Tuesday, August 30, 2011


source: Google Maps
Besides mold and hurricanes, the other natural threat to buildings in Miami is termites. We frequently see tents draped over houses here - like our neighbor's house, seen in a GoogleMaps street view at left - so that they can be fumigated. The idea of fleeing our house for a few days so that it can be pumped full of poison is somewhat unappealing. What's more, the treatments often only work temporarily; the same neighbor already has termites attacking his house again. So what can we do to avoid this?

Like all new buildings in South Florida, ours had its foundations treated with a termiticide spray before we poured the concrete floor slab. We also have a plastic vapor barrier under the slab which, though it's intended to control moisture moving through the concrete, also helps to keep out subterranean termites (one of several species we have to contend with).  We also have to keep an eye on any vegetation that comes into contact with the house.

Interestingly, LEED encourages termite treatments to buildings in order to avoid the structural degradation and fumigation that follows infestation (the former conflicts with LEED's interest in durability, while the latter is an affront to indoor air quality).

But our biggest protection against termites is our choice of materials. Our steel, glass and concrete house has none of the softwood lumber that is normally used as framing or trim in houses here. In theory, we won't have any materials that would attract termites. However, we've been warned that the foam insulation in our wall panels is susceptible to termite damage when they burrow their way toward food sources. We'll have to keep an eye on the lower edges of the panels around the perimeter of the house, and may have to treat them with a sodium borate repellent.

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