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Termites Management For New Buildings

Victorian councils may declare suburbs within their boundaries as termite prone areas. The Building Code of Australia (BCA) requires that all new buildings and extensions within these designated zones have termites management system in place.

About 70% of Victoria’s council municipalities are ‘declared’ zones. It is our experience, backed by substantial evidence, that the whole of Victoria should be ‘declared’ with many currently undeclared zones under constant and heavy termite attack.

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The BCA provides two termites management options:

  • The use of resistant materials for the structure; or
  • The installation of a chemical or physical barrier system.

Resistant materials include:

  • Concrete slabs;
  • Chemically treated timber products; &
  • Steel frames.

If you select this option, there is no guarantee against infestation. A concrete slab must be designed to Australian Standard 2870 and if done correctly, it should not crack.

However, an incorrectly designed or installed slab can crack which will provide access to your home. All slab penetrations, such as service pipes, must also be fitted with an approved physical barrier. In both these instances, you rely on the skill of the selected trades person, which unfortunately cannot always be relied upon.

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The edges of the slab must also be fitted with a physical barrier, or alternatively, exposed to view.

This becomes problematic when it comes to landscaping our yards. Unfortunately we have a habit of raising the level around the perimeter of our homes, either with paths or garden beds. Raising the level above the slab level will allow for undetected termite access into your home.

Resistant timbers and steel frames also provide no guarantee against an attack. Not all products in the home will be made of one of these materials, which leave them vulnerable. Items that may be vulnerable include window and door frames, skirting boards, cupboards, furniture and plasterboard. We consider the use of resistant materials as the bare minimum of home protection. We endorse a ‘whole of house’ protection plan that should ensure your entire home is safe.

The use of chemicals as a management system is effective. However, it is not always foolproof.

The chemical is applied after the pouring of the slab in the form of a reticulation system. The chemicals available for use have one of two functions:

The first function is to act as a repellent. When the chemical is dispersed into the soil via the reticulation system it becomes detectable to foraging termites. If they come into contact with the product they will die.

These creatures have incredible survival instincts and will avoid any treated areas. It has been very successful in deterring unwanted guests from invading homes. However, this method is not fool proof as a barrier may have been inadvertently breached, for example by a tree root. A forager will continue to search for a break, if any, and may eventually find a breach.

Another shortcoming of a repellent chemical is a lack of transfer effect. In this regard, an infected termite will die before it has the opportunity to return to the nest and pass on the toxin to the rest of the colony.

The second function of a chemical is to act as a non-repellent. In this instance, should a termite travel through a section of soil that has been treated, it will unknowingly transport the toxic substance back to the colony.

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This type of chemical exploits the social nature of these insects, which live in a large group and have a defined role in their society.

The worker caste has the role of foraging for food, then returning to the colony to feed and also groom or clean the other castes.

A worker is most likely to pass through a section of contaminated soil and transport the deadly toxin back to the colony. The transfer effect will take place when the infected worker feeds and grooms other termites. Royalty, including the king and queen, are the highest priority. For this reason they are usually the first to be fed and groomed. Once the toxin is passed to the king and queen, reproduction will cease and the entire colony will soon die.

However, both of these types of chemicals have a lifespan that is less than the expected lifespan of your home. The type of soil and general conditions such as exposure to water will all impact on the lifespan of the chosen chemical.

Therefore at some stage in the future re-treatment will be necessary. A pre-treatment is easiest if a reticulation system was laid after the pouring of the slab. If this is not the case, a trench must be dug around the perimeter of the home and the chemical sprayed into the trench and onto the re-deposited soil.

In many instances, we may have poured concrete paths around the perimeter of the home.

When this is the case, holes must be drilled through the surface and a chemical injected into the soil. This is a costly exercise and it presents many possibilities for failure.

The function of a physical barrier is to separate your home from the ground below. In order to enter your home termites must come out into the open and cross a physical barrier, thus exposing themselves to detection. Therefore, your home must be regularly inspected for any sign of activity. Homeowners often become complacent or do not want to pay to have a professional inspection, leaving themselves vulnerable to attack.

A traditional barrier used on homes that are built with suspended timber floors is an ant cap. These ant caps are fitted atop of all  piers or stumps and built into any brick walls level with the underside of the floor frame. This will provide a continuous barrier around the home. This method will not prevent entry but again, it will force termites to expose their activities as they will build mud tunnels over these ant caps.

For homes built on concrete slabs there are different types of physical termites management systems, including:

  • Stainless steel mesh; &
  • Crushed granite.

Both products are laid on the ground prior to the pouring of the slab. The mesh is designed in a grid pattern and is small enough and sufficiently strong to prevent entry. The granite is effective as it cannot be eaten or moved out of the way.

Other physical termites management systems include:

  • Collars (impregnated with termite repellent) fitted around pipe penetrations prior to the slab pour; &
  • Durable laminate sheet (impregnated with termite repellent) fitted around the perimeter of the slab after the pour but prior to frame construction.

As the homeowner, you should consult with your builder and architect about the best way to protect your home. Together you must look at the conditions that could affect your home, including:

  • Site drainage to determine the appropriateness of any chemical barriers;
  • The ability to adequately inspect the entire property;
  • Ensuring any sub-floor area remains dry and well ventilated; &
  • Removing tree roots and waste timber products from under the house.

Our view is that no system is perfect. Termites can and do bridge barriers, so we cannot stress enough the importance of regularly inspecting your home for signs of activity. As we always say, ‘prevention is always better than the cure’.

Should you wish to discuss a termite control for your new home or extension we are only too happy to oblige. We have extensive experience in the installation of chemical and physical management systems for new buildings and can provide you with added advice in relation to the selection of resistant construction materials. Simply call 1300 665 573 to speak with one of our staff or complete the Contact Us form and we will respond to your inquiry as soon as possible.

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