Termites can be a nightmare for any homeowner in California and, despite California building codes requiring the use of pressure-treated wood. But does the use of pressure-treated wood really make a difference when it comes to termite infestations? The fact is, pressure-treated wood is considered termite resistant, but that doesn’t mean that termites still won’t find your home a suitable meal in the future.
Here we take a closer look at what pressure treating really does and how it can help deter termites for some time.
- Understand what pressure-treated wood really is and how it becomes termite resistant
- Learn the difference between termite-resistant and termite proof
- Explore ways to keep termites away from wooden structures
- Know what to look for when it comes to termite infestations
What is pressure-treated wood?
When wood is pressure-treated, it is placed in a pressure chamber that removes all the air within the wood while also infusing the wood with a combination of chemicals that help preserve the wood, reduce the risk of wood rot, and provide an insecticide that helps deter pests like termites. The removal of air from the wood allows the wood to better absorb the chemicals throughout, making it better than a simple coat of the same chemicals on the outside.
What chemicals are used in pressure-treated wood?
The chemicals used to treat pressure-treated wood depend on when the wood was pressure-treated and the chemical preservatives used. In the past, wood pressure treatments used chromated copper arsenate (CCA). This was the combination of chromium and a bactericide, copper as a fungicide, and arsenic as an insecticide. However, in 2003, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) restricted the use of CCA. At this time, companies began using alkaline copper quat (ACQ). This new method of pressure-treating uses copper oxide and quaternary ammonia.
Termite-resistant vs. termite-proof
While pressure-treating wood is designed to reduce moisture and rot in the wood, as well as include chemicals that kill or deter insects such as termites, the fact is that this wood only works as a deterrent for a short time and under certain conditions. This is why pressure-treated wood is only considered termite-resistant. When used in construction, pressure-treated wood undergoes changes over time that make it more susceptible to termite infestation. This can include:
- Moisture: Pressure treating only works to reduce the risk of moisture in the wood. When wood is exposed to damp soil or direct moisture, it can become damp and soft, making it a target for termites.
- Damage during construction: When pressure-treated wood is used in construction, new cuts and drill holes in the wood create areas where chemicals may not be as strong in the wood. While chemical spot treatments should be applied to these areas during construction, they are often forgotten about, creating a vulnerable entry point termites can take advantage of.
- Leaching chemicals: The chemicals used during the pressure-treating process do not last forever. Leaching from the wood can begin to occur within the first ten years of use.
- Creative termites: Pressure-treated wood is often only used for the substructural sills located near the soil, leaving the rest of the construction to standard wood. While the pressure-treated wood may work as an initial deterrent to subterranean termites, they can simply create mud tunnels to bypass the pressure-treated wood. In addition, drywood termites initiate infestations with winged swarmers and completely avoid the pressure-treated wood altogether.
Tips to prevent termites from infesting treated wood
While pressure-treated lumber can work as an effective termite deterrent, it is not termite-proof. The good news is there are some steps you can take to help prevent termites from accessing and feeding on pressure-treated and untreated wood in and around your home.
- Avoid soil contact: Pressure-treated wood should never come into direct contact with the soil. All wood should rest on a concrete base and be at least six inches above the soil.
- Reduce vegetation around your foundation: Termites will feed on any form of plant matter containing cellulose. This includes everything from live plants to wood piles for your fireplace. Keeping plants, leaves, and wood away from your home helps to eliminate a potential food source. Termites may begin feasting on this natural vegetation and, if it is close to your home, easily move into your home’s wooden structure.
- Reduce moisture: Despite being pressure-treated, moisture can still be damaging to wood. Direct moisture softens the wood, allows for faster chemical leaching, and makes the wood a prime termite target. Regularly inspect pipes for leaks as well as gutters and rain runoff, making sure it is moving away from your home’s foundation.
- Apply preventative termiticides: Whether you apply yourself or hire a professional termite control company, yearly applications of termiticides around your foundation can help prevent termites from making an entrance.
Signs of an infestation in pressure-treated wood
Because termites can still infest pressure-treated wood, it is important to regularly check for signs of termite infestation. In pressure-treated wood, the presence of termites creates a swollen and blistery appearance in wood, often making it look as though it has moisture damage. You may also notice cracks or holes in the wood that looks as though it has been filled with soil. In addition, you may see signs of mud tubes. Termites create these tubes as a way to connect the termite colony. Mud tubes are often about the width of a pencil and can climb up walls, door frames, and other areas around your home’s foundation. Around these tubes, you may also find direct signs of termites that can include wings shed by adult termites.
If you see potential signs of termites around your home or pressure-treated wood decks, it is recommended that you contact a professional pest control company experienced with termite treatments. They will treat a termite infestation, making sure all termites are destroyed. Once the termites are killed, they can help assess any potential damage and recommend options such as wood replacement or bracing.
When termites invade your home
While the use of pressure-treated wood is common in California home construction, its use does not guarantee your home will remain termite-free or prevent termite damage. While it can work as a deterrent for a few years, regular termite inspections and prevention techniques are essential to keep your home protected.
Stop termites in their tracks
Subterranean and drywood termites are a big concern for homeowners in California, but there is help available if you suspect a possible termite infestation. The team at Insight Pest Management specializes in termite control and prevention, helping to address any infestation and help to keep your home termite-free. To learn more about our services, contact us today to schedule a free evaluation.