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Termites ate my window frames!

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MikeG asked if anyone was doing anything woody, but rather than swamp his thread I thought I would post this separately so people can avoid it if preferred. I know I want to pretend it isn't happening.

Anyway - on to the photos: this is a window that hasn't been eaten.
IMG_20200308_113012.jpg


And a detail:
IMG_20200308_113023.jpg


Here's one that is looking slightly foxed:
IMG_20200308_113051.jpg


And the other window is even worse:
IMG_20200308_113216.jpg


I have cut back all the rotten, eaten wood, and the mud the termites have packed in its place. Window no2 is still a work in progress. The plan is to make a new piece to fit in and then lots of chemical treatment, foam to fill gaping chasms etc, and glue the new wood to the old. Will it work? I hope so, as it is mostly cosmetic - nothing structural. Well, the shutter hinges attach at the bottom, but apart from that...

Getting the new and old wood colours to match is going to be fun, and then the new wood is going to darken considerably over the first few months, so I'm at a bit of a loss as to what to do other than paint them, which will then not match the insides, or the rest of the house which has lots and lots of the same wood.

If anyone has any advice, I would be delighted to hear it. New frames are not an option this year, so make-do and mend is the order of the day.
 

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AndyT

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In your place, I'd do just what you are planning to do. The only advice I would offer is that when patching a piece in, it's often better to angle the cut in at least one plane. This enables you to hammer the new piece in nice and tight, then cut back to match, provided there's room to get a saw, plane or power sander in there. I've found this works better than trying to force a square-cut piece of the right length into place.
If you do need to fit a patch which is slightly short (so you can get it in there) a pair of folding wedges, in wood or plastic, can also help, especially on parts that can be hidden behind a new trim layer.
 

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Yep, there's no reason why you can't just patch and splice pieces in to repair what's been lost. It's not as good as new frames but it is definitely a fraction of the price especially if you're doing it yourself, it's when you get a "repair expert" in that the price suddenly jumps up usually to more than what a new window would cost.

I'd possibly do sloping cuts (at least 45-degrees) down to the solid timber instead of the square end grain cuts so that you have a bit more purchase for the glue to hold. I'd also use an epoxy or polyurethane glue to glue the patches in so that it solidifies any soft timber up.

You can make new wood look genuinely old with some very cheap, homemade treatments, but it may not have the suntanned look that pine gets which may be better achieved with a similar coloured stain.

There's no real right way to do this, but there are plenty of wrong ways :lol:
 

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Thank you for confirming my thinking, and the advice - just need to see if I can actually execute a worthy repair.

Just come in for lunch (wontons, apparently), and the second window now looks like this:
IMG_20200308_131708.jpg


There's probably no going back after this. I am trying to work out how to clean up the cut sufficiently for it to make a connection with the new piece. Sanding? A big hammer? Luckily I have the offcut to use as a template - just need to make a router table to get the shape right. The plan was to make the router table before I disassembled the windows. Oh well. I could always try freehand, but me and my router have a bit of a history when it comes to that sort of thing.
 

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MikeG.

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Try and get a backing board in where you can (ie where it's not visible, between the frame and the masonry) and fix to that. That hleps with alignment.

How are you going to keep the little blighters from simply carrying on eating as before?
 

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But have you concentrated on the important part? making sure the termites dont come back.

30 years and more ago I was in Thailand and on a tour through the jungle when we came to a deserted bungalow built entirely of local hardwood. the guide said the man who built it (european) did so slap across a termite trail. They were eating the wood almost as fast as he was putting it up.
Termites 1 - humans nil.
 

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MikeG.":1qrxjdc1 said:
Try and get a backing board in where you can (ie where it's not visible, between the frame and the masonry) and fix to that. That hleps with alignment.

How are you going to keep the little blighters from simply carrying on eating as before?
I have some strategies for the termites. Firstly, they seem to have eaten the rotten wood, and ignored the unaffected wood. Therefore, I will be building a roof to keep the weather off these windows (they get all the rain and sun at the moment, which is why we have had a problem.

Secondly, I have already killed the termites last year, but I also have some evil liquid to coat everything with that will keep them at bay. Fingers crossed it lasts a year or two.

Thirdly, I am planning to be a bit more enthusiastic with prevention - if had taken some action a few years ago, this wouldn't have been the problem it now is. Hindsight etc.

