Termites are a problem found in just about any region of the world. They are largely responsible for the bulk of recycling that occurs naturally; termites are arguably the largest re cycler of wood (cellulose) and without them, earth would be in trouble. They are clearly an integral part of the ecosystem; however, their ferocious appetite and constant search for wood and water leads them on a path which many times conflicts with man. The focus point of this article will be when termites target pools, specifically pool liners and pool structures.
Termites spend most of their time targeting cellulose (known as wood) and water. These are the two ingredients needed by any termite colony. There are many places where termites will find both wood and water including structures, forests and the general landscaping around most any home. Pools can be such an area. Most pools have the two ingredients termites need to survive and will become the main target of any termite colony if given the chance. This could happen anywhere a pool is installed but it seems to happen more in arid regions or when any one region is experiencing a drought. During dry times termites get desperate for moisture and will target any body or source of water
POOL DESIGN AND TERMITES; DO TERMITES LIKE ONE POOL OVER ANOTHER?
There are many types of pools being built these days. Pools made of cement, gunite and other solid materials similar to rock are generally not going to have problems with termites. Pools which utilize any type of liner can and this will include both in ground and above ground designs. In ground pools can have a lot of wood involved in the construction but there are those which use little to no wood. Above ground pools usually have little wood involved but tend to have a lot added in the shape of decks, walk ways, stairs and supporting framework to house such pool necessities as equipment and filters. Any type which uses a liner is susceptible to termite damage; pools which use both wood and liners have the two ingredients termites spend their lives targeting.
TERMITES IN POOL FRAMING
In ground pools typically have some wood beams installed which are laid in the ground. Liners are set over these foundations and though the wood used will many times be pressure treated or impregnated with some type of protective chemical, such treatments will break down over time. This breakdown, combined with the moisture wood will typically absorb from the ground, is the basis of a good termite food recipe.
TERMITES EAT POOL LINERS
In ground pools which don’t utilize wood but instead have chosen all man made supplies are at risk as well. Termites will be drawn to these pools because of their water or termites will find them by mistake. Since termites almost always have some part of their colony out on a “seek and find” mission for both food and water, in ground pools can’t hide even if they are made with all synthetic material. Their thin liners are not enough to hide the water which lies inside. Termites will detect the water and target any weak part of a pools design.
As our on line article about termite biology describes, most any active termite colony will have thousands of termites out and about seeking moisture and new food supplies – even when the colony already has ample supplies. This is one of their natural defenses and allows them to have “priority” supplies so that when main targets are lost, lower priority water and wood are at hand and can be farmed. This constant search will inevitably bring some termites to find most any in ground pool at some point during the pools existence.
TERMITES EAT THROUGH LINERS
Termites ability to detect water – even through thick pool liners – will initiate an interest. If they desire or need the water bad enough, they will chew their way through causing leaks. Slow at first, water loss will almost be non-detectable. However, most termite harvesting of water will tend to increase and as more and more access holes are created, water loss will be fast and noticeable. Soon, water loss will so bad the liner will have to be replaced. Many people believe termites “ate” their liner when in fact the termites really “ate through” the liner (at this point we don’t think termites are able to digest and convert plastic to food!).
TERMITES AND ABOVE GROUND POOLS
Above ground pools aren’t ignored either so don’t decide to install one thinking it will be termite proof. In fact, above ground pools have many problems which are unique onto themselves. First, their liners will come in contact with some ground. This usually is the bottom or floor of the liner. Foraging termites will readily find these contact points. The fact is that termites in any colony whose job it is to seek out and find water and cellulose will many times follow shallow pathways stay close to the surface of the ground. This is probably an instinctive behavior formed over the thousands and thousands of years termites have foraged and found wood.
Since most naturally dead and decaying wood will be found on or near the surface of the ground, foraging shallow only makes sense. Above ground pools are therefore right on top of where termites will naturally be looking! Furthermore, above ground pools commonly have wood decks installed which will become a strong termite attractant. Pool filters, back washing and common maintenance routines that are done around above ground pools almost always involve water. This constant supply of water will create damp, moist areas which termites love. Don’t think the chlorine in the water will kill off any termites either; any chemical present when the water first finds soil will dissipate within a few hours. In other words, don’t be surprised if termites show up around your above ground pool in the form of a swarm or just armies of white workers who are targeting any little piece of wood they can find. Such areas are ideal for termites and they will readily move into them once found. From there it won’t be long till they chew through the pools lining. In other words, termites don’t discriminate between in ground or above ground pool design; they seem to like it all and anywhere water and wood can be found.
