how to treat 300 year old house with powderpost beetles

My husband and i are seriously considering purchasing a house in a historical section of the Northeast U.S. We had a home inspection today and he pointed out beams throughout the house that may have had powder beetles. The beams had many, many small holes. He did not think they were active but advised us to call an exterminator and construction worker. It had a crawl space basement, quite dry. We have to make a decision soon about purchasing this 300 year old house, but we cannot afford huge structural problems in the future that would require cement and steal beams. Presently there are some wooden beams that have been supporting the basement beams. Please advise. Are we beyond Boracare? Please advise.

I’ve been in many homes that are over 100 years old and in virtually every case I remember finding evidence of some type of wood infesting pest so is this need to be concerned or surprised? Probably not. I say this because if you think about it, there are two things you should immediately notice about this house. First, the structure is several hundred years old and it’s still standing. This means it must have been built fairly well. Second, because it’s this old, the odds that termites, powderpost beetles, carpenter ants, carpenter bees or some other pest got into some part of the home would have to be quite high (in other words, very likely). But what about your structural concerns?

No doubt these are legit and well founded. And as you’ve been advised, get an engineer to look at the home to see what he says. In the end I’m willing to wager that one of  two things that will happen with this structure. The first thing that might happen is if the damage is in fact significant, most any engineer would recommend getting it repaired. This could mean major replacement work but many times simply leaving the existing damaged wood in place and then adding load bearing members to the pre installed beams is all that will be needed. This is actually pretty common and happens all the time with old structures. In the end someone buys the home, gets the work done and lives happily ever after without the house falling down.

In the second option,  someone will buy the home with no repair being done. And even though the home is some 300 years old and has some damage, I’m willing to bet it will be around long after the buyer moves in and leaves planet earth! This is just based on previous experience so I can’t be 100% sure. But whenever I’m in these old buildings, it becomes apparently clear they’ve settled, they’ve sustained damage over the years and no doubt they’re in need of some repair work. All that being said, it’s also clear if it’s on the market and a bank is willing to write a note on it, the structure will probably be around for some time to come.

Lastly, no wood or structure is ever “beyond BORACARE” unless the owner or new owner intends on knocking it down and starting over. And with this home, the same would apply. So in this case, I see two option regarding a treatment.

The first option would be to leave it as is, based on an engineers inspection and clean bill of health and then after it’s purchased, get it treated with Boracare just to be safe. The second option is to do some repair work first and during the work have it treated with Boracare. In both options treating with Boracare is what I recommend because it just make sense. Why risk letting any beetle or other pest a chance to continue living if in fact they’re alive somewhere? Well, it doesn’t. So if you buy the home, get it treated and be done with it. Remember, Boracare will not only control active pests, but it will help to prevent new ones from coming around as well as control mold and rot.

Good luck and here are direct links to the information and products listed above:


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