or seal any gaps or cracks where water gets in, around windows, doors, joints, etc.
  • Thoroughly clean deck; dirt on and in between planks increases risks of fungus and mold.
  • Proper insulation in attic will help prevent ice damming on the roof.
  • After snowfalls, remove snow from decks and anywhere else it comes in contact with siding.