Maintaining fireplaces, chimneys and wood-heaters

Open fireplaces

An open fire or wood heater can add appeal to a property. Cosy nights sitting around a crackling warm fire with your favourite beverage in hand is a great way to unwind. But brick and stone fireplaces need to be cleaned from time to time. This cleaning is done by a chimney sweep. Remember the Mary Poppins movie? Yes, chimney sweeps exist outside of fairy tales and kid’s movies. It’s worth the expense of having an older fireplace inspected and cleaned by your local chimney sweep to ensure it is clean and safe to use. Cleaning and checking clearances and for deposits every year is recommended if you are using the fireplace regularly..

NOTE: The building inspector will not test the fireplace or wood heater as part of a standard building inspection.

Some older houses have fireplaces that are ornamental. In other words, the fireplace, hearth and mantelpiece are there, but the chimney has been removed or blocked up. Maybe they had problems with vermin or water leaks. Either way, it’s going to get pretty smoky and even dangerous if you start a fire and the chimney has been blocked. Look outside, above the roof, to see that there is a corresponding chimney or flue for each fireplace (and its clean and has the right clearances) before you light a fire! Any cracks in the chimney or deteriorated mortar should be repaired.

 Wood heaters

Wood heaters provide a lovely warmth that appeals to many people. They must be installed strictly in accordance with the manufacturer’s instructions. Have your solicitor check with the local council for evidence of building approval and final inspection to ensure that the wood heater was properly installed with correct clearances and materials.

Note: Inspection of wood heaters is not included in a standard building inspection.

Wood heaters are generally more efficient than traditional fire- places. In a past life as a council building inspector, I checked hundreds of these approvals and installations. The key points to understand are these:

1.    You need building approval to install a wood heater.

2.    Manufacturers get a prototype tested at a laboratory to ensure it meets the Australian Standards.

3.    The installation needs to be strictly in accordance with the manufacturer’s specifications.

4.    Making sure the ‘appliance’ has enough clearance from combustible elements is the key to compliance.

The quick guide to termites and timber pests

A quick guide to termites and timber pests

For residential and commercial property


A pest inspection will look for termites, borers and decay at your property. These are the timber pests.

Many areas of Australia are known to be at risk of termite attack. Where I live – in South East Queensland – the risk is high, while the risk in Tasmania is relatively very low. Termites like warmer climates, so the further north you go, the more termites you’ll find and the higher the risk of termite attack.

The pest inspection involves finding and reporting on timber pests and conditions conducive to timber pests. This inspection includes inspection of timber in all reasonably accessible areas of the property. The property is checked for subterranean and damp-wood termites, borers of seasoned timber and fungal decay. The location and severity of live pests and damage is commented upon in the report.

Conditions conducive to timber pest attack, such as poor surface drainage and poorly ventilated subfloor areas are also reported. 

Some property owners think that a brick building is at low risk of termite attack. Often these buildings contain structural timber floor and roof framing even when the walls are brick. If in doubt, discuss this with your inspector when agreeing upon the scope of work. My advice is to always get the pest inspection done. For a few hundred dollars it’s worth the peace of mind.

The inspection is non-invasive and does not involve breaking open timber or walls, lifting carpet or insulation, moving heavy furniture, etc. It is essentially a visual inspection.

Standard tools used by inspectors are a torch, ladder and moisture meter (see later section on ‘Equipment’).

 The inspection is done to check for three types of named timber pests only. Other timber pests like carpenter ants and drywood termites, although commonly found, are not included in the inspection. Pests such as snakes, possums, rats, mice, ants, cockroaches, spiders and other pests are also not included.


Drywood termites not included in a standard report

A real estate agent I have known for many years related this story to me. “I bought a house and had a building and pest inspection. When we moved in and started renovations our builder found extensive termite damage. We called the pest inspector for an explanation and he came over and told us that because the damage was caused by drywood termites it was not his problem. So we rang the building authorities and they confirmed that the inspector was not liable. We felt ripped off!”

 While we are on the subject of pests and termites, here is some advice: please don’t call them white ants! They are termites, not ants. More closely related to cockroaches than ants, these insects are responsible for a lot of building damage because they eat timber.

CSIRO reports that in Australia over 130,000 houses are infested annually causing $910 million worth of damage. The average damage repair bill is $5,500 and the average treatment cost is $1,500. I think there is excessive fear surrounding termites, and that fear is perpetuated by the pest management industry. As we know, fear is also ‘False Evidence Appearing Real’. In my opinion, people get way too concerned about termites. Sure, they do damage properties and the damage can run into the thousands to rectify, but let’s get you educated on these critters to give you some perspective.

