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The $1200 compost pile
Old 08-27-2008, 07:57 PM   #1
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The $1200 compost pile

This post should make you residents of frozen wastelands feel better about your hostile environs.

About four years ago we started a compost pile down the slope at the bottom of the backyard steps. Being cheap frugal, we liberated recycled wooden pallets to set up three separate bins.

A couple years later we found a much nicer Costco 50-gallon plastic bin and moved it up to the side yard (closer to the kitchen). It was a drag going all the way down the steps to the old wooden bins so we left them to finish composting and rotting.

When we finally disposed of the pallets last year, they were filled with termites. We sprayed pesticide on everything and put the wood in the trash, thankful that we'd dodged a bullet.

Not so fast. Last week when we were working on the slope's playhouse we noticed telltale termite holes in the siding and finally found their tunnel. The previous owner/builder had butted the concrete wall against the house's front siding/trim and had "neatly" grouted in all of the space between. The termites had used that grout joint to cover their superhighway to the foundation & walls and had almost totally eaten away the front support beam. (Gee, no wonder the floor was so bouncy!) Once I stuck a screwdriver in the gap (created as the playhouse was sagging down on what was left of its front support beam) I could dislodge the tunnels... and lots of annoyed termites. The tunnel was over 100 feet away from the compost pile.

So we called the exterminator-- $300 for five gallons of Termidor and a couple hours' spraying. Then we called the contractors to spend another $900 to jack up the front of the playhouse, replace the front beam and half of one joist, and put it all back together.

I verified that hydraulic jacks are still a lot of fun and that the demolition & repair are no fun. I'm glad I didn't tackle this one on my own, although I've learned a lot in case there's a next time.

Our neighbor has Sentricon stations that are monitored for a fee. The exterminator checks them every week, and he had visited the day before we told our neighbor about our termites. While we were chatting, she noticed a tunnel on one of her outdoor potted plants so she called her exterminators. The next morning their Sentricon guys scrambled back out to "discover" that termites had started chewing on two of the stations. (Another 75 feet away from the playhouse, and nearly 200 feet away from the original compost pile.) It seems hard to believe that their termite invasion took place in just a couple days, and much easier to speculate that the professionals didn't notice the stations were getting hit.

The $300 Termidor treatment is supposed to kill the entire nest, and hopefully we're done with repairs. Meanwhile they've been paying at least $25/month for eight years... but they do have a warranty.
Attached Images
File Type: jpg Many termite holes over tunnels.JPG (348.5 KB, 9 views)
File Type: jpg Concrete lip by support pillar.JPG (424.5 KB, 11 views)
File Type: jpg Sagging joists and cracking foundation board.JPG (421.6 KB, 8 views)
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Old 08-27-2008, 08:04 PM   #2
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There are two kinds of people in Texas: those that have termites, and those that don't know they have termites...
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Old 08-27-2008, 08:17 PM   #3
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There are two kinds of people in Texas: those that have termites, and those that don't know they have termites...
...but are painfully aware they have chiggers, fire ants, and scorpions.

Nords, I'm having a difficult time comprehending what you're telling us. Termites in paradise? What's this world coming to? Next thing you know honobob will tell us HI real estate prices are declining...
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Old 08-27-2008, 11:57 PM   #4
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...but are painfully aware they have chiggers, fire ants, and scorpions.

Nords, I'm having a difficult time comprehending what you're telling us. Termites in paradise? What's this world coming to? Next thing you know honobob will tell us HI real estate prices are declining...
That would signal the END! But nope, on the new purchase, $5,000 oceanfront property (Wab/Twaddle are you out there? Come home!) I did some fancy financing, well for me, Mr. Market Value/standard mortgage, and told the mortgage guy my condo was worth X and yep the appraiser came back with exactly my value, X, which was consistant with my 9% Honolulu annual compounded APPreciation for over 30 years!!!...which was thoroughly documented in the thread "hawaii homebuyers math".

AND, my good buddy REALTOR Stott just sent me his newsletter showing all Honolulu Condos up 1.5%!!! Yay, Stotty! Mine were way better but then I am a Board acclaimed "Captain of Industry", a "successful Kiyosaki?"

Today, well actually 7/13/2008 was a great day to buy Real Estate!

pics to follow
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Old 08-28-2008, 09:42 AM   #5
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Glad we don't live in an area that supports termites. All we have is carpenter ants and carpenter bees to destroy our houses.

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Old 08-28-2008, 09:51 AM   #6
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There are two kinds of people in Texas: those that have termites, and those that don't know they have termites...

In Florida if you haven't been tented you will be ! Since my house is elevated when they tented it ,it looked like a circus came to town . I was waiting to see people line up for tickets .
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Old 08-28-2008, 10:51 AM   #7
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We had those stations around our house for five years that were checked periodically by the exterminators. When our contract renewal came up last year, they took the stations out. They said they found them to be worthless unnecessary.

They use Termidor. No problems thus far.
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Old 08-28-2008, 11:16 AM   #8
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Is a $1200 compost pile needed to grow the $10 tomato of another thread?
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Old 08-28-2008, 11:29 AM   #9
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In these termite areas couldn't houses be built completely from concrete and steel, as commercial buildings often are?

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Old 08-28-2008, 11:45 AM   #10
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I actually looked at such a house in the immediate area. The framing was 100% steel with a stucco overlay. Drywall was attached to the steel in the interior.

The builder had a hell of a time selling it because he was heavily advertising its steel construction. People are just a little put off by stuff thats 'different' I guess. Eventually the builder ran into trouble with the bad housing market around here (this was back in 1996) and ended up squatting in the house and finishing the last 20% of the interior work himself. And he wasnt very good at it. That didnt help the cause either. I might actually have bought the house except I was a little concerned about any corners he might have cut that were then covered up with stucco.

