Out of all the potential pests, the one, any homeowner, dreads most is termites. These relatives of the ant devour wood as a vital part of the ecosystem. Unfortunately, they are not able to distinguish between a tree and a house. These pests will often cause structural damage to homes. While the process takes time, the faster you identify a potential termite problem, the less potential damage there will be.
Table of Contents
- How to Identify a Termite
- How to Locate Termites: Conducting a Termite Inspection
- What Are the Signs of a Termite Infestation
- Termite Control and Treatments
- Professional Termite Treatment Methods
- Termite Tenting/Fumigation (Drywood)
- Termite Heat Treatment (Drywood)
- Cold Treatment (Drywood)
- Electro-Gun and Microwave Termite Treatment (Drywood)
- Orange Oil Termite Treatment (Drywood)
- Bait Traps (Subterranean)
- Professional Termite Treatment Cost Comparisons
- How long does termite treatment last?
- Tips for Hiring a Professional
- How to Prevent Termite Infestations
- Termite Prevention when Building a new Home
- Protecting Your Home From Termites
- Using Barriers Against Subterranean Termites
- Dealing with Termite Damage
- Final Thoughts on How To Get Rid of Termites
How to Identify a Termite
The first step to identifying a termite infestation is to understand whether you have termites. Due to their physical similarities to ants, this is not a simple matter of spotting a termite and then setting a few traps. The process is much more involved. You must not only confirm the existence of colonies but that you are dealing with termites and not ants.
Furthermore, it is important to identify the species of termite to treat an infestation properly. Finally, looking for structural signs will determine whether there are active colonies in your home.
Where do You Find Termites
Contrary to popular belief, most termites do not nest in wood. Termites eat cellulose, which means any plant-based object is a potential food source. Subterranean termites live underground, and you may find infestations in your garden, wood piles, or even compost heaps.
There are approximately 50 species in the United States, 20 of which are considered structural pests. Most termite species are located in the southern states and along the Pacific rim, although they can be found in every state except Alaska.
How do You Get Termites?
Termite infestations may happen for many reasons. Sometimes a swarm of alates (winged reproductive termites) will land on your home during their mating flight.
Drywood termite colonies may have existed in furniture or picture frames before you purchased them.
Subterranean termites may have discovered wood in the exterior of your home. Or they may have wandered in through cracks as small as one thirty-second of an inch (the width of a business card) in your foundation.
Any foliage within 28 inches of your home may be potential sources if they are infested. Moisture and sources of cellulose, such as wood or other plant matter, attract termites.
Types of Termite Species
There are three major species of invasive termite in the United States. Each of these has a slightly different habitat and may appear in different parts of the country. For example, dry wood termites require less moisture than other species and may thus sometimes be found inhabiting furniture.
As the name implies, dampwood termites prefer moist, rotting wood. This group of wood termites is least likely to infest your house. And finding them is a sure sign of other moisture-related structural issues. They are mainly found in the Pacific Northwest and can be treated using the same methods as dry wood termites.
Drywood termites are a major threat to homes. You can find colonies in everything from walls to furniture even to picture frames. Drywood damage is generally across the grain, and the colonies are almost entirely invisible, save for frass (termite feces) and small exit holes.
Unlike subterranean and dampwood varieties, the drywood termite is can exist in arid environments and has a wide distribution due to their ability to hide in wood as thin as a pencil. As their colonies are small, it is much easier to deal with drywood species as opposed to other species. Unfortunately, it may prove difficult to locate these colonies due to the size and lack of visible activity beyond frass and kick holes.
Unlike dampwood and drywood termites, subterranean termites are found primarily underground and in wooden structures near or adjoining the ground. As such, both detection and treatment methods are vastly different. They are most commonly found in the warmer southern states, as they prefer moist, loose soil. Subterranean workers are nearly indistinguishable from drywood workers.
These termites are native to China and are considered the most destructive insect in the world. Found mostly in the southern states, Formosan alates have white furry wings much larger than their tan bodies. Unlike other termite species, the alates are not attracted to light. The soldiers are aggressive if provoked and will often attack in groups.
There is no known way to eliminate these termites, and most southern states have created centers for monitoring and documenting infestations. Most pest control agencies are not qualified to handle Formosan termites, which have shown a high resistance to chemical and non-chemical treatments alike.
Due to their aggressive nature, experts warn against trying to combat Formosan termites yourself, and pest control agencies are limited to confirming sightings.
Termite Biology and Social Structure
Termites live in a caste system very similar to ants. There are four varieties of termite within the caste system, each with its physical distinctions. When you spot a termite, whether winged termites or ground termites, knowing which type it is will help identify whether you have an existing or potential infestation.
