Traditional Thai houses are made from wood, not just any kind of wood, Teak. There's a good reason to use teak, bugs don't like to eat it. If you made a house from a softwood like pine, with a few weeks your house would be dust! You can see what termites can do, in the old piece of wood above. They've completely shredded it.
I've been house hunting, and found what I thought was the perfect house. A large new built house, quite cheap, on a nice estate, with a large garden, quiet enough for my cooking videos and sturdily built.
I notice a few oddities, Jin Joks, little house geckos, maybe a dozen of them, every room seems to have at least two. As I open the window, they scurry out of the window frames to escape. A dead cockroach, what on earth can a roach find to eat in an empty house!? Some sort of flying insect too, their dead insect bodies next to the window.
Modern Thai houses are made of concrete, not just concrete base, but from bottom to top, they're concrete piles, concrete footing, concrete beams, concrete stairs leading up to an upper floor made of concrete, capped off with steel and concrete roof frames.
The skirting boards look like wood, but they're gypsum. Fake wood with shape and texture, but without the delicious cellulose the bugs find so tasty! The roof boards, they too look like wood, but they're smart-board, a compacted cement board.
In Europe they have insulation in the roof, rock-wool or fibre glass, to keep in the heat. In Thailand we have metal foil insulation under the tiles, or in the case of this house, a second ceiling, made of riveted metal with an air-gap insulator to the ceiling below.
The heat is blistering, the roof gets extremely hot and the metal insulator keeps the heat from penetrating into the house. I put my head up into the roof space and it was like an oven, I touched the metal roof frame, and it as too hot, ouch! I pulled away my hands quickly. These metal plates work, inside the house its cool, while loft above is a furnace.
So perfect then, a house I can afford, a perfect location, the construction is good, the building sound, a professional build. What could go wrong? I put down a holding deposit and have it surveyed. It fails.
Termites! The ground floor ceiling is made from dry-wall sheet hanging from the concrete floor above it. Termites have made their way up the pipe, and began eating the backing paper to the dry-wall! Worse, still their mud-runs stretch everywhere, even along a pipe heading upstairs.
I go to examine the upstairs more closely, and see some small holes in the door frames. Termites are here too. The whole house might be infested with them.
The life cycle of a termite is this: it lives below ground, eating roots. Then it makes its way up into building, making mud tunnels as it goes to stay cool. A queen is made, a giant bug the size of my hand, she lays eggs and is fed by the worker termites. A few months each year, they burst out through the walls, grow wings and fly away to form a new nest.
I can see from the roof panel, they've started digging through the drywall. Once they find the paper white paper on the front, this ceiling will be dust.
This is what the geckos have been eating, and the cockroaches and why there are so many in this house. Looks like this house hunting isn't going to be so easy.
Take one more look at the photo at the top of this article, that wood is the door frame! It's almost new, the termites have done that to it in just a few months.