POOL LINERS AND WEED GROWTH
Worth mentioning is the impact any plant growth can have under lining or in the framework of in ground pools. Plants are strong and if the right amount of water finds seeds which are buried under a liner, there is a chance the seeds could grow. This growth generally won’t lead to anything and most any seed that does get a chance to sprout growth will die off without sun light or other important variables. However, there are many hearty and persistent weeds which don’t give up easily. If pools – more importantly pool liners – are installed during late winter, early spring or early summer months, there is always a risk of plant growth damage. Though not common, there are many types of weeds which are more then strong enough to poke holes through any liner. If you are installing a new pool or replacing an old damaged liner, be sure to read through the next section of this article. It will explain what steps are needed to insure you won’t get any unwanted plant growth or termite chewing under the new liner you are about to lay down.
POOL LINER TREATMENTS TO STOP TERMITES AND WEEDS
As explained above, the act of installing a pool is usually a good enough reason for termites to come around looking to cause some damage. If you are in a region with a lot of termite activity or moisture, this risk is even greater. Furthermore, most regions which have a lot of moisture usually have a lot of plant growth. Since termites and plants can and do cause all kinds of problems for in ground and above ground pools, it makes sense to do a little preventive treatment to make sure they don’t. The extra cost to termite and weed proof the ground on which any pool will sit is small compared to the cost of pool repair. So small is this cost that anyone installing a pool for the first time should invest the extra time and effort needed to get these treatments done. And don’t expect the company installing the pool or liner to offer such a service; remember, they are in the business of replacing damaged pool parts – not stopping it from happening! Though some companies offer some type of protection for these two concerns, most don’t even mention it can happen till a few years later when you call to get a new liner. Expect to hear about it then, when its long too late, and the damage has already happened. To prevent plant growth damage or termite damage from ever happening, there are two materials that can be applied to the soil directly under the pool.
POOL LINER AREA MEASUREMENT FOR TERMITE TREATMENT
First, it is necessary to get a good measurement of the amount of square feet that will be touching the pool liner and supporting framework. For an above ground round pool, which only has its bottom sitting on the ground, the formula for making this measurement is: Pi * r^2. “Pi” has the rounded off value of 3.14 and “r” represents the radius of the pool. This will be 1/2 the width.
For example, an above ground pool, 18 feet wide, has a radius of 9 feet. First, square the radius, which is 9 x 9 or 81. Next, multiply 3.14 times 81 and you will have the area of liner touching soil or about 254-255 sq/ft. This means you’d need the 1.25 gallon jug which can treat up to 250 sq/ft.
If the pool is an above ground 18 foot wide by 36 foot long pool, the area is easier to calculate. Just multiply 18 x 36 and you’ll get the area of liner touching soil which will be 648 feet. For in ground pools, it is important to calculate the bottom but don’t forget the sides. Most will have four sides but pools which have a side or two above ground are common and any side not touching soil should not be counted. If you need help calculating this value, just give us a call or fax us the dimensions and other vital information so we can make the calculation for you.
POOL LINER WEED CONTROL
Once the square footage has been measured reasonably well, the proper amount of herbicide and termiticide can be used to insure adequate protection for the soil and pool parts which will be touching the soil. Since there are so many types of plants that may pose a problem to any liner installation, it is best to use a soil sterilent and post emergent plant killer. PRAMITOL is such a product. It mixes with water and lasts several months. Soil which is treated with Pramitol won’t be able to grow anything. It will also kill any plants that have already started to grow
Use one of the many types of SPRAYERS available to apply the Pramitol and allow it to dry at least two hours before the liner is installed. If you don’t intend on installing the liner for another day or two, consider covering the soil with a tarp. This will protect the treatment from rain and sun. Both will break the chemical down which in turn will take away from its effectiveness so don’t let it sit out in the open for extended periods of time. Get the liner installed as soon as possible once its treated.
POOL LINER TERMITE CONTROL
Termite treatment involves impregnating the soil with a liquid termiticide much the same way a house is treated. For a home, the soil around the foundation is traditionally treated with a termite concentrate, left to dry, and redone every 5 years or so. The soil under a pool will remain treated much longer since it will be covered and protected from the rain and sun. Such treatments, if enough chemical is used, will last 10 plus years which means the treatment should outlast the liner. As for actives, PERMETHRIN SFR is one we’ve seen last many years when used to protect liners. The 1.25 gallon jug will be enough for every 250 sq/ft of area you need to treat.
Apply the Permethrin SFR with one of the SPRAYERS like that used to apply the Pramitol. Make a uniform and equal application and allow it to dry at least 2 hours before installing the liner. Neither the Pramitol or the Termiticide sprayed will have any impact on the liner or the pool infrastructure. Remember, the materials are being mixed with so much water and are so dilute by the time they dry that the net effect is like spraying water on the liner and no chemical.Also, its pretty hard to over apply and have too much product but if you don’t use enough, termites could get to the liner well before its natural life would be over. In other words, its better to apply more then not enough.
In summary, termites present a real threat to pools and their liners. Plants that grow once pools are installed can also cause damage to sensitive infrastructure and seals. To make sure you don’t experience any such damage, pretreat the soil around and underneath the pool with both a soil sterilent and a termite concentrate. This will insure a long life for your pool and its components.