Termite Zones in France
Termite Zones in France
Tuesday 15 March 2011
The French government have published a map showing those areas of the country where termites are present.
The problem of termites is widespread in France, although it is most severe in the South West.
In order to assist in the reduction and eradication of termite infestations there are a number of regulations in place.
One of the most important of these regulations is that within a commune contaminated with termites, sellers are required to have a termite survey undertaken of their property.
In addition, any owner who at any time discovers termites in their property is obliged to make a compulsory declaration to their local mairie .
The mairie can also require any property owner to undertake a survey of their property and, in the worst case circumstances, insist that they undertake treatment and removal of the infestation that may be found.
The map below, prepared by the French government, shows those areas of the country where termites are present.
The red zones indicate the whole area is covered by the regulations, while in the orange areas there are some communes (or parts of some communes ) covered by these controls.
The cost of remedying a termite infestation is substantial. Not only will you pay thousands of euros for the treatment itself, but there is also the cost of repair, removal and replacement of the affected timber.
It is possible to do the treatment work on a DIY basis, but as treatment requires injection into main timbers and walls, without a proper understanding of what you are doing, there is no guarantee it will be successful.
This article was featured in our Newsletter dated 15/03/2011
Strategic approach to combat termites in France
The following blog summarises the strategic approach to combat termites in France. As a Building Surveyor in France we adopt this approach when undertaking surveys. Termites are small insects that feed upon the cellulose of wood. There are 7 species found in France, most prominently in the South West albeit they are expanding info further areas as the climate warms. They live in sophisticated colonies organised into various specialist teams that gives them the ability to destroy timber structures with alarming speed and efficiency. Furthermore, because they devour the timber from within the timber structure, their presence and destructive work may go unnoticed for years. Timber beams may look sound, but have been hollowed out by the termites. This results in weakening the timber or total structural failure.
Termites are therefore of concern to both homeowners and the French authorities. The law in France requires that when selling a house the vendor is required to commission a report within the DDT that confirms the presence / absence of termites. The report is valid for a period of 6 months and is not qualified to comment on the structure of the house nor the specific consequences of infestation to the particular elements of the building structure.
The modern approach to address infestations includes replacement of damaged wood the application of chemicals to the deter future attack. However, much of the infestation will be in the timber favoured by the termites, buried deep behind masonry and therefore inaccessible to treatment. Accordingly remediation can be very costly and disruptive.
As a Building Surveyor in France we provide advice to adopt a strategic approach to combat termites and importantly provide enhanced defence against future infestation. To better understand the approach, it is important to firstly understand the environment required by termites. Subterranean termites require a damp environment in which to live and avoid sunlight. They build mud tubes to allow them to travel over dry structures and remain concealed from bright light. Accordingly a key to providing a less attractive environment to termites is the removal of damp to the structure and timber within the building. This is normally undertaken by a combination of addressing faults to roofs, gutters, drainage etc in addition to ensuring adequate ventilation to floor voids, roof voids etc. It is important that humid air from within the living areas of the house is ventilated out of the house and not into the roof void. Removal of shrubs and debris etc around the base of the house will also reduce shading and allow for easier inspection and observation of any termite evidence.
‘Dry wood’ termites nest above ground and don’t require contact with the ground. Like any organism, even ‘dry wood’ termites require some moisture to live that they derive from the wood.
As a Building Surveyor in France, we undertake detailed Property Survey inspections in accordance with RICS training and standards. This includes damp meter readings to timber and masonry. The Survey Report is forward looking, providing recommendations as to how to maintain and ventilate the property so as to keep the structure dry. This in turn will draw moisture away from timber imbedded within stone walls etc. The Survey also includes outbuildings and the general garden / grounds surrounding the house. Specific recommendations are made as to the type of plants / shrubs and flower bed design that should be adopted in the area surrounding the house so as to provide a hostile environment for termites. This is a critical element of the overall measures to be adopted to enhance defence to combat termite infestation. The vendor’s DDT report is valid for 6 months and is understandably caveated by the fact that the inspection cannot assess timber that is inaccessible, including that concealed behind masonry. The principles of our Report recommendations are valid for decades, and include recommendations for the drying of even the concealed timber.
How to Handle Termites in Your French Property
When buying or selling property in France, one of the things you’ll need to be on the lookout for is the presence of termites. Hard to detect and capable of impressive amounts of destruction in very little time, termites do not make ideal neighbours but luckily, with a little help from the professionals they can be fully treated.
Also known as white ants, these incredibly invasive little creatures made their way to France from America in the 19th Century and after invading Bordeaux spread throughout the South West.
There are still some regions of the country which are classed as termite-free, but the problem is widespread so a termite check is always advisable when you’re thinking about selling or buying property in France.
To learn more about this pesky parasite and how to deal with an invasion, simply check out our guide on how to handle termites in your French property below.
What exactly are termites?
Termites or white ants as they’re also known are actually members of the cockroach family. Wood-eating, they live and work in colonies of up to 200,000 insects, made up of a king and queen, nymphs and workers.
