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Repairing Termite Damage

Repairing Termite Damage

Termites will eat just about anything that contains cellulose. They can start in a post or a joist and then travel to any other wood that is nearby.

Structural wood components in a home are the most difficult to repair. Other wood or non-wood components are often attached to the damaged wood. This makes it very hard to remove and replace.

Stop the Invasion First

The first thing to do if you discover termite damage is to make sure the colony has been eliminated. There is no sense replacing wood if it is just going to be munched on in a few days or weeks. Once a professional has given you the green light, then start your repairs.

Think Demolition

Plumbing pipes and electric wires can interfere with reconstruction. I have seen hundreds of ruined floor joists that are adjacent to plumbing pipes or have wires passing through them. Installing a new floor joist(s) often means you have to disconnect the utilities to gain access. This can be a mind numbing experience...and a costly one if you hire someone to do it.

The Alternative

If you are lucky and there are no utilities near the damaged wood, you may not have to remove the termite infested structural members. You can add a new piece of wood next to the damaged wood. It is an accepted method of repair and the goal is achieved in most instances. Keep in mind that structural lumber does just that - it supports the structure. If your new added piece is shouldering the load, then you have accomplished your mission.

Keep in mind that as you remove lumber you need to temporarily support the structure. If you do not know how to do this, it is time to call a professional. Rookies often cause more damage than the termites!

Author's Note: We've received other emails with similar problems or questions. Here's one from Aaron S. of Los Angeles, CA, regarding termite fumigation.

"My house was fumigated for termites covered with a tent etc. After removing the tent two days later, we entered our house but there was no odor of gas at all.  A while later, we saw insects, spiders, roaches etc. moving around. The fumigation company claims that they mix a substance with the gas so that it will not have an odor. My question: Shouldn't there be a gas odor and dead insects? We can't see the termites inside the wall, but we feel that if all the insects are still alive, probably the termites are not dead either. Please, let us hear you opinion. Thank you very much!"

Doing a little online checking, the chemical used during termite fumigation is targeting only termites. It will not kill spiders, ants, bed bugs or cockroaches. So Aaron, you may still see other insects moving around.

Related Column: Termite

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