I am considering the purchase of a three family house in Worcester,
MA. Today, the home inspection revealed significant termite damage to
a portion of the sill plate on one side of the house. The owner has
had an ongoing termite prevention program and there appears to be no
live infestations - just the damage. My question is this - how do you
repair something like this? The home inspector says that you would
need to jack the house up (yikes!) and then replace the bad one with
new pressure treated wood. The owner seems to think that it will be
much easier and that it could be repaired by simply cutting the bad
part out and replacing it with new (obviously, the owner has a biased
view). The damaged part is probably about 10 feet long. The house is
100+ years old and otherwise in good shape. So, any suggestions?
Thanks in advance.
Ron in MA
No live infestations? You tore open the whole wall and probed the
structural wood? Probed all the sill plates? Yikes! What is the
nature of the "ongoing termite prevention program" (which obviously has
What kind of termites were found? Subterranean? Dry wood? Mud tubes
evident? Signs of swarms around doors/windows? Hollow sounding spots
near doors/windows/foundation? Wrinkled appearing surface on any
drywall, esp. near doors/windows?
Termies (my pet name for termites) do not like daylight, so they stay in
their chambers in the wood or inside their cozy mud tubes that get them
from the ground to the wood. They do not crawl around on the surface of
the wood. When they leave mom and dad, and go out on their own, they do
so by swarming - double dating. They swarm to a new abode, find a
little crevice to creep inside, shed their wings (often on a window or
door sill), eat into some cellulose, and start making babies. They eat
more cellulose and make more babies, digging deeper into what holds up
the house unless you and they are lucky, in which case they will just
eat the piano. Subterraneans can dig from here to the next condo
without any trouble, and squeeze through that teeny tiny gap between the
slab and the bathtub drain.
I would not buy it unless I had lots and lots of money and really
couldn't live without it :o)
I had a similar situation in the house I bought. I'm personally
really not worried about it since the exterior I had retreated as well
as the interior wood.
The question is, is it structurally sound or not with the damage?
Mine happened to be ok, but you should find out about that in your
case. If it's ok it's probably not a big deal but you should make
sure you make sure there is no active termite activity. I also got a
credit to fix the problem to the tune of 1,500 at closing.
It will cost you a couple of hundred bucks to get an engineer out there to
look at it. Siding needs to be removed to check for extent of damage. Home
Inspectors are usually picked by real estate agents and only have one eye
open half the time.
I replaced 2 sills that had damage, would have cost 5-6000. Jack up
house ? do you have a concrete floor that will crack ? Walls will
crack. I lowered the brick below the sill, suspending house on many
jacks and used many jacks to force up the new sill , then put in wood ,
forcing in shims and left the custom jacks. Quick and easy , no. You
must approve the repair or your house will settle and crack walls. Get
out a few pros.
I had a house with lots of bad termite damage, including the
The termites probably have gotten to some places you haven't
seen yet, like the studs above the sill plate, maybe under carpeting,.
There can be plenty of damage without making the house unsound. On the
other hand a little damage in the wrong place can be bad news. Bang
the walls above the bad sill to see if it feels like the plaster is
loose from the studs. Lots of older houses have had some termite
damage and it's usually no big deal.
If they've been professionally treated, and as you live in a
temperate climate you should have no more trouble with live
infestations. The main way a termite inspector checks for new
infestations is to break all the old mud tunnels that you'll see
running along the bad wood. The termites build the tunnels to get
around wood they don't want to eat.
If the bad sill is on the side of the house where the floor
joists sit on it, use some floor jacks to raise them up a bit, pull
off the bottom couple of layers of siding and sheathing and cut the
bad parts out. It can be replaced in several pieces, which may be
easier. If it's the other side do about the same thing but support the
first two or three joists and cut and replace just a few feet at a
This can be a job a do it yourselfer can do on the cheap.
Get a couple of estimates from contractors to knock down the price of
the house. as their prices won't be cheap.
Possible but not always the case. I have seen heavy sill damage and none
above more than once.
> There can be plenty of damage without making the house unsound. On the
Absolutely correct advice.
Almost any home over 50 years old has some.
New wood is slighly thinner than old wood. The term "jacking up" means you
need to raise the joists just enough to slip the new wood into place. This
is rarely more than 1/8" unless there has been some settling due to the
damage. The repairs can be done from the exterior as this poster suggested
or from the basement or crawl space. The jacking always takes place in the
basement or crawl.
If you like this home, get some estimates for the repairs and discuss the
cost with the seller. You can most likely DYI for about 25%, including
materials, of the cost of the average of the estimates.
You do have to be carefull about the extent of the damage.
I'd have the owner request an inspection and certification from his termite folks.
I live in a 170 year old house in Charleston ( SC ).
We've discovered termites a number of times including two times in the sills.
The house is three stories and we did some local jacking;
cut out the infested areas of sill and studs;
spliced in new treated material;
put the siding back on.
Thanks so much for all the information!
It appears that I still have some investigation to do before I make a
decision to buy or not. I have contacted the owner with my findings
(we're not using any real estate agents) and he was very
accommodating. At this point, I am leaning towards him repairing the
damage and making the sale contingent on a passing inspection (paid
for and hired by me).
Another question - besides a regular home inspector, who would I hire
to inspect the work he gets done? Would this be the building inspector
from the town?
Again, thanks for all who responded!
Ron in MA
On 19 Aug 2004 18:37:30 -0700, email@example.com (Tom Baker) wrote:
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