Termite Delight

termites
Submitted by Grenville Phillips II

Last week, I observed untreated timber being used to frame the roofs of three houses. The foreseen result is termites feeding on the untreated wood, resulting in a roof weakened to the point where it will fail prematurely during a hurricane.

Why would homeowners use ‘termite delight’ to build their structural frames? They were likely unaware, because they trusted their builders to do what was right. Why would builders choose untreated timber for their clients? The likely reason is that it is cheaper.

THE COST OF TERMITE DELIGHT.

A 14 foot long 2”x6” pressure-treated structural Pine costs about $70. The cost of the same size in untreated timber may cost $35. Therefore, the builder may save about $1,500 by using untreated rafters in the roof of a 1,000 sq-ft (3-bedroom, 2-bathroom) house. After the hurricane, the homeowner may have to spend about $25,000 to replace the roof.

The annual home insurance premium for such a house is about $1,500. The cost to termite-treat such a house that was built using untreated timber is about $1,500. But that termite treatment is only effective for about 5 years, which means that the house should be treated for termites every 5 years. By comparison, the termite treatment in pressure-treated timber remains effective for about 60 years.

AVOIDING THE RISK.

To ensure that their builders use termite treated timber, homeowners should purchase the termite treated structural timber themselves. If the builder has already purchased the timber, then they should request a copy of the payment receipt. They should then visit the store and request a sample of both pressure-treated and untreated 2”x6” structural Pine timbers – then they should visit their building site.

If they see untreated timbers in their roof, they should inform the builder that they are not paying for untreated timber, or any roof cladding on that timber, or any ceiling supported by it. If he does not replace the untreated timber at his own cost, then the homeowner needs to find a better builder.

HIDDEN IN PLAIN SIGHT.

It should be illegal to use untreated softwood, like Pine, to frame any part of a house in the Caribbean. If persons want to use untreated softwood for non-structural purposes, then the longest length of timber sold should be six feet, to prevent it from being hidden from the owner, in plain sight, in the structure of a house. Anything longer, should require a special license.

The evidence of damaged termite weakened timber frames from Tropical Storm Tomas (2010) and Tropical Storm/Category 1 hurricane Elsa (2021) was overwhelming. It is foreseen that a Category 3 hurricane will likely result in the failure of most roofs in Barbados. The hurricane season is fast approaching, and we are running out of time to take this risk seriously.

Grenville Phillips II is a Chartered Structural Engineer. He can be reached at NextParty246@gmail.com

11 comments

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  • Vincent Codrington

    I have discovered termites in so called treated lumber and none in the untreated lumber which my contractor /builder selected.

    Like

  • Sound advice.
    Elsewhere, and while cost is the frequent factor, some builders experienced premature failures with poorly or uncoated fasteners, and other products in contact with the pressure treated lumber.
    This is because when they banned arsenic in PT, and went to copper based solutions, it can cause problems with non-corrosive treated products in contact with PT lumber.
    It’s all a bother and a care
    But oh my dear so necessaire.

    Liked by 1 person

  • Need a job ?

    Xxxxxxxx

    WHO SAID SLAVERY WAS DONE ON THE 2X3 ISLAND EITHER PHYSICALLY OR MENTALLY.

    THE WORLD HAS SO MUCH OPPORTUNITIES VIA TECHNOLOGY AND BLACK PEOPLE STILL BEING RECRUITED TO PICK COTTON AT MINISCUAL WAGES IN 2022.

    WHERE THERE IS NO VISION PEOPLE WILL PERISH.

    Like

  • Speak with any knowledgeable lumber yard employee or carpenter and they will tell you that the pressure treated lumber does not stand up to the claimed invincibility that the increased cost supposedly guarantees. They recommend that you purchase the treated lumber and then have it saturated it with Solignum if you want it to be resistant to termites. Maybe Barbados Standards Institute needs to do some investigation on behalf of the consumer.

    Liked by 1 person

  • FearPlay

    Fair point. This is what the blogmaster is hearing as well, not the chemical to use but the fact some additional treatment is recommended.

    Like

  • … and yet you will see lumber used long before the advent of any sort of treatment standing up to the vagaries of time and termites.

    Usually smells a different way and if sawn is still “wet” with sap.

    The explanation I hear that makes the most sense is that the trees from which the lumber was taken had been there for centuries prior.

    Green and purple heart I am told no longer stand up like before.

    Everything lasts until it decays!!

    Like

  • I have been watching a house being built on youtube in barbados for the last couple of months pretty much all concrete and tin.. Would love to know what the cost per sq ft after completion is. Never saw a house with a basement down there before.

    Like

  • Dear All:

    The pressure treatment is the most effective termite solution. However, once the pressure-treated timber is cut, the internal part, where the treatment does not penetrate, remains untreated. Therefore, insecticide should be liberally applied to all cut ends.

    Further, if the Client decides that the rafters should be planed/sanded to get a cleaner finish, then that sanding will remove the insecticide, thereby reducing its effectiveness.

    If durability is a critical criterion, pressure-treated wood is preferred.

    Liked by 1 person

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