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September 08, 2010 3 min read

Rot Repair: A Profitable Trend Well Worth Following

By Gary Meixner

Published June, 2010: American Painting Contractor Magazine

Keeping up with the latest trends in any industry can be maddening. It seems that no sooner you get on the band wagon that you find the market has changed and its on to the next big thing.

With a wave of painfully rational thinking sweeping the country, brought on by a weak economy, there is one trend that all painting contractors should be on board with; now more than ever, home owners are choosing to have damaged architectural wood components repaired rather than replaced.

Rarely will a paint contract go uninterrupted by unseen damage. Replacement or repair is usually the only option. Replacement can be costly and time consuming. Older homes often require custom millwork and of course your favorite carpenter is unavailable until next month.

In most cases, rot and insects, along with inadequate maintenance are the culprits. When serious structural damage has occurred there is little that the painting contractor can do, but for weather checked window sills and the rotted bottoms of door casings and porch posts, repairs are well within the scope of most painting crews.

Penetrating epoxy resins, along with epoxy putties and pastes have been used for years by restoration professionals in cases where existing components must be preserved. Despite their seemingly exotic nature, epoxies are really no different to use than the water based putties or the polyester products you are already familiar with. The differences are they adhere to wood with tenacity of a sumo wrestler. The best formulas are 100% waterproof. Once cured, epoxy putties will not shrink or swell. Most can be machined, carved, sanded and painted like wood.

The process is fairly intuitive. First eliminate all soft, crumbling or spongy wood. For the next step, not all systems include, but this writer highly recommends the use of a preservative to kill the rot fungus and wood eating insects. Without this treatment, rot and insects can remain active behind the repair causing it to fail overtime.

There are a variety of water soluble borate preservatives available for this process. Borates have been proven to be highly effective at wiping out rot as well as powder post beetles, carpenter ants, termites, etc. Keep in mind that some preservatives are in a solvent based or oily liquid and may interfere with the epoxies adhesion. Read the instructions and make sure the two are compatible.

Next, a low viscosity, liquid epoxy resin can used to return structure to the remaining wood. Mix the resin and hardener according to manufactures instruction. Mixing ratios for epoxy vary by manufacturer and must be followed exactly - so read carefully. Flood the cavity and surrounding wood with the mixed liquid and allowed it to soak in. Once cured you have a solid base for the next step which fills in the missing wood.

For this, use a two part epoxy putty or paste. Again, measure and mix according the manufactures instructions. Pack or spread the material into the repair area, just slightly over filling. It will take anywhere between a few hours to overnight for the mixture to set up. Epoxies generally are not affected by humidity but are temperature sensitive and will cure more slowly in cold weather. Once the putty is hard you simply sand to shape, then prime and paint.

It really won't take you long to learn how to use this stuff. The material is not all that expensive and most have an unlimited shelf life. Epoxies and borate preservatives are safe to use. Follow the label warnings which are usually to avoid prolonged and repeated skin contact.

Rot repairs can easily become another service for you to offer your customers that will put more money in your pocket. Some contractors are finding that repair work can contribute significantly to their yearly revenue. I guess a dip in the economy is good for one thing in that it slows things down, and forces people to look at what they really need and what actually bring them value.

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