Termite protection in a newly-constructed home is a system of physical or chemical barriers installed at key stages in the construction process. They aim to deter subterranean termites from attacking your property. With termites responsible for millions of dollars in damage annually across Queensland, the Building Code of Australia (BCA) demands that new homes, units, townhouses and apartments are built with a termite management system in place. Provided termite protection is correctly installed and checked regularly by an expert, it’s crucial in stopping termites from eating you out of house and home. Get your termite protection wrong and you’re sitting on a ticking termite time bomb.
Why termite protection’s a must in your new home
All new homes must be constructed in a manner that fully complies with the Building Code of Australia (BCA). The BCA required specific termite protections be put in place. Those protections include termite treatment of the parts of your new home most susceptible to termite infestation:
- door jambs
- skirting boards
- window frames, and
These are areas of your home most susceptible to termite damage. They’re often comprised of wood-based construction materials. It’s the cellulose in wood that’s the primary food source for subterranean termites.
The BCA sets minimum mandatory standards that your builder must comply with. However, it’s certainly possible to demand a higher level of termite protection than that set out in the BCA. That’s something to consider if you’re planning to live in an area particularly susceptible to termite attack.
Termite protection as set out in Australian standards
Like most things, the construction of your new home must comply with Australian standards. Australian Standard AS 3660.1-2000 sets out the range of termite protection available and how they’re to be used.
Termite protection in new homes is considered such a priority that mandatory stage inspections by a building inspector specifically focus on the termite management system as it’s installed. Construction can’t continue to the next stage unless the termite protection system complies fully with Australian standards and the BCA. If it doesn’t comply, work on your new home will have to grind to a halt. Rectification must occur before construction can continue.
There are two main categories of termite protection:
- Physical barriers
- Chemical barriers
Given the subterranean termite’s appetite for destruction, it’s not uncommon for a combination of the two systems of termite protection to be in place in newly-constructed homes.
Your home’s design determines which physical termite barriers need to be installed. For example, if you’re home’s being built on stumps, ant capping is frequently used. Ant capping involves the installation of a metal plate or ‘cap’ on top of the stumps and piers of the home. Similarly, metal flashing is used as part of an overall termite management system if your home is built on a slab.
Another termite protection that forms a physical barrier to termites is a layer of finely graded stones, gravel or stainless steel mesh underneath and around the slab to form an impenetrable layer blocking termites from entering the home. These physical barriers are often used in conjunction with chemical soil treatments to maximum effect.
A chemical barrier isn’t just a deterrent to termites. If a termiticide is used, it can potentially wipe out the colony too. A termiticide is an insecticide that specifically targets termites’ lifecycles and feeding habits with the aim of killing off the colony and its queen.
A chemical must be registered with the Australian Pesticides and Veterinary Medicines Authority (APVMA) before it can be used as a termite protection.
When you’re building a new home, your building contractor will often install chemical barriers in a ‘reticulation system’. That means that they’re installed in such a way as to allow them to form a complete barrier around the home. Chemical barriers must be checked and replenished regularly to remain effective. This is a process called ‘recharging’. It must be done by a person qualified and licensed to handle these chemicals.
Installing termite protection in your new home
For the most part, termite protection must be installed by a person who is licensed to do so. There are two categories of licence:
- Termite Management-Chemical; and
- Termite Management – Physical
Specifically, in relation to chemical-based termite protections, a person should also hold a Pest Control Operator’s Licence and have sufficient professional indemnity insurance. Because there’s so much at stake, the Queensland Building and Construction Commission (QBCC) oversee the licencing of contractors who engage in work installing termite management systems in Queensland.
Finding out what termite protection is in place at your home
The BCA makes it a straightforward exercise to find out what termite protection is in place at your home. Your builder must ensure that two durable copies of documents outlining the termite protections applicable to your home are installed on your property. These are called ‘termite management notices’. Commonly, you’ll often find one inside your electrical meter box.
Termite Management Notices outline the nature and extent of termite protection measures in place around your property. They also contain important information that identifies the product used if a chemical-based termite protection was applied. You can then check the manufacturer’s specifications for information as to how long they’re likely to be effective.
Who can carry out regular inspections of your termite protection measures
The Queensland Building and Construction Commission regulates who can carry out inspection of termite protections. Only a QBCC-approved contractor can do it. They must hold an appropriate Termite Management Licence and up-to-date professional liability insurance.
It’s highly recommended that you engage a qualified person to carry out an inspection annually to ensure that your termite management system is performing at its best.
Termite protection – Why once protected DOESN’T mean always protected
So, you’ve had the appropriate termite protection installed in your new home. Unfortunately, it doesn’t mean you can let your guard down when it comes to termites. Even the best termite protection system can fail. Here’s why:
Poor installation of termite barriers
Your termite protection system will fail if it’s not installed in accordance with Australian standards. It can also fail if inferior materials or chemicals are used. If you own a newly-built home, the real danger lies with the fact that you won’t be expecting a termite problem for many years. An infestation could go undetected for years, resulting in extensive, financially-crippling damage before the infestation becomes apparent.
Excavation and other activities that can breach your termite protection system
Your termite protections can be completely undermined by other activities carried out on and around your property. For example, renovation and extension works can disrupt both physical and chemical termite barriers. Even relatively low-key activities such as installing garden beds, a driveway, paths or landscaping have the potential to threaten your existing termite management system. Other threats to your termite protection include soil movement, compaction, subsidence, flooding and tree roots encroaching on your property. Conditions change over time. That can impact on the effectiveness and longevity of the termite protection methods installed in and around your new home.
Neglecting regular maintenance
Second, most termite protections are not ‘set and forget’, They require regular maintenance and inspection. Chemical-based termite protection such as soil treatments require periodic re-application. It’s important to read and understand the termite management system notice and familiarise yourself with the manufacturer’s specifications of the product used. Chemical barriers have a ‘life expectancy’ which is set out in the Australian Pesticides and Veterinary Medicines Authority (APVMA) label.
Picking up on termite protection problems…pronto!
It’s crucial that you regularly check and take steps to maintain the termite protections around your home. Failing to do so may void your insurance and render your builder’s warranties worthless. A thorough, expert pest inspection by a qualified and licensed pest inspector is the only way to detect a termite problem or an issue with your termite protection or termite management system. When you think about the fact that it’s common for termite damage to cost tens of thousands of dollars to repair, prevention’s certainly the preferable option.
Worried your termite protection’s not up to standard? Click here to book a termite inspection, or call us at Pegasus Environmental today on (07) 5522 0089. Get cracking now and avoid the heartache and expense later down the track.