Termite damage in post

Discussion in 'Homesteading Questions' started by countrygrrrl, Mar 8, 2004.

  1. countrygrrrl

    countrygrrrl PITA

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    I just found some termite damage in a post. The post is part of a structure that I'm converting from the world's ugliest shed to an attractive combination composting/potting-shed - raised bed - and - arbor (hopefully grape arbor if I can reinforce enough).

    I would prefer not to replace the post, if possible. It's still very sturdy and sunk deep. In addition, it is supported right now at the top, top side and bottom side, and will be getting even more support as I construct the raised bed and finish the (hopeful) arbor.

    I have termite stuff here. But this is my first sign of actually having termites. Can I use the termite stuff on this post and save it? Or do I need to just give it up and replace it?

    And yes, this is definitely termite damage: boring, tunnels, etc., and all.
     
  2. barbarake

    barbarake Well-Known Member

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    I think we need some additional information. How big is the post?? How big is the damaged section?? Is it in a weight-bearing wall?? How big is the building?? When you say "it is supported right now at the top, top side and bottom side", I'm not sure what you mean - how is it 'supported at the top'??

    I'm not an expert in this by any means. But give some more information and I'm sure someone here will know what to do.
     

  3. countrygrrrl

    countrygrrrl PITA

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    Okay. I would estimate the post is a bit over 6' - I'm 5'2" and it seems at least a foot taller than me.

    It's fair sized diameter (?) -- one of those big round fence post things bigger in diameter than I can make with my hands - ? - but is NOT weight-bearing.

    In essence, it formed part of the framework for an old shed made out of corrugated tin which was attached to a steel building.

    When I say it is supported, I mean that I left much of the framework of the old shed intact - I removed all the corrugated tin and took out some of the lumber. It is attached to the steel shed by wire, and has supports (in the form of boards) going across the top to the opposite post, along the top side and along the bottom. I will be adding two other boards along the bottom to form the raised bed, and will be adding trellis on that side.

    The termite damage is about a foot long and only on one side - maybe two inches deep, at most. The post is thick enough that it hasn't substantially affected its strength.

    ? Need more info, let me know!
     
  4. Don Armstrong

    Don Armstrong In Remembrance

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    At least around here, termites travel from a central nest - can be many tens of yards. What you have sounds like peripheral damage rather than a central nest (which they build from earth, chewed wood pulp and saliva). If there weren't termites in or around it, then someone may already have treated the post. Dig down, watching for live termites.

    Clean up all wood, bark or substantial leaf litter on the ground or that's damp for about fifty yards around (rake and barrow), marking any signs of termites. Poke into any posts or old tree stumps with a long probe (screwdriver is good) as well. You'll get a feel for which way they are concentrated - keep moving around in that direction until you've outlined the infestation - the nest (if there's only one) will be somewhere in the middle of that. You may be able to treat it yourself, but if not then having done a lot of the work should make a professional's job cheaper.

    DO NOT put damp earth (e.g. a raised-bed garden) in contact with timber structures. You need to be able to inspect all around structural timbers for termite damage or tunnels. I once had to deal with termite damage in my house due to a roof gutter with a blocked downpipe and damp leaf mould - they even started up there. It would be pure suicide to provide them with access from the ground you know they're in.
     
  5. countrygrrrl

    countrygrrrl PITA

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    Thanks, Don! Actually, that helps me with the final stages of building the structure --- in particular, the raised beds. I've been hesitating, as I planned on treating the wood with a sealant, but was debating the other details (plastic along the sides? or ... ??? :confused: ) --- VERY glad I found this before I built the beds.

    I doubt the former owners treated for termites. :rolleyes: I got this place for a song simply because the former owners did - well, not much of anything. Theyre nice people and I like them quite a lot, but I think they take property for granted.

    So ... I'll follow your directions and start digging around to see what I find.

    I do know I have a small hole in a giant oak tree about 20-30 feet from this shed. The hole is not quite eye-height for me, meaning a bit under 5 feet high - I've puzzled over it for a while, as all the woodpeckers and other critters live in the trees outside the yard immediately around my place. Termites maybe? :confused:
     
  6. poppy

    poppy Guest

    Here's what to do. Dig a trench around the post maybe 4 or 5 inches deep. Be sure to get all the dirt away from the post. Mix up your termite chemicals according to label and pour the trench full. If your soil is sandy and it soaks up quickly, I would do it another time or 2. Most termiticides say to use 2 gallons per 10 linear feet for this type treatment, so you shouldn't need a whole lot. If your water well is nearby, I'd try it a different way, such as injecting it directly into the post. Probably not termites in your tree, unless it is partially dead. Termites don't attack live wood. Hope this helps.
     
