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The Effect of Environmental Factors on Wood Decay Featured science projectScience project video


This science fair project was conducted to find out how the environment affects the decaying process in wood. The following tests were carried out by first immersing the wood in either rainwater, acid water (which simulates acid rain), sea water or soil


The wood samples that were immersed in  soil will start to decay and become weaker at a faster rate.

Scientific Terms

Decay, fungi, condensation, vapor, degradation, humidity


Wood decay

The decay in wood is caused mainly by water and fungi. Among the causes of  decay in wood used in the construction of houses  include the condensation of water vapor on wooden window frames, the leaking of rainwater  through the roof and walls, dripping water from poor plumbing, and water that  gathers around toilet bowls, all of which are absorbed by the wooden structure of the house.

 In the presence of water or water vapor, the wood will  expand  and shrink, causing dimensional changes, and this  accelerates the degradation of the wood and  its  finish. Basically wood will swell when it is exposed to water, and will shrink back when it dries.  Over-exposure to water at 100% humidity, or being immersed in water will cause the wood to expand beyond the saturation point of  its fibers. This will reduce the wood’s strength and accelerate  its decay.

The fungi that is responsible for  wood decay will need the correct temperature, along with sufficient moisture,  oxygen and  nutrients from the wood in order to survive. The fungi will cause decay  through the secretion of enzymes.  These enzymes help to  break down the cellulose in the wood into sugar,  which the fungi  use as food. However water is required to transport the sugar to the fungi. Therefore without water, the wood cannot decay.

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Complexity level:
Project cost ($):
Time required:
1 day to prepare, 18 days for observation
Material availability:
Most of the materials may be purchased at a supermarket. You can purchase the wood from a hardware store (Eg. Home Depot, Lowes)
Safety concerns:

Basic safety requirements