Skip to page content
USDA Forest Service

Research & Development Treesearch

Treesearch Home
About Treesearch
Contact Us
Research & Development
Forest Products Lab
International Institute of Tropical Forestry
Pacific Northwest
Pacific Southwest
Rocky Mountain
Southern Research Station
Help - We Participate  Government Made Easy

Global Forest Information Service

US Forest Service
P.O. Box 96090
Washington, D.C.

(202) 205-8333

You are here: Home / Search / Publication Information
Bookmark and Share

Publication Information

View PDF (1.3 MB bytes)

Title: Finding and Keeping a Healthy House

Author: Biesterfeldt, R.C.; Ambeurgey, T.L.; Williams, L.H.;

Date: 1973

Source: Gen. Tech. Rep. SO-1. New Orleans, LA: U.S. Dept of Agriculture, Forest Service, Southern Forest Experiment Station. 22 p.

Publication Series: General Technical Report (GTR)


A house is the average family's most expensive and important possession. It stands between the family and the world, and it will continue to do so as long as it stays healthy. Curing a sick house, one that has a serious case of decay or insect damage, can be a big job. But preventive medicine is no great chore in a well-constructed house. This booklet provides tips for selecting a healthy house and for keeping it that way.

At Gulfport, Mississippi, years of research by the Southern Forest Experiment Station have demonstrated that good construction is essential for excluding decay, termites, or other structural pests. Unfortunately, construction practices are not always the best, and many people do not know how to maintain their houses. As a result, houses often fail to outlive their mortgages without costly repairs. The annual costs of termite damage and control exceed $500 million in the United States. Estimates of losses to wood decay are not available, but the costs, including outlays for repairs, probably are as high as those for termites.

No buyer is looking for a house that is infested with termites or weakened by rot, but many a buyer gets just that. A termite inspection is required before certain types of home mortgages can be obtained, but for the most part the buyer must depend upon himself or his agent to find a healthy house. In a poorly constructed house, damage may not be visible. The buyer, therefore, should give careful attention to design features as well as signs of insects or decay.

Many buyers who would carefully inspect an old house for evidence of decay and structural pests fail to consider these wood destroyers when choosing a new house. Their confidence is often misplaced. If it is not properly protected, the sapwood lumber used in new homes is highly susceptible to decay and insects. If poor construction makes the wood vulnerable, damage almost certainly will occur in just a few years. In one sense, an old house is less of a risk. It has stood the test of time. If it is healthy now it will probably remain so with proper maintenance.

In this booklet, the destroyers of wood in houses are discussed in order of probable occurrence. Decay comes first because it is the most likely form of damage in most houses. Termites and other wood-destroying insects are covered next, and wood-nesting insects last.

Publication Notes:

  • We recommend that you also print this page and attach it to the printout of the article, to retain the full citation information.
  • This article was written and prepared by U.S. Government employees on official time, and is therefore in the public domain.
  • You may send email to to request a hard copy of this publication. (Please specify exactly which publication you are requesting and your mailing address.)



Biesterfeldt, R.C.; Ambeurgey, T.L.; Williams, L.H. 1973. Finding and Keeping a Healthy House. Gen. Tech. Rep. SO-1. New Orleans, LA: U.S. Dept of Agriculture, Forest Service, Southern Forest Experiment Station. 22 p.


 [ Get Acrobat ]  Get the latest version of the Adobe Acrobat reader or Acrobat Reader for Windows with Search and Accessibility

USDA logo which links to the department's national site. Forest Service logo which links to the agency's national site.