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Stucco Cut reveals Termites secretly
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After Stucco Cut

Before Stucco Cut

Capenter Ants tunnel behind stucco.

You can already see the Termites.




Feb. 15, 2002
Contact Information  |  IFAS Photo Page

New Building Code PhotoGAINESVILLE, Fla. --- With termite damage at record levels, a University of Florida pest control expert says a new statewide building code will help stop the tiny home wreckers.

"Termite damage and control costs in Florida exceed $500 million annually, but that will be reduced by the new Florida Building Code, making builders more responsible for termite protection," said Phil Koehler, professor of entomology with UF's Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences. The code becomes effective March 1.

Koehler said the record number of termite treatment failures in Florida is occurring because there has been no standard control method required on new homes.

"Florida counties usually require some kind of termite protection on new structures, but the methods vary from county to county. The result has been a hodgepodge of codes that leave many consumers unprotected and confused," he said.

He said most current building codes do not require building contractors or pest control operators to prevent termite infestations.

"As a result, the pest control industry refuses to pay for repairs when building contractors either disrupt their treatments, build hidden termite access into buildings or provide moisture that allows termites to survive in buildings," he said. "These problems usually don't show up until the damage is done. Pest control industry warranties will not cover houses that provide termites with conditions that allow them to thrive."

Koehler, who chaired a committee of architects, builders, building code officials, pest control operators and pesticide manufacturers that recommended code changes, said the new code is long overdue in Florida.

"When it comes to stopping termites, including the highly destructive Formosan termite now spreading throughout Florida and the U.S. Southeast, we need a standardized statewide code to protect homeowners from termites," he said.

The St. Johns County, Fla., building code served as a model for the new state code, he said.

"The county's code prevents hidden termite access into buildings through voids behind exterior finishes that extend to the ground, such as stucco and masonry," Koehler said. "It increases the effectiveness of chemical barrier treatments under foundations by requiring down spouts from rain gutters to discharge water away from buildings. And it eliminates termite food sources in contact with the ground such as building debris, form boards and grade stakes."

While chemical barrier treatments under and around the foundation are effective, they deteriorate over time and must be reapplied about every five years. As an alternative, Koehler recommends builders use borate-treated wood throughout the house. Under the new code, the sill plate in contact with the concrete slab is the only wood that must be treated.

Lumber pressure-treated with chromated copper arsenate, or CCA, is the most widely used material, but it's being phased out because arsenic is a known carcinogen. He said effective alternative treatments include zinc borate or sodium borate. And while borate-treated wood costs more than untreated wood, the long-term benefits make it cost-effective for homeowners.

"For example, if the cost of using untreated wood in a typical 2,000-square-foot house is about $9,000, the cost of using borate-treated wood would be about $12,000 -- a $3,000 increase," he said. "However, the estimated $800 cost of chemical soil treatments every five years -- plus the annual $100 renewal fees most pest control operators charge -- totals $4,800 over 20 years. During the same period, the treated wood option saves $1,800."

Koehler said new home buyers may be lulled into a false sense of security by builders who use unproven termite control measures, such as spraying untreated wall studs with borates. The growing practice of coating wall studs with borate to a height of about 24 inches has not been proven to prevent termite damage. Termites have the ability to enter at the bottom of the stud and tunnel up through the center of the 2-by-4-inch wall supports.

"It's just another example of the many things being promoted to reduce the initial cost of termite treatment, leaving the home buyer with the risk of termite infestation and high out-of-pocket costs to retreat and repair damage" Koehler said.


By Chuck Woods
Source: Phil Koehler (352) 392-2484

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Hidden Termite mud tube behind Stucco


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