There are around 300 different species of termites in Australia. But unless you are an entymologist with years of termite identification experience you would be considered knowledgeable within the pest industry if you could correctly identify and name 10 different species. Where I live in Brisbane, I commonly see about five different types.

Some are destructive and can do significant structural damage, and others are quite lame and only do superficial damage. When the weather is humid and stormy, that is the time when thousands of winged termites (alates) will take flight and seek a mate to start their own colony. If they are successful in finding each other – and a cosy spot – they will start a new colony and hey presto, they become the king and queen. Termite colonies in the suburbs can grow to more than one million termites.

If you find termites and want to kill them, you can just take off a shoe and whack them or get professional pest control. I would advocate for the latter because chances are, if you find termites, you have only found a few hundred workers harvesting the timber and if you kill these guys the colony will not miss them. The queen pumps out 4,000 eggs per day, so if a few hundred go missing they will quickly be replaced. You need to use a poison that will find its way to the nest and get some poison into the queen. This will eradicate the colony.

Residential buildings that are built in a designated termite area require an approved termite management system be installed during construction. To find out if the property you are buying is in a termite risk area I suggest you contact the local council for advice.


What are the main types of termite management systems?

Most modern houses have physical barriers built into the external walls and collars placed around pipe penetrations (where pipes go through concrete floor slabs on the ground) to prevent termite entry. The building certifier has the job of ensuring that the system installed is approved for use. Most freestanding dwellings built after 1995 have a physical termite management system installed but some do not.

 Another method of termite risk management is to build the ‘primary building elements’ (i.e. load bearing members) with termite resistant materials, for example metal, concrete, masonry, fibre cement, naturally resistant timber and preservative treated timber.

In Queensland, the primary building elements also include door jambs, window frames, reveals, architrave and skirting boards as the risk of termite damage is higher in this state.



Another type of termite management system is a chemical one. This system involves the installation of a treated zone of topsoil abutting the perimeter external walls, by drilling through concrete and digging through topsoil. If the building has a subfloor, then this area is treated also. These chemical systems are often referred to as ‘barriers’ but the more correct term is ‘treated zone’.


Banned chemicals

Old school chemicals based on organochlorines and organo- phosphates such as ‘Aldrin’ and ‘Dieldrin’ were fantastic at keeping termites away, but they were found to be too toxic for the environment because of their long after-life.

There are now many effective and safer chemicals available to professional pest managers that last between one and ten years.

Expensive Termite chemical V Cheaper Termite chemical, what’s the difference?

Do the maths. Some chemicals are cheap and some are expensive. It’s no surprise that the expensive ones actually work better and last much longer. A good quality chemical will last eight to ten years. If you are comparing quotes on chemical termite systems make sure you take into consideration how long the chemical will last. Here is a quick and easy way to compare the value of two different quotes.

Quote 1. “Bloody Ripper Pest Control”

Uses a cheap chemical. Installation costs $2,250. Re-treatment (expiry date) in three years = Cost to you $750 per year.

Quote 2. “Aussie Battler Pest Management”

Uses a more expensive chemical. Installation costs $2,750. Re-treatment (expiry date) in eight years = Cost to you $344 per year.

When comparing quotes, you should always look at the annual cost over the life of the termite management system to understand the true cost.


Monitoring and baiting systems

The third most popular type of termite management system is a monitoring and baiting system. This involves the installation of many (sometimes 30 on a standard suburban lot) ‘bait stations’ in the ground around the building. The bait stations are typically a plastic tube with openings in the sides and a removable lid on the top. These are buried in the ground with the lid sitting level with the ground. Inside the tube some timber or an attractant like ‘Focus’ is placed. Usually the timber is a species of pine timber. Pine is a softwood and more often is the target of termites as it is easier for them to eat. The teeth of a termite have the density of a human finger nail so they find eating denser timbers a slow process.

The bait stations are checked regularly by the pest management technician for the presence of termites. Any termites found are killed with poison. There are both professional and DIY monitoring and baiting systems available. Systems are extensively tested for years to ensure they are effective but be warned, this system needs constant monitoring.

Some buildings have structural elements made from treated timber or steel. When the structural elements are termite resistant no termite management system is necessary. These properties are still at risk of termites doing damage to timber found in kitchens, floating floors, architraves, skirting boards and door jambs, etc.