The backboard looks like a cunning plan. Tearing things apart is the easy but, and I'm quite good at it. Whether I can rebuild it without t looking like a sheep shed will be the test. I will post pics of my botches, for your entertainment :oops:
 

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sunnybob":3j6hh4rp said:
But have you concentrated on the important part? making sure the termites dont come back.

30 years and more ago I was in Thailand and on a tour through the jungle when we came to a deserted bungalow built entirely of local hardwood. the guide said the man who built it (european) did so slap across a termite trail. They were eating the wood almost as fast as he was putting it up.
Termites 1 - humans nil.
I have many and varied sprays, potions and evil poisonous treatments. I actually thought we had ants living in the wall, so wasn't too worried. Now I know better. (They might have been ants, but they still ate my windows - the were tiny translucent pale brown things that look like mini-ants. I always thought termites were white, hence my not being overly worried...
 

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There are different coloured termites, but I havent heard of tiny ones.

are you 100% sure theyre not the dreaded woodworm?
The one time i found infected wood they were very much as you described.
 

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sunnybob":3b25rh2o said:
There are different coloured termites, but I havent heard of tiny ones.

are you 100% sure theyre not the dreaded woodworm?
The one time i found infected wood they were very much as you described.
Borne and raised in Cornwall, I know woodworm intimately. I am 99% certain it isn't woodworm. There aren't all those little holes and channels in the wood - just rotten wood fibres with lots of mud attached to it. A bit odd. Also academic, because I have successfully waged a war of attrition, and the wood is deserted. Nobody home. They have gone to meet their cabinet-maker, as it were. I am hoping that they moved out, rather than they are hibernating for the winter, and will be back with a vengeance next week. A part of the problem is that I used a varnish which has an insecticide built in - for exactly this reason. What this means is that they have eaten the wood, right up to the layer of varnish, but left the outer skin intact. As long as you don't push your finger through it, you would never know there was a problem. Sneaky.
 

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I have had a termite infestation and had to rip out the walls reframe and plasterboard 2 rooms. Some places have had to be totally rebuilt. Spraying the ones you can see does nothing. The nest with the queen has to be killed. You need a full building check and treatment. Get a pest control expert ASAP while you still have a house. Perhaps our Australian beasties are a bit hungrier than the ones in your part of the world but I was told they can advance about 25mm per day through timber.
Regards
John
 

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Orraloon":1n5rp1b7 said:
I have had a termite infestation and had to rip out the walls reframe and plasterboard 2 rooms. Some places have had to be totally rebuilt. Spraying the ones you can see does nothing. The nest with the queen has to be killed. You need a full building check and treatment. Get a pest control expert ASAP while you still have a house. Perhaps our Australian beasties are a bit hungrier than the ones in your part of the world but I was told they can advance about 25mm per day through timber.
Regards
John
The good news is that they can't eat stone, cement or brick - it is not quite the crisis that it would be if the entire house was wooden. Having said that, I'm off to check out the roof as soon as the windows are done. Can't be too careful.

It does look like they only eat the wood that has already had water damage - i.e. rotten. On that basis, they may not be termites, and may actually be ants. As they have been gone for a year, it is hard to tell.

Thank you for your concern. Investigations will continue...
 

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To me it sounds like the termites we have in Andalucia.
As previously stated they only work if a queen is present.
From experience they only set up shop in humid timber, so make sure all joinery can't take humidity on board and your golden.

At home in the garden if I have to put timber in contact with the earth a good soaking in old engine oil will keep them away , I also use this practice on the end of floor joists if going into masonry, or if It's for a client or on joinery I use GORI.

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All termites have distinctive 'string-of-pearls' antennae, whereas ants generally have tubular bent or even L shaped antennae, which might help you discern between ant damage and termite damage. If you spot 'mud tubes' from the ground reaching up the walls to the wooden elements of the house it's probable you're dealing with subterranean termites.

There are approximately ten termite species native to Europe, which are likely supplemented by imported non-native species able to adapt to European conditions. The drywood termites and the subterranean termite species are the most destructive to man-made structures, with the latter being most destructive. Slainte.
 

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You've all got me thoroughly windy now - I'm expecting the roof to cave in this afternoon. I'm not sure that I want to soak my window frames in used engine oil, but I will certainly consider it for an outdoor treatment.

I have almost finished my new router table, so I can make a dog's breakfast of the replacement sill, which I glued up overnight. And then I will go huntin' wabbits, I mean termites.
 

