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Robin T: Termite Nightmare

From Robin T: Trouble with Termites

image villa1.jpgI believe I have expounded on this subject before so here are some more specifics.

Firstly our village house was built (badly) in the Spanish Villa style which became popular some 10 years ago. We only occupy it intermittently, so for many months at a time it’s virtually empty. Termites seem to thrive on peace and quiet.

It uses the nasty construction technique of pre-cast columns which I thoroughly dislike (only to be used for industrial sheds) The columns were drilled and a few masonry nails were hammered into the holes. This is the only keying that the infill block walling has to hold it in place. Over time, foundation settlement and shrinkage the walls part company with the columns by some 5mm or so. This allows an ideal secret passageway for your local hungry termite colony.

image term1.jpgThe first thing you notice is the tell-tale mud plugging or tunnels that they use to avoid daylight (Termite hate daylight). You can see the gap here from outside where the wall has parted company with the column but the photo doesn’t show the mud plugging very clearly, though its perfectly visible on close inspection with the naked eye. !@—

image wall2.jpgHere is a view from inside of the same channel. The mud plugging is clearly visible. The solution is to scrape out the mud with a kitchen knife, then use a proprietary insect spray (there is one with a special long needle for crevices) 50 Baht or so. You might think that you should plaster over the crevice to prevent further attacks. Personally I don’t think this is a good idea. Leave the crack open and clean (unless you are planning to sell the place ha-ha), then inspect it once a year. Termites don’t like attention. When they come back (not if), then its easy to clean them out again for another year. If you plaster over then you may create a hidden tunnel ideal for them to get up into the roof.

It is disastrous getting termites in the roof void with wooden rafters. They pretty much go unnoticed for years until the roof collapses. You could be face with stripping out and replacing a complete roof and ceiling. This can happen quite quickly (2-3 years) if they get a hold of an empty property. !@—

Poor flooring

image floor.jpgHere is an example of poor flooring made with the cheapest cement which shrinks the most. No reinforcing. This crack enabled termites to tunnel along to a wood partition !@—

image wall.jpgThe partition is shown with the front panel removed. The little darlings got inside and had a feast for 3 years. It was only our nosey housemaid who “heard” them chewing away at the panels that alerted suspicions. The whole of the paneling has to be torn down and will be replaced with block work. Notice that, once exposed, the termites clear off. !@—

A final nasty

image bathroom.jpgHere is our bathroom in romantic pink. Its 5 years old and I had to rip out the old floor which had cracked and undermined the substrate. I put in a properly reinforced 100mm slab keyed into the side walls. However, the outside wall (right side of photo) is part of a gable and back addition. This wall is gradually splaying outwards because there is nothing to hold in place. It needs a tie rod onto the main house structure. Its not serious, just boring.

The bottom line

When your house is poorly designed, badly built with cheap materials from the start you will inherit a succession of problems as time goes on. I am constantly fixing things when I go up country.

Everything falls apart and its very boring.

editor: interesting to see the tracks of termites going up the columns. Good point on the pre-cast columns — they should be avoided if at all possible.

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