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Housing : March 2009
Termite Feature managing the risk Housing looks at some of the products used to protect homes from termite attack. T here are more than 350 species of termites in Australia. Thirty of these species present a real risk to homes throughout Australia, with the exception of Tasmania. In regions where these species are active, the damage they cause to homes can be severe. In recent years there has been a sharp increase in demand for new land releases, and these often occur in areas where termites are already naturally present. Trees, in particular eucalypts and other native species, provide natural nesting sites for most species of termites. We are therefore encroaching more into the natural habitat of the termite when we build in these areas and need to take suitable precautions to manage the risk of termite attack on homes. The Building Code of Australia (BCA) requires the use of a termite management system in the construction of new homes (Australian Standard AS3660.1). AS3660.1 covers the application of physical and chemical barrier systems, and the use of termiteresistant timbers in domestic and commercial buildings. Chemical barriers are intended to prevent the unnoticed entry by termites into the home, and physical barriers are designed to both force the termites to leave a visual trail of their activity and prevent concealed entry. However, once breached, a chemical or physical barrier cannot protect any untreated or susceptible timbers in the home. Homeowners and builders often inadvertently create conditions which allow breaches, such as mulching against external walls and leaving timber debris underneath a verandah. Softwoods Most plantation-grown softwoods are not naturally resistant to termites. To combat this, Australia’s leading timber producers and timber preservative manufacturers have developed termite-resistant structural softwood for use in framing and truss applications. The termite-resistant timber is coloured blue for easy identification and is commonly known as Blue Pine. Blue Pine is produced by treating plantation grown softwoods with a long lasting, reliable insecticide: Permethrin. Permithrin belongs to a family of synthetic pyrethroids and is said to be Expensive tastes There are three types of termites – dampwood, drywood and subterranean. Dampwood termites tend to establish small local colonies and tend to attack dying or dead trees and damp and decaying stumps. Drywood termites are mostly found in tropical, humid areas and are extremely destructive. If found in a home these usually need to be eradicated using specialist fumigation methods. Subterranean termites also cause major structural damage to buildings. Termites cause around $910 million dollars damage each year in Australia, and affect around 650,000 homes. The highest incidence of termite attack on homes is in Queensland (11 per cent in 2006); with NSW, SA and the ACT at 9 per cent, Victoria at 8 per cent, and WA at 5 per cent. The damage bill caused by a termite attack to a typical home can vary from several thousands of dollars to more than $100,000, with the average cost to repair termite damage being approximately $7000. HOUSING MARCH 2009 49