Dinosaurs became extinct 66 million years ago after 165 million years roaming the Earth. Did you know termites are also prehistoric creatures? It is believed that termites have existed on Earth for 251 million years, 20 million years longer than Dinosaurs! So, let’s face it, termites are always likely to be a risk of property damage. Interestingly, termites never sleep. They just spend 24 hours a day working together with up to a million family members looking for food, which could be the wood in your house or the next home you are considering purchasing.
What attracts termites?
Termites are attracted to dark moist areas, particularly areas containing wet wood. For example, the base of a tree trunk is a perfect termite nesting location. If there are any mature trees or just tree stumps in your yard, you may unwittingly be keeping termites as pets close to your house. Moist wall cavities of timber framed homes are also perfect termite nesting locations.
The most common causes of moisture in wall cavities are failed waterproofing and leaks from gaps that develop as building materials rust, crack, warp and deteriorate over time. Gaps appear in windows, mortar erodes in showers and balconies, flexible sealants deteriorate and tiled roofs crack. Any reliable moisture source can attract termites to a property. Even water splashed from a pool running down to the slab edge can attract termites and cause a major termite infestation costing tens of thousands of dollars in building damage, which is not covered by home building insurance.
Why do termites eat wood?
Termites can evade detection for a very long time because they don’t consume every part of wood. What termites consume is the cellulose within the wood. Cellulose is a molecule, consisting of carbon, hydrogen and oxygen atoms. Cellulose is the main substance in the walls of plant cells, helping plants to remain stiff and upright. By consuming the cellulose, termites hollow out the wood making it paper thin.
3 signs of termites?
- Damaged window frames, door frames, skirting boards, floors or ceilings: During a termite inspection, the inspector will tap all the timbers with a golf ball on the end of a stick to find evidence of termite damage.
- Mud tubes: When termites travel above ground, they build mud tubes, which can be visually found during a termite inspection on the slab edge entering a brick weep hole or on the stumps and brick foundations.
- Swarms of insects: If you see a swarm of white winged insects inside your home, usually near the windows, you likely have a termite nest inside your walls. Sometimes these termite alates are just passing by but may be attracted to your lights, so they enter your roof void before making their way into your house via vents.
Unfortunately, a non-invasive or visual termite inspection will not detect damage the timber frame. If termite damage is found, only the removal of plaster wall coverings to expose the timber wall studs and bottom plates will allow a full termite inspection.
How to prevent termites?
Termites can’t be controlled. Termites must be managed. The best way to prevent termites from infesting your house is to maintain a termite management system to AS3660 series.
For existing homes without a termite management system installed during construction, this involves installation of a termite system to the perimeter of the foundations by applying chemicals or placement of termite baits.
- A chemical termite barrier can be retrofitted by a combination of digging soil sections and/or drilling through concrete or tiled sections to reach the soil below. Because termites most commonly enter a house by crawling through the soil, chemical termite management is based on the application of thousands of litres of water mixed with just a few litres of chemicals to the soil surrounding your home’s foundations. The chemicals are very low toxicity to humans and all mammals but very effective against termite infestations during the lifespan of the chemical if properly installed. Most termite chemicals last 5 to 8 years before replenishment is required.
- A termite baiting system works on the basis of intercepting and poisoning termites that pose a risk to a house. Termite bait stations are placed in the ground approximately every 3 metres around the perimeter of the foundations. The bait stations contain termite attractants. Sentricon Always Active is a termite bait system that includes termite bait that lasts up to 5 years, but most termite bait systems rely on monitoring. Small, soft timbers are placed in the termite bait station. Every 4 to 8 weeks, the stations need to be checked. If termites are found eating the timbers inside the bait stations, termite poison is added to this active termite station. The termite poison is highly effective at eliminating the entire termite colony.
Even a house with a current termite management system can be at risk of termite attack for a number of reasons. Firstly, there are often limitations to the effectiveness of the installation at an existing house. For example, termites can avoid the soil to the perimeter of the foundations and instead choose to enter a house through plumbing penetrations or where slab edges join, as is common with houses with an extension. Therefore, the best way to manage the risk of termite damage is to have a termite inspection. Australian Standards recommend a termite inspection at least every 12 months. Wood inside your walls that was dry 12 months ago may become wet. A regular termite inspection may find the moisture before the termites do!
How can I book a termite inspection?
Building and Pest Inspection Melbourne perform annual termite inspections in Greater Melbourne. Book your inspection or call us now on 0408 666 539 to find out more about our comprehensive termite inspections in Melbourne and surrounding areas by a pest control operator licensed under Victorian law.