Termite life starts and ends with the reproductive caste, consisting of male “kings” and female “queens”. Also known as alates, the reproductives will leave their colony for a single mating flight. While drywood termites only produce a few hundred alates, subterranean termite alates number several hundred or more. Within a few minutes of taking flight, the alates will pair off and mate. They then land, shedding their wings, and begin the process of laying eggs an dbuilding a colony of termites.
Alates are attracted to light and may often be found congregating around light fixtures. They are a highly visible sign of an infestation. If you were not around to see the swarm cloud, you might still discover the signs that one was around by the uniform discarded wings.
In both drywood and subterranean varieties, the eggs hatch into larva. However, in subterranean species, the larva is assigned to a caste, whereas in drywood species, the larva becomes workers who then develop into other castes.
Workers are the main threat to your home. These juvenile termites are the ones who eat into the wood, turning it into cellulose food which is then shared with the rest of the colony. Unlike ants, all termites become workers during their second stage instead of larvae, making them the most common form of termite.
Upon maturing, workers may become either soldiers or reproductives. It is generally not possible to identify the type of termite based upon a worker, as size and other factors may vary.
Soldiers are distinguishable by their large mandibles. Their job is to protect the colony from invasion. The fact that soldiers can neither reproduce nor damage wood on their own may make them seem harmless.
However, if you are dealing with soldiers, then you are also dealing with a colony nearby. There are very few soldiers in a drywood termite colony, and they appear larger with brownish heads and toothed mandibles in these species.
Telling Ants and Termites Apart
There are several physical distinctions between ants and termites. Knowing these differences will allow you to determine which is invading your home:
- Ants have bent antennae, while termites have straight, beadlike antennae.
- Termites have an elongated abdomen.
- Ants have a small triangular section called a pedical between their thorax and abdomen.
- The front and back wings of a termite are roughly equal in size and shape, whereas the front wings on an ant are much larger than the hind wings.
How to Locate Termites: Conducting a Termite Inspection
Whether you suspect or have confirmed a termite infestation, it is essential to perform a thorough inspection and follow up with treatment. As termite damage happens at a relatively slow pace, confirmation of a colony does not require you to rush for immediate treatment.
Instead, focus on locating the best professional exterminator for your area or find a do-it-yourself treatment method which best appeals to you.
The first step in dealing with termites is to determine whether you have an infestation, where the infestation is located, and how well-established the infestation has become. An expert must generally perform an inspection. However, there are some inspections you may perform yourself.
When hiring a professional, be sure that they have a good reputation, as some inspectors have been known to suggest treatments that are more extreme than necessary.
A termite bond is a special service agreement between a termite company and the homeowner. This agreement guarantees that a certified inspector will inspect your home for signs of termite damage and infestation, as well as termite control treatment and annual inspections. Termite bonds are important, as most pest control agencies do not handle termites.
Termite Inspections for Home Purchase
If the inspector finds no signs of termite activity, they will often sign a certificate stating your home is termite-free. This is known as a Wood Destroying Insect Report, or a Termite Certificate.
The report has two parts outlining measures which are needed to protect the home, as well as any potential problems discovered. These certificates help preserve the value of your home, which may be severely affected by the presence of termites.
Besides, many areas require disclosure of termite infestation by law, making termite inspections a vital part of any real estate transaction. A one-year connecting warranty may also be necessary.
Termite Inspection Cost
Unless your home is currently part of a real estate transaction, most pest control agencies will inspect your home at no cost. However, if a Wood Destroying Insect Report is necessary.
What Are the Signs of a Termite Infestation
Identifying a single termite or even a couple termites may not be enough to prove an infestation, as these insects are a vital part of the ecosystem and may have been carried in from nearby wooded areas. However, there are several ways to identify whether there is an infestation in your home.
Examine woodwork, especially porch posts and other woodwork which comes into contact with the ground, as well as stone or concrete foundations for signs of a colony.
Winged Termite Swarms
If you see flying termites near or around your home, it’s a sign that a termite colony is nearby. These winged termites are likely to swarm around a light source, just like flying ants or moths. They will look similar and a normal person will not be able to tell them apart.
Discarded Swarmer Wings
Termite swarmers don’t keep their wings for life. Once they shed their wings, they will start to search for places to build their new nests.
If you see small piles of discarded swarmers’ wings on window sills, on the ground or caught in spider webs, there may be a termite colony about to begin or one nearby.
Subterranean termites build mud tubes used as links between their food source and the colony. Mud Tubes are made of soil, wood, and debris, which help them protect the colony from predators and conserve moisture.If there’s a subterranean termite infestation, these mud tubes can be found at the foundations of your home or in its substructure.
When subterranean termites eat through the wood of your house, they create and leave termite galleries. These galleries are empty spaces left in the wood as they burrow through it. Typically, termite galleries run parallel to the grain of the wood.
