Category Archives: Termites

Does your prospective property have termite tenants?

Sadly many people are still falling in to the trap of buying a new home or investment property without first undertaking adequate pest inspection. This mistake is all too common in the areas Federal Pest Control cover, and is causing heartache with new owners being left with costly hidden problems with their new property.

In Queensland it is standard for contracts of sale to include a building and pest condition report.

However, sellers are not legally obliged to fix every issue raised by pest inspections prior to the sale of a property.

This means while a major termite infestation could result in the termination of a contract of sale, this is only IF the infestation was both obvious and known to the seller at the time the price was negotiated.

Fortunately Federal Pest Control offer pre-purchase inspections of prospective properties, to be conducted before you finalise the purchase of any property.

Our expert technician will identify which (if any) termite management system has been used on the home and the maintenance requirements of the system.

A Federal Pest Control tech will also be able to tell you if the property is in an area where there is risk of termite attack.

Every member of our team is local to the area they service, with local expertise and an intimate knowledge of the characteristics of pests in the area, especially termites, allowing them to provide you with tailored expert advice and localised professional solutions.

While a building inspection is not a warranty against future defects, when a homeowner installs Federal’s Comprehensive Termite Management System, they are eligible to be granted a $100,000.00 Timber Replacement Warranty providing them with total peace of mind as well financial security.

It’s important to note that unfortunately the average home owner’s insurance policy does not cover termite damage.

Federal Pest Control also recommend you make it a condition of your contract that you are satisfied with the outcome of our inspection.

As REIQ’s chief executive Antonia Mercorella says;

“Termite damage should be caught by the building and pest inspection, which is why it is so strongly recommended that all buyers get their own building and pest inspection done.”

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History of Termites Protection in Australia

Termites and Buildings
It is conservatively estimated that termites infest and cause damage to 1 out of every 5 houses in Australia. This ratio includes houses in Melbourne and Sydney and Perth where the incidence of termite infestation is much lower than that which occurs in the warmer subtropical and tropical areas of Queensland. Furthermore, destructive species (Schedorhinotermes. SPP in the S E QLD area and Mastotermes in the tropical north) of termites are prevalent in Queensland that are nonexistent or very rare in the Southern Sates, this means that a termite infestation in Queensland can be much more serious issue than it might be in Sydney or Melbourne.

Older “Queenslander” style houses and the new slab on ground construction
Before the invention and widespread use of chemical pesticides during the 1950s houses in termite prone areas like Queensland were built to minimise the risk of termite infestation by raising the floor high off the ground using piers made from termite resistant timbers. This gave rise to the style of house called the “Queenslander”. Steel caps (ant caps) were placed on top of the piers to force the termites to make large mud structures over the caps before they could gain access to the house. Home owners regularly poured sump oil around the base of the piers and were easily able to inspect for signs of termites as they were able to walk freely around under their house.

During the Late 1950s and early 1960s builders realized that these new pesticides we so effective and long lasting that it would be possible to build houses in Queensland with concrete slabs poured on top of a layer of pesticide and that these houses presented little risk of termite infestation. The chemicals used we called Organic Chloride and they had the advantage of crystalising in the soil structure and remaining active and effective termite barriers over very long periods of time. The new style Slab on Ground style homes were superior in many ways to the old timber floored homes and the added advantages were that they were cheaper, faster and easier to build. Pretty soon everyone stopped building the traditional Queenslanders and hundreds of thousands of the new slab on ground houses were built.

The dangers of Organic Chlorides discovered
During the 1970s and 1980s disturbing facts were beginning to emerge regarding the unwanted side effects of these Chlorinated Hydrocarbons(Organic Chlorides) to people and the environment. Widespread use of their use in agriculture and industry were phased out first and slowly during the early 1990s successive pesticides were withdrawn from use in Queensland until in 1995 the last remaining organic chloride chemical was withdrawn for the protection of buildings in Queensland.

The building industry was in unenviable position even if they had the skills to build the older style Queenslander homes the public were demanding the cheaper slab on ground style homes for a few years the only protection available to homes was the very ineffective Organic Phosphate Chemicals some newer unproven synthetic pyrethroid chemicals and a hugely expensive stainless steel mesh to replace the pesticide barrier under the slab.

The re-emergence of termites as the largest risk to homes
Because of the effectiveness of the organic chlorides a whole generation of homeowners never had to give a second thought to the dangers of termites to their home and now the new homes being built were not only lacking a reliable termite barrier but the knowledge of how to reduce the risk of termite infestation to homes had been lost from the general publics awareness.