Every pest management system requires regular inspections by a professional timber pest inspector. Most properties should be inspected at least annually and some more often depending upon the level of risk of termite attack and the type of management system installed.

 Exposed concrete slab edge

This involves using at least 75mm of visible slab edge on the ground as part of the termite management system.

 Termite shields

These are made of folded metal sheeting. These shields are built at the base of walls, and termite caps are placed on top of support posts. As with exposed slab edge, it is advisable to have at least 75mm of visible slab edge to enable regular visual inspection to detect termite attack.



Most obvious termite damage is found by home-owners who have no knowledge of what termites look like, or their habits or how to find them. Professional timber pest inspectors can usually find the damage the average person cannot. They do so with the help of the following equipment.



The best tool anyone has is their eyesight, but you have to know what to look for. Your eyesight can be enhanced by a high-powered LED torch. Buy yourself a rechargeable LED torch. A very handy piece of kit.


What is a donger?

The next most vital piece of kit is a sounding stick. This will often consist of a golf club type of handle with a golf ball or similar plastic ball on the tip. In the trade, this sounding stick is called a ‘donger’. By lightly tapping the donger onto accessible timbers the inspector can listen to the sound made. If the timber sounds hollow, this will indicate termite damage and if the timber sounds dull, this will indicate water damage (that can lead to decay and then attract termites). Most ‘tapping’ is done on visible and accessible timber inside the building, for example wall-panelling, exposed beams, skirtings, architraves, windows and door jambs.


What does a moisture meter do?

Another essential item is the electronic moisture meter. The moisture meter is a device that measures the relative moisture of the building surface. Termites need water to survive, so when high moisture readings (above 18%) are present, this can be an indication of live termites. Sometimes the high moisture can also be due to a water leak from a leaking plumbing fixture. High moisture in a wall is a condition conducive to termites and decay. Moisture meters, like other tools, have their limitations and cannot be used reliably on days of high humidity or rain.


Can a thermal camera really see inside walls?

Thermal imaging cameras have been used in the pest management industry for many years now. These cameras work by shooting a laser beam onto a surface. The temperature of the surface is detected and then mapped onto a screen, often in multi colours. Relative cold spots can indicate dampness associated with water leaks or termite nests. Conversely, hot spots can indicate heat from termites or another heat source.

Anyone using a thermal imaging camera in a professional capacity should also be a certified thermographer. Pictures of the thermal imaging camera results must also be included in timber pest inspection reports otherwise they are not valid.

 What is Termatrac?

I personally use a ‘Termatrac T3i’. This is a termite detector that combines three technologies in one device. It has a radar to detect movement, a thermal sensor to detect temperature and a moisture sensor to analyse moisture levels. The digital screen graphs the movement and with a small amount of training it is possible to recognise the movement pattern of termites. This is an accurate non- invasive method of finding active termites.


Are termite dogs any good at finding termites?

Occasionally I am asked about other methods of termite detection, including sniffer dogs, listening devices and other methods. The different tools and equipment used for detection of termites all have their pros and cons. A carefully trained termite dog can cost more than $20,000. Termite dogs can be easily distracted by the smell of paint, pet food, cigarette smoke and many other smells. They are also easily bored and need the excitement of finding termites every day to stay motivated. For all but a few properties and situations the use of a termite dog is unwarranted in my opinion.

There are many other types of equipment available. I have tried to cover the most commonly used here. It is important to note that the standard timber pest inspection is visual only and only visible and accessible areas are inspected. This excludes moving furniture or stored items, lifting floor coverings, inspecting inside walls, looking under insulation or stumps below ground level.


Conditions that will attract termites

Places and conditions conducive to termite attack include (but are not limited to) the following:

Warmer climates with lots of trees.

Tree stumps and logs. Trees, especially dead trees.

Weepholes covered or partly covered by concrete, soil, gravel or other material.

Leaks, such as a leaking water pipe or leaking shower. Untreated landscaping timbers.

Deficiencies with termite shields or ant capping, such as rust holes, missing sections, damaged sections.

Timber in contact with the ground, such as posts and weatherboards.

Piles of timber such as firewood or loose timbers in the garden or under the house.

Old timber formwork used in construction, left under suspended concrete slabs, e.g. patios.

Poor surface drainage makes buildings damp and more prone to termite damage.