Where do they live?
7 species of termite have currently been identified in France, 5 of which live underground and 2 of which live in dry wood. So, depending on the species, they may be hidden in a series of tunnels under your property or nesting in trees and logs in the grounds.
How do they spread?
Termites spread from property to property in early spring when they swarm and mate. They can also be spread by propagation when termite-infested wood is moved from one location to another. Only 100 insects are needed to form a new colony and they can now be found in over 50 departments in France.
What are the risks if I find termites on my property?
Organised and efficient, termites have just one mission in life, eating as much wood as possible. They burrow into timber and eat from the inside out, often going undetected for months or even years. They enter buildings via drains, waste pipes, ducts and joints and once inside, they can cross concrete, brick and even metal to get to their favourite food source.
Worker termites build galleries to provide easy access to timber and then go in search of fresh food to take back to the colony. By feeding on wood inside or outside your property, they can cause structural damage and create an unsafe environment which may lead to costly repairs.
How do I know if my property is infested with termites?
As termites are notoriously hard to spot, the best way to find out whether they are living in a property you currently own or a property you hope to buy or sell is with a termite survey known as the ‘etat des risques parasitaires’.
Currently only compulsory in departments declared by the French government as ‘termités’ or ‘partiellement termités’, this survey will be carried out by a qualified professional who will then provide a full report of their findings.
If you’re in any doubt, your local Mairie can tell you whether a property is located in a termite zone or not.
If I’m planning on selling/buying a property in France, who is responsible for commissioning the report?
As the owner of a French property located in a termite zone, you will be responsible for commissioning the termite survey when you decide to sell.
As the potential buyer of a French property located in a termite zone, you will receive a full copy of the termite report from the current owner.
What does the report cover exactly?
During the termite survey, the surveyor will check for visible signs of termite activity, active termites and wood decay in the main building and any outhouses/external structures on the property.
Who carries out the inspection and produces the report?
The survey can only be carried out by a qualified professional who will use a sound/movement detector to check whether there are termites in the house, garden or any outhouses in the grounds. You can find a full list of certified technicians on the Centre Technique de Bois et de l’Ameublement (CTBA) website here (In French).
How long is the report valid for?
The report is valid for 6 months, so if you are thinking of selling your property the inspection must take place no earlier than 6 months before the sale contract is signed.
What happens if no certificate is provided?
As the owner of a French property located in a termite zone, if you fail to provide a termite certificate, the buyer will be within his rights to cancel the sale. You may also be responsible for paying any and all costs related to the treatment of an infestation if termites are found on the property by the future owner. You also face being taken to court for non-disclosure of hidden defects if the buyer decides to take legal action at a later stage.
As the buyer of a property, you also have the right to commission an additional independent termite report by a company of your choice if you feel it is necessary.
What happens if termites are found in the property?
If termites are discovered in your property, you will be obliged to contact your local Mairie and make an official termite declaration. You will also be obliged to have the problem treated and repair, remove or replace any timber which has been affected by the termites. You can find a full list of certified technicians to carry out termite treatments on the Centre Technique de Bois et de l’Ameublement (CTBA) website here (in French).
If you are in the process of buying a property and the termite report comes back as positive, you have several options. You can withdraw from the sale completely with a full refund of your deposit, request a drop in the selling price to include the cost of treating the termites, or ask the owner to have the problem treated before you complete the sale.
How can I treat the problem?
There are several options for treating a termite invasion. Once the infected wood has been removed and replaced, you will need to prevent it from being attacked again in the future. Depending on the size and severity of the invasion, the technicians will be able to advise you about treatment options which include:
- Installing a physical barrier made from steel mesh to stop them from entering your home.
- Installing termite traps laden with bait which the worker termites will take back to the nest, killing the colony.
- Applying a chemical barrier treatment to the wood and timber in your home to protect it from termites.
- Applying liquid pesticides to the soil around your property to create a chemical barrier to prevent the termites entering the house.
Are there any other precautions to take?
There are quite a few things you can do in and around your property to make it less attractive to termites. By following a few simple guidelines, you will hopefully be able to keep your French home termite free:
- Make sure drainage systems and gutters are properly maintained to reduce moisture in and around your home.
- Have cracks in the walls or foundations filled to avoid termites entering the house.
- Check that pipes/holes for utilities are properly filled with cement or plaster.
- Make sure you have any leaky taps, air conditioning units or water pipes fixed immediately.
- Ensure that house vents aren’t blocked.
- Don’t store firewood close to the house and where possible raise logs off the ground using bricks or a metal frame.
- Try not to plant any trees or greenery too close to the house, and remove any plants growing on wooden surfaces such as sheds or outhouses.
- Check your property every few months for signs of termite activity.
What happened to the termites?
You are here: French lifeWhat happened to the termites?
When we bought our house in south-west France nine years ago people seemed to talk of little else but termites and the dangers they presented to house and home.
