Termites depend on the cellulose in wood and plant matter in order to survive, so it’s no wonder the insects will do anything to access the massive amount of wood within homes. A home’s structural wood provides termite colonies with a virtually endless food source, which is why termites often use their jaws to chew through drywall and concrete in a frantic effort to access tasty structural lumber. Some termite species have been documented as chewing through such durable materials as ivory, lead and billiard balls. Concrete slabs and foundations can prevent termites from accessing structural wood, or at least concrete makes doing so more difficult. A tiny hairline crack in concrete is enough to provide termites with an entry point into a home, and most species are capable of using their jaws to slowly plow through concrete slabs and foundations.
Not too long ago, insulated concrete forms (ICF) became a popular alternative to traditional insulated walls. ICFs are concrete walls that are sandwiched in between two insulated foam panels that are made from polystyrene. Unfortunately, subterranean termites have been chewing their way into these insulated walls where they eventually penetrate the concrete. After penetrating the concrete, subterranean termites proceed to infest wood flooring and joists. Infested homes with ICF walls make termite inspections difficult and these walls have been banned for below ground use in many jurisdictions due to their vulnerability to termite attacks.
The foam insulation is covered in siding or brick masonry, which allows termite infestations to go undetected, and treating infestations within the foam insulation is very difficult or impossible. Making it illegal to place ICFs below ground renders the insulated walls largely worthless. Luckily, homes that are constructed with ICFs can be protected from termites by applying termiticides to the foam insulation, or by installing physical barriers around a home to block subterranean termites. Some homeowners are protecting their ICF homes by applying a sand barrier beneath the soil surrounding their home’s foundation. These sand barriers are composed of sand particles that termites are not able to travel through.
Is your home made with ICF insulated walls?