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Theres a lot to be said for the Cypriot building style;
Reinforced concrete and all ali windows and doors. 8)
 

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sunnybob":30cpig34 said:
Theres a lot to be said for the Cypriot building style;
Reinforced concrete and all ali windows and doors. 8)
Everyone said we were making a mistake putting in wooden windows, and they may have been right. We do have lots and lots of steel and concrete, but went with the wooden roof, doors and windows. It just means you need to replace things from time to time. The other option is living in a municipal car park, which has its own issues...

I have decided to be a woodworker, so repairing windows s now my job. How hard could it be? Good learning experience.

I have had a quick Google re the beasties, and I think our culprit might well be a variety of carpenter ant, not a termite. Possibly good news, but not necessarily,as carpenter ants can do untold damage too - they don't eat wood, but remove it to make living space, which is sort of the same result...
 

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Bit of an update, as I have been busy doing things this week.

First up, I found an ant, who just had to be the culprit. Then I found these guys...
200315-150.jpg


That is officially a gang of termites. The translucent brown stuff is the varnish that they have left - they have eaten all the wood behind it, right up to the skin of the varnish. This is something that they do, apparently. At least we have a definitive diagnosis, as it were. I am confident that the nest isn't in the house - these guys can tunnel for a long way - so quite how we deal with it, I'm not sure. I have procured some borax (used in fertilizer) which they like to eat, but stops them digesting. DIY termite poison recipes are in my future.

The last week has been taken up, mostly, with making the repairs. I did have to stop and make a router table, but for some inexplicable reason it has taken me the best part of a week to cut 7 pieces of wood. Most of the time was taken up getting the cuts in the existing windows straight and square - not something I excel at. However, I kept thinking MikeG would be inspecting my work, and so I persevered long after my usual agricultural self would have said "good enough".

Advice from Trevanion to make an angled join so there would be a secure fit was easier than I expected - it turns out I cut everything on the wee wee anyway, so that was automatic. It actually worked a treat, and all the vertical pieces were cut and sanded to a very tight tolerances (i.e. hit with a big stick until they fit). The window sill join is 90°, but wedged in by the uprights. I hope.

Resizer_15845628474642.jpg

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I am in two minds about this. On the one hand, it is probably "good enough". If I had to pay money for this work, then I wouldn't be too grumpy. On the other hand, I did this! It is way better than anything I have managed before, especially as the profile on the window sill is an exact (and I mean exact :) ) copy. The joins are flush, and if I had painted the windows the repair would be invisible. Because they are varnished, I needed to find a stain to match the existing woods which is pine after 15 years of Mediterranean sun. I had a choice of three that were nearly close, and went with "light oak", as being the !east wrong. Fingers crossed, once the wood takes on its own colour things will be a bit closer. Or a lot worse. We will know next year. The finish comes in thee parts: firstly a poison to stop insect attacks, guaranteed for 20 years. I expect the guarantee consists of a replacement tin of treatment, so I am not expecting miracles. Next is the stain, which is an exterior varnish. Two coats, applied with a brush, which looked awful, so then evened out with kitchen roll (which is a bad choice - I have subsequently learned that a scrap of t-shirt material is much better). Final coat is a clear exterior varnish with UV protection - perhaps it might help.

In conclusion, I achieved significantly more than I expected, and about what I hoped to achieve. It's not perfect, but it is at least as good as the local cowboys, and I learned a great deal - most important of which was to slow down (hence the many days work for a piddling window sill).

Thank you to all who have provided support, guidance and inspiration - I couldn't have done it without you :) I have one more window to do, which is actually a door, so no sill which makes it easier, but no woodshop open which makes it trickier. It will be a complete frame replacement, one day, when things are back to normal.
 

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This may sound alarmist but you really need to get a proper pest control company to get rid of those termites. They look just like the ones we have but will be another species. We call them white ants and that term is now used in slang to infer sneaky behaviour. Any repairs done before treatment(nice as they are) are just a free lunch for them. While they do not eat stone walls they use them as a highway to get to the wood. The main nest will likely be underground anywhere up to 100m or so away. Without killing off that queen and nest the problem remains. Where I live every other house in the street has had them at one time or other and nobody would ignore signs of them. We would be calling for a pest guy soon as we saw a hint. We also have annual inspections done to make sure. Most new houses here are all steel frame now as it saves a lot of bother. Timber garden fencing has mostly been replaced by steel also as the wood fences were also a highway for them. They like paper too as the plasterboard I replaced had all the inside cardboard eaten off it. The cost of proper treatment will be a lot less than the damage if things are left undone.
Regards
John
 
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