"Diligence Over Haste"

This old German saying can hardly be more appropriate than with the careful repair of damaged and/or rotten wood. An important aspect of my 3 year training in Germany was the repair or restoration of old damaged or historical wood. Professional repairs are time-intensive and demand skilled craftsmanship, patience and creativity and that's the reason I am frequently called to repair somebody's "repair", which has later failed. Very often, not only because the repair was of low quality, but there was no careful inspection of the nature of the problem.

Rotten wood can cause serious structural damage to a house by allowing water and insects to attack the structure. Generally, rot repair should not be delayed, as the damage grows over time and structural repairs cost considerably more than the professional repair of localized wood rot. During an inspection, it is necessary to establish what the cause of the rot is and remove the cause. It is also very possible that water enters a structure and causes wood rot damage at a completely different, apparently unrelated spot.


For professional repair of rotten wood the weather has to be consistently dry at least for 10 days.

Great Hall Window Repair

This attractive and large window is 25ft tall and over 2 storeys high, visible from salon on the ground floor and library above. Over time, repeated changes in humidity, temperature and light caused the joints to develop unsightly tears by the expansion and contraction of this natural material, as seen in the pictures below. This constant tension precludes the use of "normal" putty for repair. The joints were treated with flexible materials for an attractive and long-lasting repair.

Professional Shutter Repair

Shutters are a singularly important aspect of a home's curb value, and, although some fresh paint might hide problems for a little while, that will not fix the problem of rotten wooden shutters. Too often, a hollow shell of paint hides the fact that the wood below is dissolving to powder. Professional shutter repairs are time-intensive and demand skilled craftsmanship. That's the reason that it is so hard to find someone who commands the skill to restore them for the future, resulting in the final decision of buying new shutters. With the decision to replace rather than repair the existing shutters, comes not only the cost of the new shutters and painting them, but the costs of removal of old shutters and hardware and their disposal, as well as the cost of the new installation of the shutters. And, if most of the shutters are good and only a few are damaged, then the problem of replacing is compounded by the fact, that shutters are not standardized. It is difficult to find replacements that are congruent to the remaining original shutters, too often resulting in a differing assortment of shutters that damage a home's curb value.

Especially when the shutters are older or shutters on distinguished properties, I normally find them to have been constructed of cedar or redwood, and, generally, the older the wood is, it's usually old-growth wood, and wood in this quality is no longer available to the industry today.

In light of this, it's my experience that you can save up to 50% with a professional shutter repair compared of the costs for new, good wooden shutters.

Maintenance Free Shutters

It should be noted, that, typically, shutters from the factory are not pre-treated for rot and insect resistance, and, when they come painted, this is no longer possible, practically insuring the occurrence of wood rot in the foreseeable future. As such, the term "maintenance free", as applied to new shutters, can be misleading. Also, as intact paint can hide damage to wooden shutters, paint that is flaking and blistering may give the impression that the wood is severely damaged, when, in fact, the damage is minimal and readily remedied. Particularly, old shutters can also suffer partly from "alligator skin" resulting simply from the application of more and more paint over years. The main problem was not rotten wood but should be understood as the collection of various thick layers of paint applied, where the oldest layer deteriorates, causing a crust to separate. In places, the crust is so thick, that there are cavities below it, in which water can be trapped, damaging the wood. First, it is necessary to repair the wood rot, then treat the shutters and finally fix the failing paint. Proper weather/insect treatment results in repaired shutters that are rot resistant and largely maintenance free.

Handmade Chippendale Handrail Restoration

This Chinese Chippendale railing was was handmade from redwood. At first, the wood rot appeared to only be superficial, but it soon became apparent that the multiple layers of paint hid worse damage and that the railing could fail, causing someone to fall to the patio below. The water damage was not due to lack of maintenance but was the result of the improper installation of the copper covering, which allowed water to enter the structure, then held it there, resulting in the replacement of more elements than originally seemed necessary. Copper nails were used to reattach the copper railing to prevent the galvanic corrosion that occurs when steel and copper are used together.

Repair or Replacement

The repair will often be a better solution than total replacement of woodwork. New installations can damage a building's appearance and cost more since period-elements are often not replaceable with today's standardized units. Also to be considered is that all new lumber that is available today does not reach the quality of the old-growth lumber present in historical homes, so it is generally advisable to repair over replacing.

This nearly 100 year old door had been damaged over time and necessitated a careful restoration. Repair attempts from the past had failed and scarred the door as well. Half of the door was split and the joints between the wooden pieces had come loose. It was also decided to remove the old hardware which was not the original and my customer liked the suggestion to replace the knob and hinges with quality, period-true, solid brass reproductions.

Paint and Rotten Wood

Paint is an essential protection for wood, but it is a painter's goal is to make a paintable surface, so they can finish the job of painting. It is not their goal to repair wood rot, although painters commonly will offer to "repair" wood rot. After the wood rot has been professionally repaired, a painter will need to address the matter with new paint. In the case portrayed below, the wrong paint had been used on the redwood, causing the paint to separate from the wood. Pockets were formed which held pools of water against the wood over extended periods, resulting in widespread wood rot. The attempt to remedy the problem by applying repeated layers of paint only led to formation of hollow, shells of paint that had the form of the wood which had once been under it but had been reduced to sawdust. Although conscientious in maintaining their home, the homeowners did not realize the extent of the damage, which, left unchecked, had resulted in a much larger and more costly repair. The initial wood rot drew insects into the wood of the walls and the insects drew woodpeckers, which caused further damage. An exterminator had to address the issue before the repairs on the wood could be finalized.

Redwood is a precious and noble wood which, nowadays, is only seldomly used for exterior woodwork. In this house built in the 70's, deck, siding, trim and columns were all crafted from solid redwood. Whereas redwood has natural resistance to weather and rot, it is, as is any wood, not impervious. Siding, gables, facia and several window sills had fallen victim to moisture and developed wood rot which required hardening, filling and sealing the spongy wood. Also, elements like some stair baluster were beyond repair and needed to be replaced to insure a unified aesthetic effect. The work on this project took time because of the exact nature of the work, but also simply because of the weather. The exterior work could only be done when the wood was dry to insure an optimal, high quality restoration.

Deck and Stairs work in progress
Rim Board Facia and Windows work in progress
Redwood after restoration and painting

For German quality and excellence in fine woodworking
Call Mike (502) 804-7696

Terms of Service

Estimates that I make for jobs are, in fact, guaranteed, total-price offers for the work in question. As special service for you, I always separate the exact cost of the material and labor in my offers, too. For larger projects, there is a down payment for work of 25%, which will be calculated against the final payment.