I would appreciate some opinions on how to deal with this scenario. In 2012 when business was harder to to come by we did some residential work that involved refacing an island and adding three cabinets to the back side. Cabinets were made from import pre-finished maple plywood. The total project might have been $3k. The customer is now telling us that those 3 cabinets have termites in the shelves and sides and the pest control company is saying verbally that they had to have been in the shelves when they were installed as there is no evidence of termites anywhere in the house. The pest control report only states that they found them in the shelves but does not indicate the origin. Customer is asking us to pay the $1000 that they paid to have the island fumigated. While we want to maintain a good name in our community we certainly do not want to give away money because some guy in a white hat and coveralls voiced his opinion but would not put that opinion in writing. How do they or we really know if we are responsible for this? We are concerned that if we pay the $1000 just because we are good people it could set a precedence and open up liability if termites are found other places in the house. Has anyone else had a scenario like this? What would others do?
There is absolutely no way you are responsible for this. They're trying to be cute and pass the buck along to someone else to take responsibility for their misfortune. Termites are an act of God, tell them to send the bill to him if they want. If your island indeed did have termites it wouldn't have taken 3 years to be noticed.
Termites need an active water source to survive. While it doesn't need to be completely saturated, moisture would have to be present.Plywood would not create a sufficient food source for them to survive 3days let alone 3 years. The glue holding it together would also deter them. It's a very far fetched scam they are pulling here.
Are they sure it is termites? I had a powder post beetle incident years ago. They came out of air dried ash I used for unseen, internal parts of a cabinet. After a little research I learned that the larva were dormant for possibly years in the ash and emerged as beetles when conditions were right. I also learned that they would not reinfest the wood as it was now too dry for their liking and had been finished also. The customer agreed to wait and see and all turned out well.
Your customer may have wasted their money on fumigation.
This came up before in a thread not too long ago, although I think it pertained to 'dry termites'. Prof Wengert added a few comments.
If the client never contacted you before the house was fumigated to discuss the situation and instead made these claims after contracting with the pest company that sounds like complete BS. I'm not familiar with the legal aspects, but I would assume you should be given the right to hire your own expert and get a second opinion.
I had this happen with some made in china ply that was mistakenly sent to my shop. I was on a deadline and used it for shelves.The culprit was PPB. Supplier admitted it in writing , I replaced the shelves in time, and lucked out as they didn't spread.Lesson learned, no more china ply,period!
"certified bonded document with supporting evidence",, " for your insurance company and legal review" Pest control companies are far more regulated than one would think, a good one will not risk their license or bond any more than we would.
Whoever imported that material had to file a declaration with customs (plant and product declaration). I seriously doubt the termites in came in with the wood, and skids or crates have to be baked for use in international shipping.
I don't know if a $1,000 argument is worth winning, first thing I would do is call the vendor who supplied the materials and tell them it must have come from them. Let them disprove it, in the end they would be the one of the responsible parties if it went to court (which it won't).
There is no way that this has active termites. They need water, as already mentioned.
Further, if it was termite infested, you would have seen it in manufacturing and discarded the wood, etc.
Where are you located? I might be able to suggest a good inspector. As a first step, contact your county extension office, as some have expertise in this area or can arrange for someone.
When you see the damage, also look around for antique furniture that they might have bought recently--last few years. This is a common source of the PPB. It would be nice if all incoming foreign plywood was fumigated properly, but it does not happen. So, it is likely that this has PPB and not termites. Fumigation of a cabinet or one room in a house cannot be done. The gas used in fumigation of wood is highly toxic or poisonous to humans; it kills, even a small amount. So, fumigation involves moving out of the house, putting a tent over the house, gassing for a day or two, and then waiting a day for the gas to leave...this should sound like an expensive operation, and it is. Removal of the offending wood is often more reasonable. The PPB in a dry place is only in hardwoods, and cannot infect wood with a finish, so seldom can spread within the house. Then every 6 onths or so, inspect for any new damage.
Termites are very harmful insects that can damage the wooden structure within a month and we need to stop them. There are various methods to exterminate termites out of which some are cheaper and others expensive. One of the best way to kill the termites quickly is by hiring some pest exterminator who will do it for you, and they will also be able to show you the best way of eradicating them.
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