Termite Construction Issues
Some styles of construction are more prone to experience a termite infestation than others. Sometimes there are particular areas of your home that create termite friendly conditions. Termites are all around us but because they live underground we have no idea that millions of them exist. And remember…Even if there is no indication of termites in your home, only a thorough inspection by a qualified pest management professional can determine if they are actually present.
Solid Poured Walls
Basements come in a variety of construction styles. However, during recent years solid poured foundation walls, especially in the case of basements, have become the most popular. As the name implies, the walls are constructed with a singular construction element of solid concrete. Very solid and lacking any uniform internal voids, solid poured foundation walls are excellent in terms of REDUCING the likelihood of termite infestation. I say reducing and not eliminating because even these hearty construction styles have limitations. The areas where slabs adjoin create expansion joints and provide termites with structure access. This becomes quite an issue for inspection and treatment because of finished basements with sheetrock walls and floor coverings. These coverings can hide critical termite access points. Treatment specifications for solid poured basements can vary greatly but will almost always include a treatment of the soil adjacent to the foundation.
Hollow block walled basements are usually found in homes constructed prior to the 1980’s and are considered to be very solid construction styles. However, block walled basements do have drawbacks. The inclusion of wall voids (the internal portion of the hollow block itself) provides termites completely unseen access to the wooden portions of your home. The good news here… because the wall voids are uniform they can be adequately treated with modern treatment techniques. This involves drilling into each wall void in a linear fashion with a masonry drill. Although this may sound invasive to your home, compared to the damages termites can do…it is a very minor step. Once our technicians have gained access to the block voids, liquid termiticide may be applied at a pre-approved rate. Doings so will prevent termite access into your home.
Shown here with a brick veneer, monolithic slabs are the simplest and least expensive of the typical slab construction styles. Monolithic slabs allow termite access via stress cracks normally found in all slabs, around plumbing and utility slab penetrations, as well as around the exterior of the slab itself. A liquid treatment of the soil adjacent to the foundation, any patio or garage slabs adjoining the main slab, as well as areas of slab penetrations are all commonly required treatment sites. If exterior veneers exist, these areas may also require treatment to prevent termite infiltration.
Supported slabs (shown here with lap siding) present unique challenges with respect to termite control. These slabs are usually above the exterior soil grade and are most often associated with hollow block foundation walls. Usually these block walls are filled with concrete from the slab poured on top. However, there is no way to know this from a visual inspection. The location of expansion joints (areas where construction elements meet) are located in areas typically unavailable for visual inspection…usually due to finished walls and floor coverings. A supported slab combines all of the challenges presented by both a monolithic slab as well as those of a hollow foundation wall. Professional inspection and treatment is highly recommended when dealing with this type of construction element.
Floating slabs are similar in construction to supported slabs. The primary distinction falls into two areas. Unlike supported slabs, floating slabs are usually below exterior soil grade and they lack the support provided by a foundation wall. Instead, floating slabs rest on the soil inside the confines of the foundation wall itself. This is how the term, “floating” slab is derived. This construction style places expansion joints (areas where construction elements meet) in areas typically unavailable for visual inspection…usually due to finished walls and floor coverings. The most common use of this construction element is daylight or walkout basements. Treatment includes exterior soil application adjacent to the foundation, treatment of wall voids (if they are present as shown in the image left and not filled with concrete from the original slab pour), and treatment to the soil under the slab nearest the exterior walls.
Hollow Block Walls
Probably the most common of the crawlspace foundation wall construction methods, hollow block walls are also one of the simplest. Hollow block provides symmetrical and consistent wall voids lending themselves to adequate liquid termite treatments quite readily. However, just like other wall voids found in stone and brick foundations, these interior areas prevent a complete visual inspection for evidence of termite infestation. When combined with brick veneer (shown in the image left), termites are granted another invisible pathway to the structure from behind the brick itself. Treatment for block wall crawlspaces includes accessing the block wall voids via a masonry drill. This is done in a linear fashion into each void. A state mandated volume of liquid termiticide is then applied to the interior of the block wall and similarly, behind the brick veneer should it be present. Soils on both the crawlspace side and exterior side of the foundation wall may also be treated to prevent termite access to the structure.