All that having been said, a steel frame takes longer, costs more, but is very resistant to wind and settlement, along with being bug and rot proof.

There are a lot of older homes here, and also in Florida, which are largely built from concrete blocks and then sided or stuccoed over. Usually not very attractive, little block houses.

My old house had a clothesline with a wood deck under it that had all its 4x4 structural parts buried in the dirt. When I moved in I pulled that up and it was loaded with termites. Sprayed the heck out of them. Never got any in my house, at least none we were aware of, but my neighbor got them in his house, about 20' away from where I pulled up the decking. So did the neighbor on the opposite side of the court, about 100' away.

Those things do manage to travel...
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Old 08-28-2008, 04:37 PM   #11
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OK... this is very very old and with failing memory...

But I was an exterminator many years ago (just out of high school).... and IIRC the termites colony can spread out more than a half mile... so a few hundred feet is nothing to them...

And there were some houses that were totally eaten away with only ONE entry point for the termites.... they are hungry buggers...

I would be surprised if an poison would kill the colony... heck, chlorodane wouldn't.... and it killed almost everything... what you try to do is put a barrier between them and your nice wood...
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Old 08-28-2008, 04:42 PM   #12
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And there were some houses that were totally eaten away with only ONE entry point for the termites.... they are hungry buggers...

I would be surprised if an poison would kill the colony... heck, chlorodane wouldn't.... and it killed almost everything... what you try to do is put a barrier between them and your nice wood...
One more excellent reason to be a renter.

Ha
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Old 08-29-2008, 01:32 AM   #13
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The framing was 100% steel with a stucco overlay. Drywall was attached to the steel in the interior.
All that having been said, a steel frame takes longer, costs more, but is very resistant to wind and settlement, along with being bug and rot proof.
You would think that steel & stucco would catch on here like wildfire (so to speak) but it's regarded as more expensive than wood frames & Masonite. I've seen some multi-story homes with steel on the bottom and wood frames on top, but then they mess it up with Masonite & wood trim on both stories.

However other options include "termite mesh" (steel screen under/in the foundation intended to keep the termites from getting above the concrete through cracks), foundation termite treatments (PVC piping with holes set under the foundation, for Termidor to be flushed through every 3-5 years) and even concrete-block bunkers.

People are not willing to pay 5-10% more up front for a home that's more termite resistant and, with insulation/stucco, a lot cooler to boot. But they'll happily pay for decades of air conditioning bills, Sentricon contracts, and higher hurricane insurance premiums. These are the same people who won't pay $5000 for solar water heaters even if they get back $3500 in tax credits and lifetime free hot water.

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Next thing you know honobob will tell us HI real estate prices are declining...
Eh, thanks for stirring up the troll again.

I thought long & hard before putting another post about Hawaii real estate on this board. Guess I won't make that mistake any more.

Moderators, next time you wonder whether people are reluctant to post, please consider this exhibit "A". And once again feel free to delete the messages that are sure to show up in my profile...
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Old 08-29-2008, 05:46 PM   #14
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People are not willing to pay 5-10% more up front for a home that's more termite resistant and, with insulation/stucco, a lot cooler to boot. But they'll happily pay for decades of air conditioning bills, Sentricon contracts, and higher hurricane insurance premiums. These are the same people who won't pay $5000 for solar water heaters even if they get back $3500 in tax credits and lifetime free hot water.
Not specific to Hawaii, but this is an interesting topic in general. Now I can understand that the average home buyer probably isn't too focused on payback analysis on this stuff, but I would think builders (and sellers) could use this as a competitive advantage. And do it in a way that is simple to grasp:

1) House w/o these features: Mortgage payment = $X; service contracts, ins, typical utility bill brings this to $Y out-of-pocket each month.

2) House WITH these features: Mortgage payment = $X; minus service contracts, ins savings, typical utility bill savings brings this to $Y out-of-pocket each month.


$X will be higher for the features, but if you compare the $Y monthly bill for the same 30 year mortgage (or whatever), it should be an easy decision. If it's not, then maybe those features really are not so great (from an economic view)?

-ERD50
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Old 08-29-2008, 05:50 PM   #15
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Eh, thanks for stirring up the troll again.

I thought long & hard before putting another post about Hawaii real estate on this board. Guess I won't make that mistake any more.
I don't allow the potential response from any particular poster stand in the way of making a good (or bad) joke.
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Old 08-29-2008, 08:47 PM   #16
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People are not willing to pay 5-10% more up front for a home that's more termite resistant and, with insulation/stucco, a lot cooler to boot. But they'll happily pay for decades of air conditioning bills, Sentricon contracts, and higher hurricane insurance premiums. These are the same people who won't pay $5000 for solar water heaters even if they get back $3500 in tax credits and lifetime free hot water.
I've read a number (ie. dozens) of articles recently about green homes, and for some reason very few even mention geothermal heating and cooling. It is about 25% more expensive to install, but with energy prices as high as they are it is paying for itself in 3-7 years now.

I doubt I would convert an existing house to geothermal, but new buildings are perfect for it. I've finally completed my analysis of my energy usage, and I'm saving over 40% on my electric bill compared to neighbors with conventional systems. I also have a system installed that recaptures heat from the cooling system and pumps it into the hot water heater, giving me free hot water for 7-8 months out of the year. Plus there aren't any noisy hvac systems kicking on and off disturbing my snoozing meditating on the back deck.
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