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For homes, an exterior weather barrier (e.g., roofing and siding) protects
most structural wood. However, improper detailing can lead to moisture intrusion
and decay. Problems are commonly associated with improper or missing flashing
and undue reliance on caulking to prevent moisture intrusion. For additional
information and guidance on improving the durability of wood in buildings, refer
to Prevention and Control of Decay in Homes (HUD, 1978).
Wood members that are in ground contact should be preservative treated.
The most common lumber treatment is CCA (copper-chromium-arsenate), which
should be used for applications such as sill plates located near the ground or for
exterior decks. It is important to specify the correct level of treatment (0.4 pcf
retention for nonground-contact exterior exposure and 0.6 pcf for ground contact).
Termites and other wood-destroying insects (e.g., carpenter ants, boring
beetles, etc.) attack wood materials. Some practical solutions include: the
chemical treatment of soil; the installation of physical barriers (e.g., termite
shields); and the specification of treated lumber.
Termites are a special problem in warmer climates, although they also
plague many other areas of the United States. The most common termites are
“subterranean” termites that nest in the ground and enter wood that is near or in
contact with damp soil. They gain access to above-grade wood through cracks in
the foundation or through shelter tubes (i.e., mud tunnels) on the surface of
foundation walls. Since the presence of termites lends itself to be visual to
detection, wood-framed homes require periodic inspection for signs of termites.