Our Fight Against Termites: Not a Commercial
It Started With a Screen Door Repair
We were attacked by termites. We considered many options for destroying them and decided to see if our handyman could help us get rid of them. We were hoping this would be cheaper than having a professional tent the house.Most of the articles on termites I read are from the point of view of the termite control people. Mine is about how termite damage affects the homeowner and what you can expect if you have to repair the damage termites have done to your house.
When I started writing this in April, 2009, we had been fighting them for over a week.This article will be an illustrated journal of our discovery of termite damage and what we have done to repair it and keep the insects from coming back. I will send you to other sites and articles I have reviewed to find biological and termite control information.
or the day that has turned our lives upside down.
This saga begins on April 20, a Monday. Our handyman was in need of work and we were in need of repairs, so Larry came to help us. After he fixed one screen door downstairs, I reminded my husband the screen door for the sliding glass door that leads to our second-story balcony was also broken and needed rescreening. So Larry began the job.
It's important to understand that I have an online book business. I store most of the used books I sell in numbered boxes in this upstairs room. Some of the books for sale and in my private collection are stored in two bookcases on a wall between the door from the hall and the sliding glass door. I also store many of the books I still need to list online in boxes in this room. This room is not used for anything other than storage and processing orders. It's very important for me to be able to find books when people order them. This room is almost wall-to-wall book boxes and cases, with small aisles for me to have access to them and to the doors.
When Larry had fixed the screen door, he started to put it back on the track. It was then he spotted signs of termites in the corner between the smaller bookcase and the sliding door. He announced this unwelcome news and we gave him permission to pursue these hungry insects.
Since the bathroom is on the other side of the bookcase wall, it seemed logical that there was a leak from the shower causing the problem, but there was no evidence of dampness from the plumbing.On Tuesday, April 21, Larry began to evaluate the problem. He tore away the corner of the book room floor and it became evident that the water had probably leaked into a spot between the sliding door frame and the wall.
On Wednesday, Larry said that to get at the entire floor, he had to remove the whole sliding door. As he tore more of the floor away, it became evident we would have to move the little bookcase closest to the door, which meant I had to empty it and box all the books inside and find somewhere to put them. Larry also said he needed a four-foot clearance of the whole wall, which also meant moving 15 full boxes of books somewhere else and moving two pieces of furniture out on the balcony so Larry could tear into the floor as far as the wet spot went.
My assignment Wednesday afternoon and evening was to see that the small bookcase was emptied and the 15 boxes moved. Larry and a neighbor helped me move all the boxes to Larry's van so he could move them to our other house I use partially as a warehouse. I was also letting Larry sleep there, since motels are expensive and Larry lives three hours away.
The picture in the introduction shows what the corner of the bookcase wall looked like by the end of Thursday. The picture in this segment shows the other corner of the space we had to clear. I took the pictures at night after Larry had put plywood and plastic sheeting over the hole where the sliding door had been. It was windy that night, and I feared the plastic might blow off. On Friday, Larry kept working and the hole in the floor got bigger. He went home that night to get a special tool he needed. He assured me that the big bookcase would not need to be moved.
More Pictures of the Damage the Termites Caused - and how their presence disrupted my lifeClick thumbnail to view full-size
What's been your experience with termites?
Perhaps you've been lucky enough not to have any yet. Others may have only had to provide an inspection report or have work done when selling a home. Maybe you've just discovered the termites and are making a decision about whether to call in a professional or fight them yourself as we have been doing. Please vote to indicate your termite encounters.
What has been your experience with termites?
Saturday and Sunday
I lose more space.
When Larry came back Saturday, he brought his grown son, also unemployed at the time, to help with the work, which was getting to be more than one person could handle. I went to Farmers Market and did some other shopping. When I returned, not only was the sliding door gone, but most of the outside of the wall was gone.
I think I forgot to mention the noise. For several days, since the work of ripping the floor away started, there was the constant noise of banging hammers and various power tools that made quite a racket. I know, because my office is next door to the book room. I was trying to process orders there, and sometimes the power tools were so loud that I could feel the seat of my chair vibrating under me. It was rather like we were having an earthquake.
On Saturday afternoon, Larry gave me the news I'd been dreading -- the large bookcase would have to be moved because the wet spot had gone farther than he'd thought and he needed to get at it. My Saturday night assignment was to clear the books from the large bookcase and box them up. I also had to figure out where to move them. I tried really hard to move all listed books to one side of the room against the wall opposite the outside wall and leave some aisles to make them accessible. I was not looking forward to Monday.