A timber pest inspection report should include comment on conditions conducive to termites and recommendations to address these issues. The fewer conditions conducive to termites there are on the property, the lower the risk of termite attack.




inndox exhibits at the 2019 Asia Pacific Cities Summit!

inndox exhibits at the 2019 Asia Pacific Cities Summit!

inndox is an exhibitor at the Asia Pacific Cities Summit 2019. Over 1000 attendees will be there to learn from city infuencers and hear from thought leaders about trends and innovation for cities of the future.

How can I set up Warranty Expiry Alerts?

inndox has a Warranty Expiry feature to help you maintain your building materials, products & appliances.

Step 1. Go to the warranty document on your dashboard (in Folder or find relevant file)

Step 2. Click /tap under the “actions” column on the far right of document

Step 3. Select the Warranty Expiry option

Step 4. Enter the expiry date into the calendar

Step 5. Click / tap the Set Warranty button

Your warranty expiry date is now recorded against the warranty document.

For convenience - the expiry dates are colour coded so that you can instantly know where your warranty is at.

GREEN means still in warranty

AMBER means expiring soon

RED means out of warranty

Your dashboard will display the next 3 warranty expiry dates so that you can always be up to date.

Examples of some common warranties for your property:

  • Air-conditioning units

  • Dishwasher

  • Oven

  • Refrigerator

  • Washing Machine

  • Termite Warranty

  • Building Defect Warranty

  • Building Structure Warranty

  • Hot Water System

  • Furniture

  • Appliances

  • Building products / materials

What information you should give to the buyer of your property.

Settle down

Finally your property has gone unconditional and settlement is coming up. You look in your kitchen drawer and see a manual for the air-conditioning unit and one for the oven. Its makes you think, “I’d better leave them the garage remotes, the keys to the window locks too”. But there is a lot more you can give to ensure the new owner has everything they need to take over the property.

Finally, your property has gone through and passed all the inspections and settlement in just around the corner. In your kitchen draw waiting t

here is a checklist.


Any documents of files for the property. Don’t include any personal information like legals or finance:

Plans - Architectural, Engineering, Drainage, Electrical, Services

Warranties - Appliances, Pest treatments,

Manauals - Appliances

Certificates - Form 16’s, Form 21’s, Occupancy Certificate, Pest management treatment Certificate

Soil test

Specifications - From the original build or extension

Product information - Carpet

Approvals and Permits - Building and Planning etc

Paint colours - Sometimes there is also a finishes schedule

Title - Solicitor should provide this as part of the Conveyancing


Provide the name, address, email and phone number for handy contacts like:

Pool shop









Leave a note about some helpful tips like:

  • There is free Yoga in the local park every Saturday at 8:00am

  • Slow down at dusk as there can be Kangaroos on the road

  • There is storage space in the attic

  • There are four goldfish in the garden pond. We feed them fish food once per week.

  • You can get a free resident parking permit from the council

Physical things

Give keys and garage/gate/lift remotes and security alarm access codes to the Selling agent or direct to the buyer at settlement. Other items below can be left at the property.

Remotes - TV, Blinds

Spares - Roof tiles, floor tiles, carpet, paint etc

Having these items ready for the next owner helps them to get settled quickly.

inndox has it sorted

Now what if you provided all the documents, contacts and tips in an easy to use app? Well we already thought of that. We call it inndox. Its easy to use and it makes your property very attractive to potential buyers if you provide this to the Sales agent when the property goes on the maket. The agent shres the inndox with potential buyers and they are reassured that the property is safe, compliant and well maintained and that settling in will be a lot easier with all the right information right their on their mobile phone.

Get your residential or commercial property ready for the next owner and maximise its saleability. Visit now.

Copy of What documents a Builder should give to a client at handover.

Handover documents?

What documents a Builder should give to a client

Professional Builders know that the days of leaving a few manuals and the garage remote in the kitchen drawer are long gone.  Customers today expect a better experience.

Here is a list of items that could be included.  What is included will depend upon the type of building and inclusions.

  1. Building Contract

  2. Approvals and Permits

  3. Final Certificates

  4. Manuals (Appliances etc)

  5. Maintenance information

  6. Warranties

  7. Plans

  8. Finishes Schedule e.g. Details of paint, tiles, carpets etc

  9. Product information

  10. Trade contacts

You should also get at least two sets of keys to locks (doors and windows), alarm codes, remotes controls.

This list is not exhaustive but does give an idea about the sort of documents and items that should be provided.

If you have any questions email us and we are happy to help