Termites (or white ants) usually operate as a colony. Termites live in nests made by worker termites who seek food away from the nest and destroy timber by chewing and hollowing it out into little tunnel-like galleries.
Nests need a constant source of moisture and take many years to develop. The most susceptible buildings are those with ground contact or those above ground buildings where the nest is close to leaking pipes, roofs or gutters.
If you plan a DIY inspection of the building, you need to check every accessible part. A moisture meter may be required to detect excessive moisture in walls or timber which might cause decay.
You need to thoroughly inspect:
- the interior
- the roof interior unless there is no roof space
- roof exterior (fascias and barge boards)
- exterior, including trees, fences, landscape timbers and outbuildings
- subfloor, unless it is a slab or inaccessible.
Make some sort of floor plan and take notes as you check. Complete one section before moving on to the next.
You are looking for
- obvious and not so obvious signs of insect or fungal damage
- design or construction flaws that make parts of the dwelling susceptible to infestation
- sagging of any visible structures.
The interior of the building
Carefully look at the surface of all visible timbers and tap or sound the timbers. Damaged timbers will either sound hollow (suspect termites), crush slightly (wood decay or termites) or sound dead (borers). Jump on floors to see if they are springy (if they are, look in the subfloor at this same area).
If you suspect an infestation in any concealed structure or inaccessible area you should consider removing necessary linings, cladding or skirtings, or cut access holes.
Wear a face mask in roof interiors to avoid inhaling dusts and fumes from any old rat or bird baits or other insecticides. Walk midspan of ceiling joists. Avoid contact with any electrical wiring.
The exterior of the building
The subfloor is the most likely place to find timber pest activity. You should wear a respirator, gloves and overalls if you need to crawl in the subfloor area as the soil could be contaminated from previous chemical insecticide treatments which are now considered dangerous and toxic.
If you are checking the roof exterior wear shoes with rubber soles and never climb on the roof if it is raining or the roof surface is wet. Also check around the slab edge, particularly if this is not exposed, ie is covered with soil, debris plant growth.
You should expect increased timber pest activity in older buildings built without the modern methods of preventing pests. As a rule, the older the building, the closer to the ground, the more inaccessible the subfloor, the greater the use of untreated softwoods and the closer to trees and bushland, the more likely you will find timber pest activity.
If you decide it is too complicated and risky to DIY, and that you need professionals to check the building for white ants and other timber pests, please contact us. All Tyrrells’ building consultants have timber pest qualifications. We can arrange a Timber Pest Inspection for you and give you peace of mind.