Double Brick Walls
Crawlspaces constructed using the double-brick foundation wall method are somewhat rare and usually found in homes constructed prior to the 1960’s. However, exceptions to this rule certainly exist. Variations of this style include single brick (Brick skirts) with exterior wall piers and triple brick. Triple brick is the rarest of the three and is usually found in Antebellum Era homes that do not contain stone foundations. From the perspective of termite control, double brick foundations offer a consistent interior wall void that accepts liquid treatment very well. However, because of the interior voids, visual inspection of these areas is impossible. This is also an area where termites will gain access to the structure by traveling from the soil under the foundation to the wooden portions of the home. Double-brick wall void treatment consists of drilling the foundation wall using a impact drill in a liner fashion and applying a state mandated volume of termiticide. Soils on both the crawlspace side and exterior side of the foundation may also be treated to prevent termite access to the structure.
Crawlspace construction has been used for many decades and is found across the Southeastern region. The oldest variety of this construction style is stone walled foundations which can be found on pre-Antebellum Era structures. Although very strong, stone (typically Granite around Metro Atlanta and Quartz in Middle Ga.) foundations create numerous problems with controlling termites. The primary issue is that of inconsistent voids within the wall itself. Termites will use these interior wall voids to travel from the soil under the foundation wall to the wooden portions of the structure. Because the stones are irregularly shaped and mortared together it becomes very difficult to access these areas for liquid treatment and prevent termites from gaining access. Additionally, because stone foundations are typically very old, it is common to find multiple additions to the structure. This can potentially create areas inaccessible for a quality inspection or treatment. We highly recommend a professional inspection and consultation in the case of stone wall foundations.
During recent years stucco exterior cladding has become very popular. Unfortunately, this trend has lead to the use of materials such as rigid board insulation (RBI), also referred to as foam board or blue board. Another term for this construction method is known as EIFS (Exterior Insulation Finishing Systems). These materials cause serious issues with regard to termite infestations when extended below soil grade at the foundation level. Because the foam materials are non-permeable to liquid, conventional termite treatments utilizing liquid products are rendered completely ineffective. This is further compounded by the termite’s ability to easily tunnel thru the RBI material gaining increased access throughout the structure. Usually, this goes on for years and substantial termite damage can be done. Corrective action in the form of cutting the RBI material above soil grade can eliminate the issue. This should be followed by a professional termite treatment.
Earth Filled Porches
Earth filled porch construction is a hot spot for termite infestation. The combination of many different construction elements such as slabs supported by masonry walls, usually block or brick, with expansion joints placed very closely to sub-flooring, creates an ideal situation for termite infestation. Additionally, the term “Earth Filled Porch” isn’t always the case. Builders will often use these areas as worksite trash cans, filling them with construction debris…and sometimes even scraps of wood. Once the porch is capped with a concrete slab it’s impossible to know for sure what these areas contain. Finally, the issue of moisture, which termites need to survive, is of significant importance. Most earth filled porches are not covered and can experience water infiltration into the interior portions creating a highly conducive environment for sustaining a termite colony. Treatment and inspection of this hot spot area is recommended.
Brick and Other Veneers
Brick, stone, and stucco (Hard Coat & Synthetic) are all commonly used materials in creating structural veneers. These coverings add beauty and durability to your home. However, from the perspective of termite control they also create unique challenges. Because these materials cover the foundation and usually extend into the exterior soil grade, they create pathways of access for termites. Additionally, these voids are completely inaccessible for a visual inspection. This condition may allow termites to infiltrate your home and do considerable damage while things appear otherwise normal. The best way to ensure veneers are not hiding termites is thru a professional inspection and treatment preformed by a quality licensed exterminator.
Split Level Slab
As the name implies, split level slabs incorporate multiple slabs at different elevations. This usually requires a combination of construction styles ranging from monolithic to supported slabs. The issue with split level slabs, as it relates to termite infestation, lies in the existence and placement of additional expansion joints. The joints where construction elements meet create termite access points. Because the “split” usually occurs in a finished area of the home (commonly down the center of the home), these access points are typically hidden from view and allow termites to enter your home undetected.
Plumbing & Utility Slab Penetrations
Termites need very little space to actually enter a home. In fact, cracks as small as 1/32 of an inch provide plenty of room for millions of these damaging insects to enter your home. This is commonly the case around plumbing, electrical, and other utility pipes that penetrate your home’s slab. These areas are often hidden inside your walls allowing any infestation to begin and continue, sometimes for years, completely undetected. The subsequent damage to the structure can be substantial. Creating access doors in inconspicuous areas to better inspect these highly conducive areas is strongly recommended. A licensed termite control professional should be able to locate these areas and provide installation of a variety of decorative solutions.
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