  7. countrygrrrl

    countrygrrrl PITA

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    Yes, Poppy, huge help! An hour or so of scouring the internet has proven downright useless in explaing how to do it. :rolleyes:

    So I now have a plan. :) And a rainless week. :) De-termiting begins tomorrow after work. :yeeha:
     
  8. gobug

    gobug Well-Known Member Supporter

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    grrrrl,

    As an exterminator licensed in termite control, let me give you some advice.

    First, you cannot eliminate them. The best you can do is lessen the risk. The truth is that if they are eating the post in the shed, they could be eating the house, too!

    It is almost impossible that you have a single colony. Don't waste your time trying to find "it." The radius of activity can be 100 yards from the nest. You may have dozens of colonies on the property.

    You can save the post. Worry more about your house!

    Don't poison the soil. Poisoning the soil is like making a moat around the castle. Even if you poison the soil, if the soil stays damp, the termites will sacrifice workers to get to the post. If you already have the pesticide and cannot return it, follow the directions carefully. Use the personal protection recommended. Don't overdose. These are some of the most toxic pesticides on the market.

    Boracare is a boric acid product designed for termite proofing wood. It's pricy, but a small amount will prevent all wood destroying organisms, including termites, ants, molds and rots. In a year the product seaps throughout the wood and preserves it from attack. Tim-bor is a similar product that is cheaper, but not as good.

    The most important factor in a termite's life is moisture. There is some signal that wood transmits when it contacts soil. Moisture and wood in contact with the soil is all they need. The basis of good termite control relies upon managing moisture and eliminating wood in contact with soil.

    Since the post is holding up the building, you cannot get it out of the soil. Cure the moisture problem before you use a pesticide.

    There is another boric acid product designed to be injected into holes drilled in posts. The name is "Jecta." You drill holes to the center of the post and syringe the chemical into the holes.

    I have books dedicated to this topic. It is difficult to do it justice in a short posting. I suggest you have a free inspection by those Terminex people, if you can stand a few hours of hard sell tactics. The reason I suggest this is that besides being an expert in your area, they work on commision and will try extra hard to find where you have termites. They'll make a map and give you more information than you may ever want. Just don't sign up. They're worse than chiropractors, they'll be back every month for the rest of your life.
     
  9. countrygrrrl

    countrygrrrl PITA

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    :waa: Once again, I knew it had to be too easy to be true. :waa:

    Thanks, gobug. I read about the Bora- stuff while looking for info on getting rid of the little boogers. :yeeha: Guess I'll plunk down the $$ that was going to go for an exciting variety of Splenda flavored syrups and Thai curries on termite control instead. :waa:

    One note: moisture is a given here. The water table is very high; I live about a mile, half a mile from a river; I live a mile or so from a giant lake; and it rains a lot. So, whatever I do has to accomodate the fact that it's pretty soggy here.

    I do think it's wise to accept I have them and can only lessen my risk, but not totally eliminate the problem.

    :waa:
     
  10. gobug

    gobug Well-Known Member Supporter

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    I have a few sample tubes of the "jecta" product that would probably be enough to treat your post. I've had them for years, and never had a post to treat. I'll send them to you if you get me your address.

    Please, since your water table is high, do NOT poison your soil.

    You can make your own version of the good stuff by mixing timbor - the cheaper cousin, with glycerin. Some say you can use regular boric acid, but it is not very soluable. Timbor is a special formulation that is very soluable. There was a good deal of posting about this home made mix on another group - ferrocement.net. You can search the archives and find a formula if you desire.

    Worry about your house. Keep it as dry as possible. Make sure your footers are above grade and no wood touches the ground. If you have a crawl space, get in there and look thoroughly for damage. The termites hit the sill plate first, unless you have posts setting on the dirt. Look for their tubes as well as damage.

    Make sure you have control of all the water issues - the flow or lack of flow on the land, the flow off and away from the house (this includes the roof, gutters and slope), and the plumbing. Do this before you consider any chemical attack on the termites.

    These critters are a major reason I plan to build with cement. Strawbalers are fooling themselves if they think their homes are immune.
     