New methods of protection
New methods of deterring termites had to be introduced and many new products were introduced to the market, even today the industry is still trying to reach the previous levels of protection from termite infestation that the older style pesticides provided and the unfortunate fact is that it’s probable that we will never see another method that will be as effective and maintenance free as the old Organic Chloride chemicals.
The Monolithic slab
Probably the most important development since 1995 is the adoption of forward thinking home builders and designers of the “monolithic slab design”. In this design the slab floor is poured in one piece on top of the ground, all the penetrations through the slab are sealed to prevent termite entry and the entire perimeter of the slab edge is visible.
Theoretically the slab itself forms an impenetrable barrier to termites. Any termites gaining access to the building are easily betrayed by the presence of mud shelter tubes on the exposed slab edge.
It is important to remember though that as good as this development was is still has many serious shortcomings. Most importantly:

  1.  At least 75mm of the slab edge must be visible around the entire perimeter of the building
  2. Although the slab is design to resist cracking under normal conditions any soil movement under the slab may cause it to crack
  3. The system does not prevent termites from accessing the home over the exposed slab edge
  4. The system does nothing to deter termites
  5. The system is easily compromised. (for instance by covering the slab edge with a garden bed)
  6. The slab edge needs to be regularly inspected for signs of termite attack

Other important developments
Following the relative success of the monolithic slab important innovations have been developed these are:

  1. Non repellent termiticides
  2. pre-impregnated termiticidal blankets
  3. Termite interception and colony elimination systems.

Termite Inspections
Just as the changes in construction methods from the “Queenslander” to the slab on ground style home has provided challenges to the way we protect our buildings from termites these changes have also presented many challenges and limitations to the inspections of homes for termite activity. To compound this problem Insurance companies are very specific about the wording and limitations that are required in any report. Any termite report that does not contain these limitations has undoubtedly been prepared by someone who is either uninsured by choice or uninsurable due to their lack of qualifications or previous negligence.

Termites are secretive by nature and often only the slightest signs betray their presence. In Australia we are very lucky to have some the world leaders in termite detection and inspection. These respected industry experts produced two Australian Standards dealing with termite and timber pest inspections. These are:

  1. AS4349.3 Inspection of buildings Part 3 Timber pest inspections
  2. AS3660.2 Termite management Part 2 SECTION 3 Inspection and detection

A termite inspection carried out by a suitably qualified person following the guidelines and using the equipment specified in either of these Australian Standards will alert the property owner to any risk areas and report on the presence of termites in the house to the extent that it would be reasonable to expect that a qualified and competent inspector would be able to discover them.

In Plain English this means that although there are limitations to the report the information contained in the report is based on the careful and diligent observations of a qualified person following the guidelines of the most experienced and knowledgeable people in Australia and although the report has limitations it does not in any way absolve the inspector from not reporting on any risk or termite activity that would be discoverable by a qualified person following the guidelines set out in the Australian Standards

Specific answers to comments

Firstly there is a termimesh system in place. I thought that was the system to hold the white ants at bay. The object of the report surely was to report on its barrier and the presence of white ants

It appears there is a perception that the termimesh system installed to the house is actually an full stainless steel mesh system where in fact according to the notice provided by termimesh all that has been installed is plastic collars over the penetrations and there has been a chemical treatment to the perimeter and the main component of the termite protection is the monolithic slab forming an impenetrable termite barrier. I know this client is important and needs to be treated gently but we need to make him aware that he has no barrier around the perimeter of the building and very little protection from termites. What he decides from that point is 100% his decision but at least from that point onwards there is no repercussions to you.

I guess one way of looking at it is that it is much easier for you to help him take responsibility for the termite protection or lack thereof for his properties now before a problem arises than it would be for you have to deal him after there was an infestation with him still believing  he had a house with a full stainless steel mesh protection system.

Or to put it this way if he has 20 houses and he believes they all have “a system that will hold the white ants at bay” it is almost certain one of those houses will get termites in the next 4or 5 years. At that point he’ll probably be screaming at you saying I thought this system was supposed to keep them out.

There seemed to be a lack of getting into places to see if the ants were present with so many cop outs that you would say “what is the point of having an inspection if they don’t inspect!”

 I hope I covered that above if you think it needs to be addressed further let me know

All they seemed to want to do is sell us a chemical barrier system. Why would I do that if there is already a system in place?

Guilty as charged, although its not a chemical barrier we want to sell him. But I think we can address these concerns with the revised front cover sheet which I’ll send for your comments. It is true we do like push people towards installing an Exterra system for 3 main reasons

  1. It’s good business for us
  2. It’s excellent value for the property owner
  3. Most Houses on the Gold Coast have seriously deficient termite protection.

