Puerto Vallarta Real Estate | April 2007
|If Walls Could Talk...|
Jim Morrison - PVNN
Termites. Simply mentioning the word makes homebuyers cringe. Termites live in nearly every state in the US, most of the Canadian provinces, and they are constantly spreading northward.
They are very difficult to spot, and they want to eat the wood in your house, so what is a poor homeowner to do? First of all... relax. Once you know a little bit about termites, you can take some common sense steps to lower the likelihood that termites will start eating your home.
Approximately 1 in 3 houses in the US and Canada will be damaged by termites at some point, so keep in mind that they are fairly common. In fact, the total weight of all of the termites on Earth is estimated to be much greater that the total weight of all of the humans.
Our ancient hominid ancestors are believed to have eaten them, in fact some people still do. Note to all dieters: termites provide 560 calories per 100 grams, and are rich in protein and amino acids. They live in the soil and eat anything containing cellulose, the building blocks of wood.
Only the blind workers actually eat the wood in your house. They bring the wood back to the nest to feed the ever-hungry colony, and they are constantly foraging for a new food source. If you have wood in your house, you need to know something about termites.
Most of the termites that eat houses are subterranean. These beige colored bugs about the size of a grain of rice are most often found anywhere wood is in close proximity to the ground. They live in the soil and only leave the soil to find and eat wood. If they have to travel a short distance between the soil and the wood, they build "shelter tubes" (also called mud tunnels) which will look like brown veins about 1 cm wide traveling up your walls. They live in colonies ranging in size from 60,000 to 1.5 million. A colony of 250,000 can eat about one cubic foot of wood in a year.
To reduce the likelihood of termites eating your home, keep the area around the house as light and dry as possible and maintain as much distance between any wood members attached to your house and the soil. However, there are more of them in Mexico than there are of us, so sooner or later; they're probably going to get to your house. It's as simple as that.
There are any number of termite-proof construction techniques and I've seen photos of termites that have figured out a way past most of them. Remember, they outnumber us by something like 200 million to one and we build houses largely out of the only thing they can eat.
Termite preventative strategies are great and worth employing, but given the numbers, one thing is clear: If you own property in Mexico, sooner or later, your house will be damaged by termites.
Over time they can do some expensive structural damage. The problem is it usually takes a trained eye to find them in your home, so if you're concerned, hire an exterminator to inspect your home for damage.
If termites have damaged your home, you must:
Protect the structure. This means treating the house in one of a few different ways. The traditional soil treatment involves pumping a liquid termiticide into the ground. A trench is dug in the soil on the exterior of the foundation and the termiticide is applied there as well.
These days, exterminators can also spray your wood with borates, which are effective insecticides and relatively harmless to humans. This is effective, though less so, than traditional treatments.
Another, newer method of treatment is a type of bait system. Wooden stakes are placed inside dozens of plastic tubes on the perimeter of the property. These stakes are checked by the exterminator regularly and when termites are found in a stake, the stake is replaced with a piece of wood that has been treated with a chemical that prevents termites from molting. The termites feed this wood to the rest of the colony and most of the colony dies at the end of the year. This can be used instead of, or in conjunction with the traditional treatment.
A good exterminator will review the available and applicable methods with you and help you decide what is best for your home. Now you have to:
Define the extent of the damage and have it repaired. Termites and their damage can be very difficult to find, so you should hire a contractor who is familiar with termite damage. The damage is usually the worst at their point of entry and they will follow the grain of the wood from there.
Going forward, you must be sure to keep all untreated wood members at least 6" from the soil and keep the area around the house as light and dry as possible. Nothing brings termites faster than damp soil surrounding the house and untreated wood in contact with the soil.
For more information about termites than anyone should ever be asked to read, visit the website HERE. If you have a specific question, shoot me an email and I'll tell you what you need to know.
Casas del Mar is a property services firm that manages, rents, and inspects homes all over the Banderas Bay area. Their philosophy is simple: "Listen to your customers, and dont quit until they are happy. Ever." You can send them your questions at info@CasasDelMarPV.com. They are your real estate resource.
Click HERE for more articles by Jim Morrison.