wood beam with bad insect damage


Dear Jonathan
Our house was built in 1915 and the beams in the crawl space have holes of powder post beetles .We are in Ontario.
I put my finger on these beams and they seems solid still.
If I spray with the boracare do you think these beams could resist another 10 years?
But I found a  4×4 completely  transformed in dust is like sawdust- is like plaster  if I push the finger there is crumbling. I do not know what can be.
please help with a comment.


First, you don’t state if you think the damage is currently active or if it’s old damage you are now noticing. This is actually quite common. In other words, the beam could have had an insect infestation some time ago. Maybe 50 or more years ago. At some point the insects died and the wood has held together without anyone noticing the extent of which it had been consumed till now. I have seen this happen many times so it’s not unusual.

But if you think there is activity or are unsure if it’s active or not, a treatment could be warranted. The first thing I would do, however, would be to determine if the wood which is badly damaged is actually important or not. In other words, is it load bearing or important to the structural integrity of the house? If not, then no replacement may be needed. But if it’s taking weight – like a sill plate or a floor joist – it could very well be important enough to either replace or reinforce. If you are not able to make this determination yourself, you need to get the advice from someone that can. Once this is known, you can then decide if treating with the BORACARE would make sense.

If the wood isn’t important and if damage is limited to a small section, I would recommend treating it to insure there isn’t anything alive causing more damage. As explained in our POWDERPOST BEETLE ARTICLE, there are many wood destroying insects which can go unnoticed for long periods of time. Boracare deals well with these organisms and when applied right can provide long term protection against a wide range of pests.

But if the wood is important structurally and will have to be replaced, it would make no sense to treat it. I would then consider protecting the other local infrastructure depending largely on what was exposed when any work was to be done. This way if live insects were detected, you could proceed confidently knowing for sure what you were treating and with a direct purpose of making sure they could not survive. But without this knowledge, it’s hard to make an exact determination right now.

So in summary, I’d say to get another opinion if you’re uncertain as to the extent of the damage, whether it’s currently active or old, and whether the wood damaged is actually important structurally. If the damage is significant and from old activity, there could very well be nothing alive right now. More importantly, if the wood damaged isn’t important to the structure, it could very well be ignored. But if you have reason to believe there is something alive now in the wood and that you might have to have some repairs done, a treatment could be warranted to make sure this doesn’t continue. Give us a call if you need some help determining what to do. As you can tell from my response, it is hard for me to make an exact determination since there are so many choices and variables involved. But if you get to talk with one of our in house specialist, chances are we’ll be able to further determine a course of action that would make sense to follow.



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