HOW DO BUILDERS SELECT THE PEST CONTROL PROVIDER?
There is an Australian Standard that governs new home protection. Pest Managers are supposed to abide by the Standard as a minimum benchmark. Every pest control business or contractor who offers termite protection to builders usually do so at a fixed contract price – usually a set $ rate per metre for the perimeter and a set dollar amount per penetration (any object that penetrates through the slab). Builders, in a very competitive market, try to keep their costs low in order keep some profit in each build so they will have a per job budget cost in mind when requesting quotes from pest control suppliers. In some cases, the cost of doing the job for the pest controller exceeds what the job is paying – so the only way for the pest controller to make any money is to cut corners, if audited, the job may only just comply with the Australian Standards. Remember that the Australian Standard is the minimum requirement when you are dealing with termites. In Northern Australia, minimum is not enough to offer the protection needed!
WHAT SHOULD HAPPEN PRIOR TO THE BUILD?
The site where your home is going to be built should be inspected by a Qualified Termite Inspector prior to any works being carried out. The Australian Standard recommends that:
- Any nest of economically important wood feeding species of subterranean termites found within the property boundaries, up to a distance of 50 meters prior to any works being carried out and any termite activity identified and eliminated. This prevents termites being ‘locked’ under the slab.
- All tree stumps and logs shall be excavated and removed from the building footprint. Tree roots that have been exposed from within the excavation shall be removed from the building footprint.
- The footings are prepared for the first blocks to be laid in order to form up the slab
- The first rows of blocks are laid, the fill is placed in the centre and beam trenches are dug along with installation of reinforcement and vapour barrier. The penetrations are protected and the slab is poured and finished
BEST PRACTICE TERMITE PROTECTION
The structure of a slab - The footing
The most common form of home foundation in North Queensland is the infill concrete slab. The land is cleared and the perimeter of the home is laid out by surveyors and the builders/concreter. A footing trench is dug and filled with reinforced concrete with what is called ‘starter bars’. These are the steel reinforcement bars that will protrude vertically from the footing that all the walls are eventually tied to to keep the building strong and locked to the ground. If you were to look at the footing, it is literally the outline of your new home along with internal load bearing walls.
This is a very exciting step for a new home builder! Once the concrete footing has cured, masonry blocks are laid on top of the footing with the top layer used being ‘knock-out’ blocks. These blocks retain the concrete when poured and the blocks, being part of the footing are actually the form-work of your new home slab.
Preparing the in-fill
In the middle of the outline of your building there is nothing but a void at this stage. If it was required to fill the whole space with concrete, just the slab would cost hundreds of thousands of dollars, so a clever method is used that has proven strong and reliable for many years. The infill slab. Generally at this point, sewer and drain pipes are installed. Now comes the ‘infill’ part of the infill slab construction. The infill (sand or aggregate) is put into the the centre, compacted by a machine and then the raft trenches are dug by concrete workers to form the ‘raft’.
The water vapour barrier (black plastic) and reinforcement is then installed. The pest manager then protects the plumbing and electrical penetrations with termite proof collars (cleverly made chemical impregnated plastic) which are slipped over the swere and drain pipes below the finished slab level. (see picture 3 at the top of the page)
Protecting from termite ingress
Chemical reticulation systems (basically an under concrete network of pipes with a filling point) that can be re-pumped or recharged are installed to allow for future recharging of the treated zone under the slab can also be installed. This chemical reticulation system is installed under the vapour barrier. (black plastic).
In the case of an infill slab the perimeter must be protected from sneaky termites coming from the outside in. Areas such as the cold joints (where the newly poured slab meets the masonry block formwork) at the rear of the knock out block and the steel starter bars rising from the footing must be protected as these can create gaps and pathways for termites. There are many products on the market that Pest Controllers use to protect the perimeter. Some we recommend, there are a lot we don’t recommend for North Queensland.
Pouring the slab
Once everything is done, the perimeter protected, the concrete is ready to be poured and your home will begin to take shape. Termite security for the future of your home is now in the hands of concretors to ensure that the termite treatment is not disturbed. Remember, at this point the only protection to the vast area of slab is the plastic collar installed around the pipes for sewer and drains.
The reality of what actually happens
- Site inspections are rarely carried out (unless the customer demands it) active subterranean termites that are under the site are not treated. Worse still, tree stumps and roots are often left where the building is to be situated therefore leaving potential colonies under the building. The cost compared to the home building is so minute, but as stated, in most cases it is not done.
- We have seen too often where the collar is inadvertently or purposefully disturbed by the concreter and plumbers. We have seen trades who just don’t seem to care and if it gets in their way they will damage or even remove protection.
- There are also the changes that occur during a build. Often, new new pipes (plumbing or electrical) have been laid with no protection and the pest manager is not contacted to come and install the required protection. In other cases, plans are changed after the slab has been poured and pipework shifted by cutting the concrete and the Termite Technician is not called back to retreat the area that has been changed.
Whether damaged or changed, this will inevitably lead to a NON TREATED ZONE or a weakness in the installed system. As you can imagine, if your home is built on an existing termite nest, the area below the slab has breaches in the treatment the result will be ingress into the home. Termites can’t eat through concrete, but they do find their way above the slab through cracks and cold joints in the concrete, especially around drains and pipes.
Another issue is the perimeter treatment. This is usually carried out prior to lanscaping. After the home is finished, the block is cleaned up and soil removed or brought in to ensure the gradient for run-off away from the house is done, usually by a Bob Cat operator – then the landscaping is done. Wood chip, mulch and soil is brought in, gardens are installed straight over the top of the perimeter treatment providing a bridge to the structure.
Remember, the only protection under the slab is the collars on the penetrations, if the concretors don’t do their job right and the slab cracks, there is literally no protection anywhere a crack exists!
Subterranean termites live UNDER the ground and if you place a buffet straight on top of them without taking the proper precautions to keep them out, it’s not a matter of IF, it’s a matter of WHEN termites will be in your new home.
BRAND NEW HOME WITH TERMITES
We have treated homes in some estates and the home has not even been completed and it is suffering from termite ingress. It is heartbreaking for the owner to find out when they have thought they were so close to moving in. In cases like this, destructive methods have to be used including drilling the slab to inject termiticide under the slab . Nobody, not the builder, not the owner wants to be faced with a termite riddled brand new home.
CAN I REQUEST TACTIC PEST CONTROL FOR MY BUILD?
Yes you can. There are some requirements we will have in working with the builder in order to ensure your home is protected. The builder will remove their termite cost component from your build proposal and we will quote to protect your new home. It should be noted that Tactic Pest Control will not compromise on quality to meet a price requirement.
I'M A BUILDER - CAN I USE TPC FOR MY CLIENTS?
Yes you can. As with the above, we have strict requirements that will need to be adhered to in order to ensure that your clients home is protected from termites for many years to come.