How should I stack my firewood so that termites don't become a problem?
April 4, 2007 10:20 AM   Subscribe

How should I stack my firewood so that termites don't become a problem? Is it worth the effort? I also have some pre-infested sections of tree that I'm not sure what to do with.

I had a large fir tree removed from my yard, and I've been splitting the sections by hand. I've already stacked about two cords of it, and probably have as much left to split and stack. Some Google searches have revealed that you should stack the wood on a structure to keep it off the ground. If it's directly on the ground, it stays moist, which allows termites to infest the stack.

1. Is it worth the money and effort? I don't really care if I lose part of the woodstack to termites. My pest-control guy tells me that as long as the wood isn't stacked against my house, and if I have no water damage to my house, they won't attack there.

2. What should I stack the wood on? I saw a site that suggested PVC pipe. I went to Home Depot and a sufficient amount of pipe would cost over $100. I'm really not that invested in this wood stack project... I could always just go leave it on the sidewalk with a "Free Wood" sign. Another suggestion was to stack on wood pallets, but then you have to treat the pallets with pesticide. Blah. Any ideas on something cheap and termite-proof on which to stack wood?

3. Some sections of the tree were infested with termites when we took it down, so I have some wood that's got a bunch of termites in it already. I figure the colony is probably broken up, but I'm not sure. What should I do with these sections? (I'm a poor judge of wood quantities, but I'd say there's probably 4 cords of wood, and 1 cord has termites in it.)
posted by agropyron to Home & Garden (9 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Best answer: Mostly it's important to get the wood 8-12 inches above grade on a material that termites can't/wont eat. That way you can inspect the pile regularly and break down the tunnels they build to access your wood. You might want to haunt the freecycle group or HfH ReNue store in your area for some used pipe.

You could construct a platform out of palettes and top it with sheet of tin. The termites will eat the pallets of course but the sheet of metal will prevent them from getting into the wood pile. Maybe a pallet set on four cinder blocks would do the trick?
posted by Mitheral at 11:05 AM on April 4, 2007

Best answer: I would reccomend getting the wood off the ground. You don't want to bring in an armload of wood, put it in the fire, and then listen to the screams of burning termites. Or have them crawling out of the wood you've got stacked by the fireplace. We had this problem with carpenter ants a few times.

As far as what to stack it on, we always just used other pieces of wood. Lay down 2 rails and the stack the split wood on top of them, like this:

---------------- rail
||||||||||||||||| wood
---------------- rail

As far as materials, use whatever you've got handy: 2x4s, fence posts, anything long. In a pinch, you can use some the wood you're already splitting, but it's hard to get nice even stacks that way.
posted by cosmicbandito at 11:07 AM on April 4, 2007 [1 favorite]

Even without a potential termite problem, you should never stack wood directly on the ground. As the OP writes, it stays moist that way. Burning moist wood is really bad for air quality: don't do it.

Of course, you also need to cover it from the rain.
posted by ssg at 11:13 AM on April 4, 2007

Just buy some cinder blocks, enough to make a platform. In a pinch, pavers might work (cheaper, lighter), but they're not near 8" high--more like 2 inches. Don't know if that's important, as I suspect subterranean termites won't bother with that 2 inches.
posted by RikiTikiTavi at 11:18 AM on April 4, 2007

Four cords of wood is an absolute shit ton. One cord is defined as 8 foot wide × 4 foot high of 4 foot long logs.

Anyway, I would pick up a couple pallets and stack the wood on these with a tin barrier like was mentioned above. Also, put a tarp over the wood to keep it dry.
posted by premortem at 11:37 AM on April 4, 2007

The cinderblock + packing pallets idea sounds like it might be cheaper than using PVC, if you don't think you're going to be doing this year after year. When you've burned all the wood, you can probably break down the pallets for kindling, so at the end, you won't have anything left besides the cinderblocks.

If you're really feeling cheap, you could probably use use large rocks instead of cinderblocks, but that's going to be pretty labor intensive (and I don't know if you live in an area where several-hundred-pound rocks just grow out of the ground).

Plastic milk crates might also work, but I'm not sure what their crush strength is. Unless you made a solid layer of them underneath the pallet, they might end up breaking under the weight. (Plus, it's hard to legitimately acquire milk crates these days.)

As for the infested wood, I'd burn it outdoors (although, admittedly, burning green wood produces a lot of smoke -- burning it in a barrel so you can get the heat up inside sometimes helps, though; stack the stuff you're about to burn up around the barrel so it can dry as much as possible). The alternative is just to dump it somewhere far, far away from your house, and let the termites do the rest, but I don't know whether that's going to mean that they're going to attack all the standing trees near where you dump it, and leave you in a few years/decades with a big chunk of dead forest.

I doubt anyone's going to want termite-ridden wood even for mulch or compost, but I suppose you could ask. I'd feel bad leaving it on the side of the road for someone to take for free, because you're giving them something that could destroy their house if they don't notice the termites.
posted by Kadin2048 at 12:16 PM on April 4, 2007

Response by poster: Thanks for the answers, guys. I will probably try using some spare 2x4s I've got sitting around. Wish me luck!

Kadin2048, the termites aren't a threat to the forest, as they only attack dying or dead trees. They're only a threat to the house if there's a lot of damp wood they can attack that's directly touching some non-damp wood. They can then branch into the non-damp wood.
posted by agropyron at 1:18 PM on April 4, 2007

You must first know the biology of the pest to learn how to control it. Termites need 3 things to proliferate: moisture source, cell based material and protection from the sunlight. A subterranean termite colony(decent size) can eat 1" of 2"x4" per day if left untreated.

Rule #1. NO earth to wood contact!
There is no rule 2 or 3.

The wood in your house need not be damp. Termites can make a tunnel, freestanding, 3 feet high or better to reach the food source. Then they will travel back and forth to the moisture source.

They are contstant and random foragers. They will eat the wood they have been eating and also constantly look for new sources of cell based food.

Where I live the termite populations are something like 100 colonies per acre. Don't quote me on that one, remember where I live was once a swamp and they bulldozed the trees and put shiny new houses on top. The trees decayed and the earth above sunk and that causes what I think they call "subsidence?" As you can imagine the termites here are horrendous.

My advice to your question if legal in your state, go to the local pest control supply house, but a gallon of Termidor termite treatment and dig a trench about 6" wide by 6" deeparound the area to be protected and fill the trench with the termiticide. It is nicotine based and relativley harmelss to humans. If you caught a real heavy mist while applying, it would give you the same effect of a non-smoker, lighting one up, maybe a little lightheaded for a minute. Last for 5-7 years in the soil and you can retreat after 5 years. This is known as a termite barrier.

Termidor uses a nicotine like subtance that has a IGR, (insect growth regulator) that stops the offending pests from going on to the next stage of their life and prohibits them from reproducing.

Check local laws but I prefer to use TALSTAR. IT kills way more than termites (ants and other pests) and has been proven to keep termites at bay for over 12-14 years in a test house in Mobile Alabama.

Good luck!
posted by winks007 at 1:55 PM on April 4, 2007 [1 favorite]

You might want to try something like these out, with pressure-treated 2 x 4's on the bottom as sleepers. I have a half-dozen of them, seperated by 10′ lengths of wood, and they work great.
posted by Bora Horza Gobuchul at 9:58 PM on April 4, 2007

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