Maintaining your roof & gutters is your best defense against dry rot repairs.
I bought my first house in North Portland which (together with most other neighborhoods on the East side of the Willamette) are predominantly working class. Folks know how to clean their gutters, own the tools to get it done and generally have enough time to do it at least once a year, taking the steps to help prevent dry rot. A clean roof and gutters, along with a properly functioning rain drain system and positive grading are the best ways to extend the life of your home.
My second house was in SW Portland where there are more professionals who may not even own a ladder. The consequence of this lack of time and the proper tools resulted in most of the houses that I was looking at needing extensive repairs. I finally found one that also needed extensive work, but it was priced right.
Not far down the street from us was a curious looking house. You could tell it was a bungalow at one point, but it had no original siding. I asked what had happened to it and it turned out to be a very interesting story! According to the neighbors, the house had a dry rot problem which was so extensive that the whole house was demolished down to the foundation and rebuilt. Dry rot is wood decay caused by certain species of fungi that digest parts of the wood which give the wood strength and stiffness. It was previously used to describe any decay of cured wood in ships and buildings by a fungus which resulted in a darkly colored deteriorated and cracked condition. Of course, insurance only covers catastrophic, sudden leaks and not things that result from deferred (as in never) maintenance, so the owner was stuck with an UGLY repair bill.
This story sticks with me when potential clients call about dry rot repairs. Reputable contractors will only do dry-rot repairs on a “time and materials” basis unless it is absolutely clear on what is being fixed and what is not. A a home owner, you might be nervous about signing a blank check when it comes to repairs, but that is where the reputation of your contractor is paramount.
If you think about the extreme case as with the curious looking house above, would you expect your contractor to rebuild your whole house for the price of replacing siding board? Of course, you wouldn’t! Most of our clients choose to have us fix dry rot during the course of our work, we are there, we have our saws, ladders and nail guns set up. It just isn’t going to get any less expensive than that.