termite damage

i took this photo in a state of shock in 2004.

this photo is of 70 year old oak floorboards (in the lower right part of the picture), and the termite damage to the subfloor under the oak.

when we bought this house we had no idea that there was termite damage at all.  the problem with termites is that they can eat the inside of a beam, but leave the outside skin so that there is no outer sign of their damage.  our inspector had not poked the beams or the  subfloor from below (in the basement), and it all looked fine.  when we pulled up the carpet in the room above-- we found sections of the oak flooring that were eaten.  when we got a carpenter to come and repair the floor, we found this.  when all was said and done, we had to rebuild the entire first floor of the house-- floor joists, subfloor, and wall studs for 700 square feet.  no one who worked on the house had ever seen anything like it.

yup.  i know what termite damage is all about.

what i learned, however,  from this experience is what to look for the next time.  i bought my own ice pick-- but a screw driver, or knife-- will do just fine.  when you are checking for termite damage, poke everything.  really jab your ice pick into the wood-- hard.  you are looking for places that the wood has become like a sponge-- with a skin on the outside but porous and 'punky' on the inside.  bang on beams, floor joists, and sub-flooring from the basement side.  does the wood have a nice solid ring to it?  or does it sound hollow?  does the skin give way at all?  are there signs of tubes?  tubes are the mud pathways that termites make to travel in-- in more recently damaged wood there will be signs of tubes.

if you find signs of termites, do further inspecting, but don't panic.  very, very few homeowners are ever going to experience what i experienced in the house pictured above.  most termite damage can be quite easily repaired-- beams can be replaced or 'sistered'-- a process of adding planks to either side of the beam and bolting them together so that the beam retains its structural integrity.

what you want to make most certain about is that there is no current termite infestation-- if there is, get it treated immediately.  but again-- don't panic.  it takes termites decades to do the kind of damage that you see pictured above.  as long is a homeowner is on top of the problem, this can't happen.

tips for the day...


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