February 26, 2011
The Horror of Termites
I have done structural evaluations on a lot of homes where there was extensive termite damage, but this one I had a some time to do some extra exploration. I was working on a separate problem in the house, and while there some blistering of paint on a window sill was discovered. The contractor was asked to pull it up, and SURPRISE! There was extensive termite damage.
On this one, we had time to do some poking around, and we did a bit of experimentation to see just how well termites can hide from site. Watch this video:
Notice how well they have concealed themselves? If you had banged on that piece of timber with a hammer, it would have felt solid. Also, if you probed it with a sharp object, you probably would have felt anything. Note, we had to pry in there with a wrecking bar to find the damage, which was extreme.
The termites left a nice shell of preserved wood to protect themselves and hide their presence. They had no visible mud tunnels, they got in to the wood through the wall, which was backfilled with soil (which is against Code btw, but this was done a long time ago). In the end, I checked the crawl space by taking a drill and drill holes all around the perimeter. We found other damaged areas, but fortunately for the homeowner, nothing that needed serious repairs like are being done here.
The worst house I’ve seen is this one (it’s a foreclosure):
The joists holding up the floor above are completely destroyed by termites, the floor is sagging under its own weight. The timber is so thoroughly destroyed that it is the vinyl floor covering holding up the floor. I discovered this when I walked on it. Fortunately I was able to run off of the floor before making it collapse.
This house was built in the seventies, and it appears that the roof may have leaked for a long time, which fed the termites moisture. Here’s a picture underneath:
The photo above is rather confusing to look at because of all the hanging insulation, white mold and rotted wood, but it gives a good indication of the damage to the structure underneath. Note how grey the subfloor is – it was heavily rotted.
For a house to get to this kind of condition, extreme neglect is required. I’m not sure how the occupants lived in it. It was pretty nasty, and I was told it looked worse before the cleanup. Foreclosures don’t always look this bad, but if you buy one at an auction you don’t get a chance to do a thorough investigation. I would consider the risk, you wouldn’t have wanted to buy this house at any price.