  11. countrygrrrl

    countrygrrrl PITA

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    :) That is so cool of you, gobug! :)

    I share your affection for the bugs. :D I lost my most favorite hound ever to tick disease last summer, despite being fanatical about using Frontline and tick prevention of every kind. :( Even my mom was thought to have a very advanced case of Lyme, as she died from some undiagnosable demyelinization process - actually, she had a heart attack but it was after several years of progressive problems which led to the heart attack. :(

    I love my preying mantis and walkingsticks and even the june bugs. But the virulent ones, like termites and ticks and fleas --- :yeeha: :yeeha:

    At this point, my water issues are as well taken care of as they can be. My place sits on a little hill, so water flows down into the hollow - I have a new roof which overhangs at least 1/2 foot - am fixing to dig some gravel and drainage around. It's a work in progress, but the moisture is pretty much a given here.
     
  12. gobug

    gobug Well-Known Member Supporter

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    I'm glad you are paying attention to the drainage and that your house sets up.

    You want the soil around the house to stay as dry as possible. That means no plants, or grass against the structure.

    If you are doing a drainage system around the structure (good idea) connect the downspouts to the drainage system aor run them 6 feet out from the house.

    Unfortunately, you can do all of these things and still get termites. Its the main flaw in building homes out of bug food, except of course fire, and weather.

    That frontline stuff bothers me a lot. I think it is pretty much a scam. The vets convince you it is the right thing to do and the advertising makes it sound foolproof. Its expensive and you have to keep using it. Yet as you see it didn't really protect your animal.

    Although the concentration of the product is small in the animal and the effects are reputedly specific to insects, I don't like that you have to keep applying it. It works best in a captive population of bugs.

    If new bugs can be continually re-introduced, it won't solve the problem. If the dog keeps encountering new ticks/fleas, they will not have been effected when they bite him. Only their offspring are effected, and the effect is that they are sterile, still hungry and not dead.

    There is also the possibility of secondary hosts that are not on the frontline regimen. Colorado is not flea and tick country, so I don't see many of these problems. The flea treatments I made that failed the first time were all due to secondary hosts - rabbits, squirrels, fox, feral cats, and a skunk. I had to treat the habitats of these secondary hosts to solve the problems.
     
  13. countrygrrrl

    countrygrrrl PITA

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    I'm actually fairly pleased with Frontline, despite the hound. The problem with it is it's not 100% - but it's pretty good. I also think, though, that those tick diseases are transmitted much more quickly than they generally think -- usually they say if you've removed the tick within 12 hours, you're okay -- I just don't think that's true and I wish they'd quit saying it.

    And yes, you can't just use Frontline and expect it to work - you have to treat the entire area. If you do treat AND use Frontline, however, the difference is significant - HUGE even. Which is a very big deal here where ticks rule. :no:
     
  14. barbarake

    barbarake Well-Known Member

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    "You want the soil around the house to stay as dry as possible. That means no plants, or grass against the structure"

    My house is on concrete block foundation/cement footing. The foundation ranges from 2' high in front to 8' high in back (house faces up a slope). Between the foundation and the actual house is that metal flashing stuff for termite control.

    I know there are termites around since I'm in the woods.

    The final grading has not been done but I plan on having a small 'berm' to lead the water around the house and down the slope. I'll also be installing a small ditch filled with gravel (topped with soil) around the house 'behind' the berm.

    Is there anything else you can suggest to keep the termites away?? Also, how about bushes around the house - is it ok as long as they're not actually up 'against' (i.e. 'touching') the house??

    Also, the house is approx. 50 years old - I had it moved to my property. It's solid wood - not a speck of sheetrock or plastic in it. The wood is *very* hard (southern pine). Would the termites even be attracted to it since it's so hard??

    Thanks.
     
  15. Zack

    Zack Well-Known Member

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    My experience in south Ms is that they will not readily eat hart pine I have been told that it is to hard unless it is very wet.
    My little house until recently was sitting on large pine logs and they only ate the outer layer over the last 130 years or so. Unfortunately they found the floor planks tasty :( .
    Actually I have yet to see a termite, only the damaged wood, but have found a large nest of carpenter ants in one of my barns.
     
  16. gobug

    gobug Well-Known Member Supporter

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    Termites eat wood.
    Carpenter ants eat bugs (not wood), but nest in water damaged timbers or logs.
    Carpenter ants can damage structures, but are easier to control than termites.