Dry Rot Causing Structural Issues Across the Northwest



Dry rot is a fungal timber decay that occurs in poorly ventilated conditions, resulting in cracking and powdering of the wood. This issue happens all over the place but has been a major concern across the Northwest in recent months.

In fact, dry rot is actually the number one cause of damage to wooden structures in Portland, Oregon.

The life-cycle of wooden structure decay from dry rot can be broken down into four main stages: beginning as a microscopic spore resembling fine orange dust particles, followed by hyphae white strands that eventually grow into larger mass known as mycelium, and lastly progressing to a fruiting body which pumps new spores out into the surrounding air, causing major structural damage.

According to The Daily Astorian, bridges across Oregon have been decaying as of late thanks to age and structural deficiencies like wood rot.

The Oregon Department of Transportation rated crossings of U.S. Highway 26 (over Little Humbug Creek), U.S. Highway 101 (over Ecola Creek), and Oregon Highway 104 (over the Skipanon River) as structurally deficient in the 2017 report on bridge conditions.

In order to address these bridge decency issues, more and more construction workers and welders will need to be contracted to repair and rebuild these bridges — and not just in Oregon, but across the entire United States. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, employment for welders, cutters, solderers, and brazers is projected to reach 412,300 in 2024.

“In the ’30s and ’40s and ’50s, as kind of a cost-cutting measure, there were a lot of timber bridges built,” said Bruce Johnson, Oregon’s bridge engineer. “Because of the master climate in Region 2 (spanning the Oregon Coast from Astoria to Florence), that timber rots pretty quick.”

State officials estimate that more than 90% of timber bridges have exceeded their designed lifespan (which is about 50 years). Of the 298 distressed bridges across the region, 56 of them have structural timber elements.

“I think we’ve done a pretty nice job around here of preserving and maintaining the historic structures,” added Daniel McFadden, bridge maintenance coordinator whose crews maintain roughly 400 regional spans.

Additionally, dry rot has caused some major residential issues across the Northwest, as well.

According to KATU, a jury recently sided with a tenant in a $20 million lawsuit against a landlord over fall and safety hazards involving structural defects.

A Multnomah County jury ruled in favor of a Robert Trebelhorn, a Portland man who argued that his former landlord had failed to make necessary building improvements to the aging apartment complex where he lived. Trebelhorn fell waist-deep into a rotting, second-story walkway and subsequently filed a lawsuit against Wimbledon Square Apartments and its parent company Prime Group, a Los Angeles-based real estate firm.

Trebelhorn’s attorneys Jason and Greg Kafoury have stated that Prime Group refused to make necessary safety repairs for at least a decade.

“[Prime Group] was not just not fixing things, it was actively covering up rotten wood by painting over it,” Jason Kafoury said. “They were giving an illusion of safety, when in reality, they were just trying to make tenants think it was safe.”

Prime Group, which holds an estimated $7 billion worth of real estate assets across the country, can appeal the $20 million judgment.

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