Tales abounded of armies of termites creeping underground and devouring everything in their way, with a special preference for house foundations and woodwork. It was said they would eat a house (or at least the timbers within a house) from the inside out, so that the unfortunate owner wouldn’t even realise their was a problem until a strong wind came along and blew their house away, it now having less strength than a pile of dust.
Since they live in happy communities of 200,000 termites you’d think they’d be hard to miss, but they are very good at playing hide-and-seek, and might be five metres below ground until they discover your property and come running up for lunch.
Anyway, that was then, this is now. I haven’t seen any houses demolished by termites, and don’t recall any houses going missing overnight. (Incidentally that picture above wasn’t taken by me in our own festering property, it is copyright Hans Hillewaert, and was taken in Catalonia.) I don’t even remember anyone saying they had a problem with them. Did they all go away, I was wondering, or are they now just ‘part of the furniture’?!
I only came to be thinking about termites at all because someone we met is buying a house a few kilometres away and seemed very nonchalant about the fact it has termites, because the existing owner has to have them treated before the property can be sold to them (no property can be sold in a ‘termite region’, which includes all south-west France, without a certificate that it is free of termites).
Have things changed so much over the last 10 years that termites are just like the many other pests we like to battle with in the countryside? (Speaking of which, when we arrived we were also told that three hornet stings at the same time and you drop dead on the spot. Turns out that’s an old wife’s tale, unless you are highly allergic to wasp stings…)
Anyway, question is, would you be concerned if you found you had termites in your property (or should I say ex-property)? Would you be concerned if you were buying a property that had termites or just laugh it off as ‘one of those things’?
Note by the way, if you have termites you have to notify the local mairie – although I’m not sure what they do. Probably just send you back a stern note telling you to get them treated, although perhaps they also send a note to your neighbours to warn them about your condition. Must make you very popular, I’m sure.
Termites in French Houses
| 15th September 2017
Termites – the underground menace eating your house from the inside out
When buying a house in France, the vendor is obliged to have a termite report carried out.
If you live in a termite-infested area in France, you must, by law, supply a ‘termite-free’ certificate when you sell a house.
You can find out if your area is designated as infested from your local town hall. Any check you undertake must be carried out by a qualified expert (see list on www.ctba.fr ). The expert will check all parts of the house, including the garden, the adjoining buildings, the basement and so on, using a punch (to sound out wood) and a sound or movement detector.
You can also have a termite check done even if you are not selling the house, simply to see if you have an infestation. The expert will be able to inform you whether treatment is needed, but you should be aware that the firm that does the checking is not, by law, allowed to supply anything with which to treat any infestation. This is in order to maintain impartiality.
After the check, you’ll receive a detailed report. If an infestation needs to be treated, there are numerous options, including chemical barriers and traps, and the solution is decided case by case. A list of certified treatment companies can be found at www.ctba.fr .
Why are termites a problem?
Termites feed on wood and in the wild serve an important function by converting dead trees into organic matter. However, when they feed on the wood in buildings, they can cause structural damage. They tend to attack wood that is close to the ground and eat from the inside out, defying detection for years. By building ingenious mud tubes, termites can cross many feet of concrete, brick, cinder block, treated wood, or metal termite shields, making it possible to reach the upper floors of a structure. They also eat other forms of cellulose, including books.
Under favourable conditions, a colony of 60,000 termite workers can consume a one-foot length of two by four in as little as four months. Under less ideal conditions, it can take as long as eight years for termites to cause noticeable damage.
However, termite activity may remain undetectable even after serious damage is done. Reasons include:
- Termite swarms that have been ignored by the current owner of the house or building.
- Termite activity that is ongoing behind walls and under the floors.
- Termite activity that is concealed behind stored materials.
- Termite activity that is occurring beneath the surface of visible wood beams.
What are termites?
Termites, whose name comes from the Latin ‘termes’, which means rodent worm, differ from other xylophagous (wood-eating) insects, because they are organised into a society, rather like ants and bees.
There are over 2,000 species of termite but only seven have been found in France. Five of these are ‘underground’ termites (Rhinotermitidae) and two are ‘dry wood’ termites (Kalotermitidae). The worst damage is generally caused by underground termites.
Termites need a water supply in order to exist, but this can be very minimal – even condensation on a water pipe will suffice, or a leak in a poorly maintained wall. Temperature is also important, which might be provided by the climate, or artificially by heating or building insulation. The termite problem in France was once confined to the south but is spreading northwards as the summers become warmer, and now very few departements are completely without their presence.
Where do they live?
Generally, the main termite colony is situated underground – sometimes as deep as 20 feet below the soil surface. A termite colony takes about five years to mature and may include up to 200,000 workers. These are the termites that eat wood and provide food for the others (king, queen, nymphs and soldiers). The workers dig or build ‘galleries’, inside which they to and fro incessantly in search of food. These galleries are always free of sawdust, unlike other wood-borers such as the long-horn beetle, lyctus beetle, or furniture beetle. Termites penetrate into houses along mortar joints, in drains, waste pipes, electric cable ducts, inner partitions, and so on, but always away from the light. This makes them difficult to detect.