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Any type of property with exposed timbers is subject to wood-boring insect attack - fact. There is however a lot you can do to prevent damage to your home. The first thing is to establish what has attacked your home and understand its lifecycle. A lot of old rubbish is published on Forums and Websites concerning Termites.

Portugal has never done a survey on populations and locations and in any event there is only one species in Portugal that requires a cellulosic diet and this is the Reticulitermes lucifugus or White Ant. Surprisingly this insect only arrived in Portugal in the early 20th century. Termites live underground and their diet consists of cellulose which they digest with the help of internal acids. Cellulose is found in wood and many other household fixtures and fittings, and Termites will feed on these items as well if allowed to do so. In a modern building constructed to the exacting standards required these days, attack would be difficult as a form of entry is required to access the timbers and eating through concrete bases is not an option and treated mortars can be used if the builder considers it is necessary.

Protecting a property is quite a simple task and fairly inexpensive. Sinking a Termite barrier similar to a root barrier will prevent the creatures getting near your foundations (if they are edible). The barrier should be left out of the ground and inspected regularly for shelter-tubes. These are tubes the Termites build to climb over the barriers, and as soon as they are removed the threat is over.

Wood borers also infest internal timbers by laying eggs in cracks in timbers and furniture, which then hatch into grubs and this is the stage where the damage is done. The grub can spend years chewing its way around the inside of a piece of timber, eventually changing into a flying insect about 1mm under the surface of the host timber. The bug then eats its way out of its home, flies out, ( the woodworm holes you see are exit holes) mates, lays eggs and dies. If you were to paint or mist liquid borne Boron salts on the suspect timbers, the bug would poison itself on its way out - thus breaking the life-cycle. Another simple expedient is simply paint any cracked timbers with gloss paint and the bug can't find a suitable site to lay its eggs. Many cases of wood-boring insect are caused by the householder - how many of you have stuck old furniture or wood in the "attic"? You guessed - you introduced them and invited them to dine on your roof timbers. Here is Portugal the Pine Nematode(Pine Wilt) outbreak attracts wood-boring insects and using any such infected wood internally can cause many problems.

In Portugal the Sirex wood wasp is a problem in untreated wood and can be present without the buyer knowing, until suddenly holes you can poke a pencil through appear. The likelihood of insect attack on Timber Frame buildings is no higher than any other type of building, as all timbers are treated under special conditions prior to use, and providing, care in construction and vigilance is kept. As soon as a problem appears, swift remedial action will almost certainly resolve matters. You lavish care and have your car inspected regularly, so why not your home? Did you know that a Joiner was known as a Jointer and he had to be skilful enough to create tight joints in buildings and furniture to prevent wood-borers entering to lay their eggs.

In closing, if the construction timbers are from a re-newable source, Kiln Dried, Graded and Vac-Vac treated AND constructed correctly to the codes laid down you should not encounter any problems.


Written by Chris Thorpe for TIMBER ENGINEERING EUROPE

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Toxic chemicals are no longer used in combating this problem - today water-borne salts such as Boron are used in a responsible way.

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