My husband had told me Larry and Shane were taking Sunday off. I was looking forward to the chance to sleep in for the first time that week on Sunday -- if I could. (I think I forgot to mention that to access the book room, one has to pass my bedroom. Since the earthquake in 2003, I have not wanted to put my bedroom door back on. Anyone passing my room would be able to look in. That meant I had to be up and dressed much earlier than usual any day the men were working.) I did want to go to church, but wasn't sure I'd make it. I woke up just in time to have a piece of toast, throw some clothes on, and get to church before the sermon started.
While I was eating in my robe, I saw Larry's van pull up. He said he didn't know where my husband got the idea he was taking the whole day off. They were only taking the afternoon off. I said they'd have to do something else until I could get dressed. Then I was off to church.
When I returned that night (we always spend the afternoon at the other house on Sunday because it's closer to church, and I have a class at church on Sunday afternoons), I could not access the book room. The large bookcase was in front of the inside door from the hall. Larry and Shane could only enter the room from the balcony, which they reached by ladder. They had removed one of the balcony rails to make this access easier. The picture in this module was taken from the balcony looking in to where the the bookcase is blocking the door from the hall, as well as access to all the boxes I had carefully arranged that are behind it.
Products to help fight termites. - That's if you decide to do it yourself.
We used a copper product to treat the wood we used to replace the rotted wood. We knew it would discourage termites from reentering. I can't say much about the technical side, since I was the watcher -- not the doer. The book should help you learn what to do. Wouldn't be a bad idea to get it now before you need it. Once you find the critters eating your house it's often hard to find the materials you need locally. Fortunately my husband and Larry had some experience as to what ought to be done. Not everyone can afford professionals to come take care of the problem If you don't have what you need when you find the termites, you may have to hire a professional to get the problem taken care of in a timely manner.
Monday: The Day I Totally Lost Control of the Room - Did I mention it was also my birthday?
Monday afternoon we had errands to run in San Luis Obispo, and Kosta (my husband) was also taking me out to lunch to celebrate my birthday. We were looking forward to getting away from the construction for a day. Larry had assured me that he would try to keep the boxes in somewhat the order I had them in, even if they had to be moved, which I knew they would.
When I got home, the door wasn't blocked anymore. I did see that they had not been able to preserve any kind of order when moving the boxes, just as I'd feared. I understood why they did whatever was convenient for them, but I was still wondering if I'd ever be able to find things in that state of disorder -- especially since they had eliminated all the aisles around the listed books and put things like the vacuum cleaner wherever they could find a place.
On Monday, Larry also discovered where mice had been living under the floor. Two had electrocuted themselves while chewing on the electrical wires under the floor. I wasn't there to get a picture of that. The picture above shows the hole in the floor on the wall opposite the bookcase wall.
Tuesday and Wednesday
Work continues in and outside
Monday night I got the orders I knew I'd get -- two books in two different boxes in that room. Both boxes were totally inaccessible. Larry promised I'd be able to get at them by Tuesday night. I wasn't counting on it. I worked on shipping new books stored in the warehouse and emailed my customers to let them know there would be a day's delay in shipping the used books. While I was processing orders in the next room, Larry was beginning to replace parts of the floor with new plywood.
The day began with an argument about the replacements for the sliding door. Larry had determined that it could not go back because of some problem with replacing the rotted frame. Kosta and Larry decided to put a French door in that would open against the bookcases. They also determined that there would be a window on the other side of that wall to let more air circulate. Kosta wanted a big window that would have to go lower than I wanted. I wanted a smaller window which Kosta said I wouldn't like. (Did I mention I'm the only one who ever uses that room?) Larry started measuring the space for the window hole and found that the large window Kosta had ordered wouldn't fit. Even though he had to reorder, he still ordered one that would go lower than I wanted. I lost.
Before the day was out, the bookcases were moved back into place, as were the new floor boards. We had decided not to replace the damaged carpet, since no one was using this as a bedroom and it would have been impossible to move everything out of the room to put in a new carpet.
I started filling the big bookcase again in the evening and was able to clear a path to retrieve the books that had been ordered. Murphy's Law was operating, and, as I feared, both books were in boxes at the bottom of stacks that were quite inaccessible until I'd moved almost every box on that side of the room to get at them.Furniture was moved back in from the balcony.