HOWEVER I fully understand your position and the delicacy required so we will make sure you are comfortable with the way we approach these issues before we do anything

Kind Regards
Andy Lamont

Termite Facts — Termite or Ant?

How to tell them apart!

There are three easy ways to tell the difference between termites and ants just by looking at their bodies

1. Number of Distinct body sections:

Ants have 3 distinct and easily seen body sections

– Although not technically correct its useful to call these body parts the head, the thorax and the abdomen.

Ants have three body sections

Termites have elbowed antennae

 

 

 

 

 

 

Termites look to only have 2 body sections:

This is because termites don’t have a constriction between their thorax and abdomen so even though they have a head, a thorax and an abdomen they look as if they only have 2 body sections.

The difference between ants and termites

2. Antenna:

Ants have elbowed antennae:

Photo of the elbowed antennae of an ant

Termites have bead like, flexible antennae.

The beaded antennae of a termite

 

3. Wings of the winged reproductive castes:

These fly out of the nest to create new colonies.

Termites have 4 wings of equal size, while Ants have a pair of forewings and a smaller pair of hind wings.

How to tell ants and termites apart

 

Now that you can tell them apart you are probably thinking “So how do I  if termites might be attacking my home?”

Read Next: 5 Signs of Termite Damage

5 Signs That You’ve Got Termites

1. The most common sign is damage to the skirting boards.

This is often discovered during the routine cleaning and vacuuming of the floors when the vacuum cleaner bumps against the skirting board and makes a hole.

2. Unexplained mud inside the house.

Even small pieces of mud inside the house can be a sign that termites are infesting the house. Because termites always need a moist environment to work they use the mud to seal off their galleries to prevent the dry air entering.

3. Distorted paint surfaces

Termites will often eat the timber from the inside right up to the paint without breaking through. Often the only visible sign is a distortion in the painted surface

4. Sagging timbers and doors that no longer open and close properly

5. The sound termites make, people often here this late at night when everything is quiet.

Now that you know what signs to look for how do you find termites?

Read Next: How Do I Find Termites?

How Do I Find Termites?

How to Find Termites on Your Property

  • The easiest way to find termites is to start in your own backyard. Just turn over any pieces of wood lying on the ground.Termites eating a piece of wood in a backyard
  • If you don’t have any timber lying around in your backyard, congratulations you have taken the first step in reducing the risk of termite attack.
  • Termites also like to forage underneath bark commonly used in landscaping.

How do I find termites

How to discover termites in your house

  • There is no substitute for regular inspections carried out by a qualified termite inspector.
  • Termites are secretive and can exist in massive numbers inside your walls without any, or only very cryptic and seemingly insignificant external visible signs.
  • Our highly trained professional termite inspectors use non-destructive tools and rely on a wealth of shared experience to find termites where the signs of termite infestation would escape the normal person.
  • However, termites can attack at any time so if you notice any signs of termites you should call us immediately

Many homeowners have approached us lately with reports they have noticed small holes in their walls or stating that they been inundated with thousands of flying termites.

Read Next : Termite Exit Holes

Termite Exit Holes

The start of the annual flight of reproductive termites

Termite exit holes are caused by termites annual reproductive flight. Every year mature termite colonies develop a special caste of termites called winged reproductives or “alates”.

Termite Exit Holes

These “alates” normally reach maturity in spring. The colonies then wait for a suitably humid day, often a very hot day with an afternoon thunderstorm to release all their alates through exit holes. The exit holes are typically located high in trees although sometimes they are located inside houses. When this happens home owners can be inundated with thousands of flying termites. Sometimes this is the first indication that a home is infested by termites.

Now you know what you can SEE, but what about what you CAN’T SEE  ?

Read Next: How Bad is the Termite Damage?

How Bad is the Termite Damage?

How bad the damage is always depends on how early we can identify termite activity. This is why the national guidelines recommend that you should have a termite inspection carried out on your home every 6-12 months.

Often we discover a termite infestation during a routine termite inspection, if the home owner has kept up with their annual inspections we are catching the termites early on before they have a chance to inflict substantial structural damage.

Sometimes termites can cause visible damage before they have caused substantial structural damage to the house. In these happy circumstances all that is required is a professional treatment of the infestation and ongoing maintenance and inspections to ensure that the infestation does not reoccur. However, normally the first visible signs of termites indicate substantial damage.

Now you might have heard American’s talk a lot about Fumigation as a solution for treating termites.

Read Next: How Does Fumigation Kill Termites?