Is wood rotting a chemical change?


This Article was Reviewed by The Chief Editor, Godfrey

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There has been a lot of argument and debate as to whether wood rotting is a chemical change or not.

Hence, this article will discuss and analyze the concept of wood rotting and compare and contrast it with chemical and physical changes.

As such, take your time to read the content as it unfolds in style.

Brief introduction to the concept of wood

Wood is a commonly used material in most homes all over the world. However, it is sporadic, if not uncommon to see a building without finding any traces of wood in it. 

Aside from building materials made from wood, setting up your homes requires materials made from wood. 

The list is just too enormous that we can’t mention them now. 

Additionally, tons of materials and utilities used everywhere today are made from wood or other materials derived from wood. 

Apart from this obvious usefulness, items made from wood are usually strong, beautiful, renewable, tidy, and durable. With proper care, wood materials are ever-lasting. 

Is wood rotting a chemical change?

However, a specific occurrence changes the stable condition of wood materials or features to a disgusting and irritating state. 

Not only that, it can destroy the entire state of the material, making it useless and worthless. That is wood rot. 

Usually, it happens by gradually weakening the wood or material and sometimes emitting some powder substances. 

This then brings us to the question; is wood rotting a chemical change?

Is wood rotting a chemical change?

Going with the views and recommendations of chemists worldwide, the rotten reaction of woods and timbers is regarded as chemical change.

You might want to know why it is concluded to be a chemical change and not a physical change since the wood will be affected physically too. 

We cannot understand the nature of the question without knowing what wood rot and chemical change mean. 

We must briefly explain the two concepts, Wood rot, and Chemical change, and then determine how they intersect each other in the long run.  

What is Wood Rot?

Wood rot can simply be explained as a situation where a fungus attacks a plank of wood or timber. It is a decay of woods caused by fungal growth in woods. 

The fungi attacks cause a breakdown of the wood’s wall cells making the woods lose their strength gradually, which continues until the wood’s utility is lost. 

Naturally, fungi require at least 20 percent moisture content in wood before launching their attack. 

Therefore, it is uncommon to find them in woods unless a particular situation has led to water ingress or condensation of the wood. 

So, when wood becomes damp enough to have moisture content up to 20% or more and cannot dry out quickly, or the dampening continues in repetition, it leads to ideal conditions for wood-eating fungi.

There are a variety of fungi that consume wood in different ways. For instance, some fungi attack the carbohydrates in the woods while some go for the lignin. 

While there are different species of fungi that cause wood rot, there are three notable kinds of wood rot that commonly affect wooden materials.

These species are categorized according to how they launch their attacks on woods; white rot, brown rot, and soft rot.

What is a chemical change? 

Different sources give different but similar meanings to the concept of chemical change. An overview of the said meanings can be summarized to be that;

A chemical change may mean an occurrence where a substance is combined with another substance to form a new product. 

It can also be said to mean when a chemical substance changes its form or is decomposed into two or more separate substances different from the initial one.

It should be noted that these chemical changes or reactions are not reversible. It will instead be possible through the process of another chemical change. 

Substances change differently; while some produce heat during the reaction, some require heat to make the changes. Knowing this is considered necessary. 

It is important to briefly analyze the difference between chemical and physical change as both are sometimes used in place of another. 

While chemical change is the process whereby a substance or more are converted to form another or more substances, physical change is simply changed to the state of an element. 

When there is a physical change, the physical properties of a substance will change while the chemical elements will remain the same. 

Such is the case with ice melting into water and water changing into vapor. It can be seen that it is only the physical identity that changed while retaining their chemical identities. 

However, when a chemical change occurs, the chemical elements are rearranged while the reaction is followed by an energy that changes into another product or substance. 

There are different examples of chemical changes that occur around us every day. Let’s consider a few from the long list. 

A typical example is a reaction between water and sodium to produce hydrogen and sodium hydroxide. Not only that, other examples are;

  • Burning of wood
  • Burning of paper
  • Explosion of fireworks
  • Rusting of iron
  • Rotting of fruits
  • Boiling an egg, etc.

These and more are chemical changes; as a result, it is always chemically different from the initial chemical substance before the change or reaction.

Is wood-rotting a chemical change or physical change?

From the preceding analysis, it can be said categorically that wood rot is a chemical change. 

Wood rot occurs as a form of decomposition; chemical decomposition. It happens when the chemical elements in the wood break down into smaller or simpler molecules due to the fungi attack. 

Thus, these wood changes are considered chemical changes or reactions. It should not be linked to physical change. 


At this juncture, it’s our humble belief that you now have a complete understanding of the topic of discourse and that this blog has done justice to it.

So if someone asks you if wood rotting is a chemical change or physical change, you should be able to give a definite answer without thinking twice.


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About the Chief Editor

Godfrey Ogbo, the Chief Editor and CEO of AtlanticRide, merges his environmental management expertise with extensive business experience, including in real estate. With a master's degree and a knack for engaging writing, he adeptly covers complex growth and business topics. His analytical approach and business insights enrich the blog, making it a go-to source for readers seeking thoughtful and informed content.

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