The door was still out. The window in the bathroom had been removed and put back, and the floor and the wall outside had been rebuilt. I will show you some pictures below of what the outside of the room looked like without the boards. It's kind of interesting to see the wires and plumbing in the walls. The picture in this module shows the way the boxes and other things had been rearranged by the men. On Wednesday, they started working to remove the outside boards on that side of the first story, under the balcony, to make sure the termites weren't eating that, too. That meant the kitchen window had to be removed and covered with wood overnight.
Tuesday and Wednesday in Pictures - Mostly outside workClick thumbnail to view full-size
How to Prevent and Get Rid of Termites
More About Termites
- Types of Termites & How to Identify Them: Termite Facts & Identification
Has photos and information about the habits of the different types of termites. Tells what you can do to prevent termites from attacking your home.
Thursday Part 1 - or the last day of AprilClick thumbnail to view full-size
These pictures were all of work done on Thursday - I did take some of the pictures on Friday May 1Click thumbnail to view full-size
Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday
Monday and Tuesday are somewhat of a blur. Larry came back Sunday night. My husband was wrong about his staying down south for a week. I was very busy with work, and Larry didn't make as much noise as usual, though there was some shaking and banging. At least yesterday morning he spent the first hours of the day filling a truck with most of that pile of house parts out back. That was fairly quiet.
He told me last night that he got almost all the siding back up. He also asked me to choose which hour I'd like my power to be off this morning. I said an hour before I got up. What I didn't take into my calculations was that the fan I use to block out noise was also going to go off and that I would spend that hour in bed listening to something akin to a series of earthquakes.
I probably wasn't thinking clearly because I have a deadline project that is keeping me up until 4 or 5 AM this week. I have to finish that before Friday at 5 PM. Sleep deprivation doesn't help one make good decisions. So, after getting to bed at 4 AM this morning, my fan went off, as did anything else electric, about 9:15. I spent the next hour in bed listening to the cacophony of tools being applied to walls. Getting up wouldn't go any good -- couldn't run water, use microwave, or turn on computer or lights. About all I could do was lie in bed and think.
I can hardly wait for the rest of today's exciting developments. If they can get the heavy French door up the ladder to the balcony without breaking it I might have a door again by tonight. Larry just finished drawing some more lines where the window is to go. I'm about to take pictures of this, but now I can't remember where I put the camera last night. I'm off to search for it and take pictures.
Getting the French Door Up the Ladder - It almost didn't make it.Click thumbnail to view full-size
Patience is a Virtue
I'm having ample time and practice in developing it.
Still no money to finish the inside wall so I can move everything back to where it ought to be. It's been four months since the termite work began. It's been about three months since it stopped. I think if life doesn't throw us any more curves like the ones we just experienced since the middle of May -- a death in the family and a refrigerator dying and needing to be replaced -- we should be able to get Larry back within this month so we can complete that project. At least the scrap wood has been hauled away so the mess isn't ruining my herb garden view anymore.
August 11, 2009. Larry is Back and Repair Work Continues
I may soon be able to get my room functional again.
Functional means that I can arrange the furniture back to where I want it and know that I won't have to move everything again in the near future. I will have to live with the floor and lack of paint for quite a while longer, since moving everything out of the room to put in a new floor covering just won't be possible for some time to come. The picture is of Larry, starting work again. I don't have one of me wincing with every blow of the hammer, even as I give thanks that things are progressing. I'm seeing I should have used a flash.
Hallelujah! They have completed as much of the inside work as we plan to do at this time. The outside work is in its finishing stages.
The inside is done except for replacing the carpet and painting -- things I can probably live without until such point in time when we can stop using this as a sort of warehouse room. The door is in, the window is in, the blinds are on both, and they are putting the screen door on the outside even as I type. I have started moving the furniture that should be in the corner back in place, but I still need to vacuum up the dust that they left. I also still need to start moving my books back where I can find them again easily.
Work is continuing on the outside where some decorative work still needs to be finished and the railing put back on the balcony when they no longer need to access the balcony by ladder. I thought the outside looked pretty good Saturday morning (while they were gone) when I took this picture from the ground. Quite a contrast to what you saw in the picture for Thursday, Part 1. I think the new screen door will be put on today. Hmm! it's the screen door that started this whole thing. Should I be crossing my fingers?
Would You Believe?
The End of the Matter
The tools have been put away and the ladder is gone from the balcony. After we got the small bookcase back in the room we discovered it still had termites and we had to remove it. After everything seemed to be solved, we discovered we had dry wood termites in other parts of the house and we had to get it tented after all. It would have been less disruptive to have this done in the first place.