Hidden Problems: Termites and Moisture Don’t Mix 1

Friday, October 23rd, 2015
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Moisture in a building can point to more than just mould problems. It could prove to be a breeding ground for termites as well.

I recently assessed a property in a rural location in a damp area at the base of a steep hill and adjacent to a wetland. Dampness at that this property meant it was prime territory for termites.

Upon opening the sub-floor door of the studio building, I was confronted with a rancid odour due to a significant issue with moisture, humidity and fungal growth. The odour was overpowering and the worst I had noted in my many years of assessing properties, to the point that I considered it was unhealthy for me to access the area.

floor frame

Condensation and mould on the floor frame

I recommended to my client that it was vitally important that access was gained due to the significant risk of termite infestation given the conditions that existed. I suggested additional ventilation be provided to assist in drying the area, which would allow for access to be safely gained in the future.

A few weeks later, I was asked to return to the property and re-assess the area as ventilation had been installed. I was now able to access the area as the rancid odour was gone. The area was still very humid and damp but no longer unhealthy for me to access.

When I did access the area, unfortunately for the property owner, my worst fears were realised – there was a major termite infestation to the majority of the floor frame. I discovered numerous termite mud tunnels along with active termites in some locations.


Termite mud tunnels

It is always vitally important that hidden areas such as sub-floors can be accessed during assessments of buildings as these are the areas that the building owner or prospective building owner does not understand and rarely accesses.

There are often telltale signs of dampness occurring within a home, such as containers placed in cupboards that are designed to soak up the moisture in the air. This particular dwelling had these containers placed in most cupboards.

The interesting story behind all of this is that the owner of the property had constructed the building. He strongly believed that it was free of major flaws, as did the gentleman looking to purchase the property prior to me assessing it on his behalf.

It is important that the local environment is closely considered and that the building is constructed in such way to limit the favorable conditions for termites. It’s also important to construct in a manner that either prevents access or makes it simple to view termites when they do attempt to access a building.

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  1. Branko Mladichek

    Great article Bruce
    As accredited and experienced building and timber pest inspector I fully endorse your comments and wish to expand on some of the issues raised. One of the riskiest things you can do is to buy owner built property. Why? because it is built by someone who likely has no knowledge in building. It's like sailing a ship with a blind captain(what else was covered up?). In this case owner had no idea that sub floor ventilation was inadequate and most likely surface/sub soil drainage as well. How did it get past building inspector? The result is sub standard and unhealthy building infested by termites. It also shows that despite ant caps and strips being installed they were breached.
    Approved building plans should have shown adequate site drainage and sub floor vents (why were they not installed?)