Tuesday 30 July 2013

The aliens have landed..

..or have they??!

So, in the expansive universe of house renovations and home maintenance, there are sexy things like new bathrooms, shiny new splash backs and high end appliances, and then there are the 'not so sexy' things like downpipes, pool pumps and pest control. And it is the latter that brings our post to you today - installing a Termidor termite barrier around our little slice of sunshine.

Termites to timber homes are like a caterpillar to a leaf, the damage they can cause can be catastrophic to the integrity of the structure and very expensive to repair. While timber homes in Queensland are obvious likely targets, brick veneer and masonry homes are just as susceptible to damage, though usually the damage is hidden from view in internal wall studs and roof timbers. So what sort of damage can they do to a trusty bit of Australian hardwood? Check this out...

Typical termite damage

What was once a sturdy piece of hardwood can easily be demolished from the inside out, which in turn can make it much harder to spot day to day. The timber itself can look pretty untouched and 'normal' on the outside, but when pushed or pulled apart it can crumble away in your fingers as it yields to even the smallest amount of pressure. In a high set home such as ours, spying this damage is generally easy, as you would see tell tale signs of termite tracks or 'mud packs' as they work up the concrete stumps in search of a tasty timber treat (where termites cannot get into cracks they will build a mud tunnel or mud pack to get to where they want to go). On a masonry home that could be much harder to spot - a crack in the concrete foundation may yield just enough of an entry point for an army of timber terrorists to sneak into your home hidden from sight and cause enough damage that would make you cry yourself to sleep at night. Horrific thoughts I know.

So how does one combat such a sinister threat? By employing the services of a trusty pest control company - in this case 'Marz Attack', a local Townsville company that we have been using for the last ten years. We called Marz Attack to come and do our annual inspection and to quote us on updating our existing termite barrier. The cost for an annual inspection is only about $200, but it is cheap insurance when you think of the damage that can be done if annual inspections aren't conducted and you miss the early warning signs that the pest man will see.

As it turns out, advances in treatment have significantly enhanced the duration that the protection will last for. When this property was last done, (before we owned it) the chemicals used (by another company) only provided protection for a couple of years, whereas the barrier we have just had installed is guaranteed for a minimum of 8 years. So after a clean bill of health for the house we got the quote and arranged to have the termite barrier 'reinstated' so to speak. It's not cheap, I'll come back to that later; but for now, what does it involve...?

Step 1 - An enthusiastic young man arrives and commences to dig (much to my delight because it's not me doing the digging) an external trench around the entire house. Later on, this will be flooded with the termite barrier chemical.

Step 2 - A much wiser man puts on a set of earmuffs and safety glasses and commences drilling holes through the concrete slab where there are potential barrier entry points, such as around stumps that the house sits on (he is a much wiser man because he gets to drill not shovel). Again since the last barrier was put in place the industry standard has altered slightly so we needed a few extra holes put in around the place as the existing ones weren't quite cutting the mustard.  In our case it's a little more complicated because underneath the house, it's not one concrete slab but a series of concrete slabs, so more joins around the stumps etc. See the photo below for a refresher...

(Incidentally, it doesn't look anything like this 'minimalist' inspired landscape. Which is why this morning at 6.30am I was downstairs shifting everything that is stored/exists/lives under the house away from each stump and wall - it was like a weird game of Tetris where you are actually in the game...)

Step 3 - A third person gets to pump/inject the termite barrier chemical into the holes in the slab and into the trench around the house. This ensures that there is a barrier around the slab as well as underneath the slab in those vulnerable entry points you don't always see or think about. All in all, about 600 litres of the stuff goes into the ground using this wand for the trench (see below) and another impressive gadget that I was too in awe of to remember to take a photo...

Once this is done, the trench gets backfilled, and the concrete holes get plugged with plastic caps, and I get on with shifting all the 'treasure' under the house back to its rightful place...yawn!

Now, is this worthwhile? Absolutely, for this house it is. We own another Queenslander here in Townsville and although we have yearly inspections by Marz in place and have done so for the last 10 years, we don't have the barrier.  It is different in that it is set on a single slab (with no cracks or damage) under the house, it is elevated to legal height and is on steel stumps.  In our minds our annual inspections are enough.. But in this house it is a must have. And so the million dollar question is what does this inter-galactic space age protection cost? A lot and a little at the same time... Our barrier cost us approximately $2,500 which is a lot up front, but guaranteed protection for a minimum of eight years works out at approximately $0.86 per day - or about 20% of what a daily latte costs... In my mind that's money well spent.

That said, what can you do to make pest control sexy? Well, lets be honest...absolutely nothing. BUT to make me feel better after spending all that hard earned money I went and spent a little bit more - and got some pots and plants to try and jazz up the front of the house a bit...

The pots are from Bunnings and are a mocha shade, though hard to tell in the fading sunlight (I'll get Kate to post a better photo at the end of the week), and the plants are Cordyline Fruitcosa which we got from a local supplier called DayDawn Nursery. I had just finished potting them when our next tradie arrived to quote on replacing the front and rear stairs.  The list never ends... lol

Anyway, I'm going to go and enjoy a latte, and feel good about the fact that while I'm at work my inter-galactic space age termite barrier is guarding our nest for less than a cup of coffee per day...

Cheers, Col

P.S. A quick shout out for Marz Attack - having been loyal customers for ten years we can thoroughly recommend their services for anyone in the North Queensland region. You can check them out at their website http://www.marzattack.com.au/ and see what other services they offer besides termite barriers.


  1. They are certainly not a welcome sight in your home are they? Our previous home (brand new, slab on ground brick veneer) got infested within 2 years, and that's despite having Termimesh installed. I could actually hear them munching away in the walls during the night. We ended up installing a barrier system - not cheap but certainly worth the peace of mind. Having an elevated house at least gives you an opportunity to conduct a quick visual so you can get them before they get you. xx

    1. That's terrible Caroline. I think the footage on 'House Rules' of Steve and Michelle's house in NSW was a good visual reminder of what they can do if they are able to rampage unchecked.

      Cheers, Col

  2. Wow, Great blog! you’ve done a brilliant job, I can see you site first time this site a lot of hard working has gone it, thanks for sharing this blog & your writing is so amazing keep it up.

    1. Sorry for the delayed response. Glad you find the site an enjoyable read and thanks for the compliment.

      Cheers, Col