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More than 5% of all construction lumber manufactured in the U.S. each year is used to replace wood that has decayed in existing structures. This need not be the case. Damage to wood-frame buildings by mildew, mold, staining, and decay is entirely preventable. Their presence points to design flaws, poor workmanship, and neglected maintenance. The Culprits: Microorganisms The microscopic organisms that cause mildew, mold, staining, and decay in wood belong to a huge group of primitive plants known as fungi. Unable to produce their own food, fungi feed instead on natural substances that make up organic materials like leather, cloth, rattan, paper, and wood. Mushrooms that spring from lawns and tree trunks are fungal "fruits." They release millions of dust-size "seeds" called spores that are scattered helterskelter by wind.