Subterranean termites are the most destructive structural pests in the world. The most damaging termite species found in the US, the eastern subterranean termite, is abundant in all areas of Massachusetts. Subterranean termites dwell in colonies beneath the ground where workers tunnel through soil in search of cellulose-rich food sources, such as dead roots, tree stumps, decaying logs, twigs and branches that have fallen to the ground.
Unsurprisingly, subterranean termite workers often initiate infestations in structural lumber components that make contact with the ground soil. Today, housing codes prohibit structural lumber from making ground contact for this very reason, but expanding tree roots, additional construction, erosion, settling, water-drainage in crawl spaces, and landscaping projects may bring ground-soil closer to substructural lumber in homes.
Modern timber-framed homes are built on top of foundations made of cement or brick masonry for several other reasons, notably to better protect homes from subterranean termite attacks. Unfortunately, subterranean termite workers are still able to access structural lumber in modern homes, including homes where structural lumber is absent.
Subterranean termites are highly dependent on moisture in their soil habitat in order to survive, and exposure to outside air will cause them to die from desiccation. However, workers are able to access above-ground lumber by creating air-tight mud tubes that connect ground-soil to substructural lumber. The presence of vertical mud tubes along foundations and within crawl spaces prove that subterranean termites have established an infestation. In order to access interior structural lumber, workers build tubes narrow enough to penetrate cracks in concrete and masonry foundations.
The vast majority of American homes are timber-framed, including many homes that appear to be made entirely of brick. Most homes that are seemingly made of brick are actually timber-framed homes with a brick veneer. Although true structural brick homes are several walls thick, wood laths, or slates, are located behind interior plaster walls. These wood laths are directly connected to brick masonry, and workers can gain easy access to laths from exterior cracks and crevices. While subterranean termites can access any home containing wooden structural components, homes made of brick masonry are better protected from infestations than timber-framed homes.
Have you ever heard of subterranean termites infesting a structural brick home?