Drywood Termite Frass (Feces)
Drywood termites produce frass, or wood-colored droppings, which is usually dumped from their chambers via small holes in the woodwork. This provides small, yet noticeable piles of wood-like feces underneath infested wood structures.
While they may at first resemble sawdust, they are granular in shape and vary in color, whereas sawdust resembles tiny shavings or splinters and is a more uniform color. If you spot a pile of frass, it is a clear sign of infestation.
Termite frass can be difficult to locate due to its size. However, you may discover some on surfaces such as window ledges or countertops. If you spot a frass pile, sweep it away and continue to observe the area for the next week or two. If you do not see any fresh frass, then the colony has likely relocated or has died out.
Also, search the area, including the ceiling, for a one-sixteenth inch hole that may or may not be filled with a discolored material. This is the frass kick out a hole. It is often easier to tap a suspected area soundly, especially on furniture.
The places where drywood termites have been active will sound more hollow than the surrounding areas, and you may knock some frass out of the kick holes, making them much easier to locate. Once a drywood termite colony has been discovered, it is possible to disinfect or spot treat the area.
Drywood Termite Holes
As mentioned, drywood termites tend to expel their frass through tiny holes. However, they also bore holes whenever the hive produces swarmers to allow them to exit. Spotting these tiny exits may be difficult, but locating them often signals the existence of a well-established colony.
Subterranean Termite Tubes
Unless there is excessive moisture from a leaky roof or pipe, subterranean termites require soil to provide moisture. As a result, they will often build mud tubes along foundation walls or another masonry which separates their food source from the ground.
These tubes are a generally visible sign that there is termite activity in your home, although they may be less noticeable if built in cracks or joints in your foundation. If these muddy lines measure more than one-quarter inch in width, it is a clear sign that your infestation is serious and needs immediate attention.
Termite Control and Treatments
Termites are very persistent, and even the most effective treatments are not permanent. A professional termite control may be the best and the last resort in eliminating a termite colony, but it is important to practice prevention and to remember that a visible infestation will likely only be a tiny portion of the entire problem. Thankfully, there are many ways of dealing with termites once you’ve confirmed them.
DIY Termite Treatment Methods
There are numerous methods available for treating an infestation yourself. None are as effective as a professional treatment for large-scale infestations, although they may prove effective at destroying minor infestations or preventing new ones. Below are some steps on how to kill termites yourself.
Borax (Boric Acid)
The most common chemical for dispatching termites and other pests, boric acid is widely available. Once ingested, the boric acid will shut down the termite’s central nervous system while dehydrating it. While often used in organic household products, boric acid is toxic and should be kept away from children and pets. To make a boric acid bait station for subterranean termites:
- thoroughly coat or spray a piece of wood or cardboard with the boric acid
- plant the bait in a known infestation spot
- check the area surrounding the bait station regularly for carcasses and add more boric acid as necessary
This method will not eliminate a termite problem, but it can significantly reduce the number of active termites. Take several flat strips of cardboard, wet them, then stack them in a place you believe there to be termite activity. The termites will infest the cardboard, which they see as a food source.
Once the strips are infested, merely take the strips outside or to a fireplace and burn them. By repeating this process, you may eliminate hundreds of termites, slowing down their destruction. This method works best in tandem with other spot treatments.
This method of repelling subterranean termites may have limited success. Dig a groove around the perimeter of your home approximately six inches deep and filled with rock salt, then water. This will serve as a temporary barrier and kill some of the termites. The downside is that rock salt can also harm your soil and any plants which soak up the salt water.
Commonly used for eliminating ants, pouring boiling water into the entrance of a termite colony will kill termites on contact. This works better on subterranean termites than drywood termites due to how small the entry points for drywood colonies are.
It should be noted that this method will only kill those termites which come into contact with the water and that this treatment is neither permanent nor completely effective against an entire colony. It may be a useful option when preparing to add barriers to your home, however.
Beneficial nematodes aresmall, unsegmented worms are available at most garden stores and are natural predators of subterranean termites. Simply plant nematodes in 60 degrees or warmer soil early in the morning or after sunset. The nematodes search for hosts, such as termite larvae, and burrow into them, causing death in approximately 48 hours. The carcass is then used for nematodes spawning. This method is one of the best ways on how to get rid of termites naturally.
DIY Termite Extermination Methods
Many of the chemicals used by professionals pests control services to eliminate termites are available for personal use. These methods require time. Carefully follow the labels to avoid potentially dangerous side effects. Note that some states prohibit public use of certain chemicals or methods, so be sure to check state and local laws before purchasing any of these treatments.
Termite chemicals generally come in three forms: liquid concentrate, aerosol spray, and foam. These treatments are non-repellent, meaning they are undetectable to termites. The termite will pick up the termiticide and carry it to their nest where it is transferred to other termites.
Termidor SC (Subterranean)
Termidor SC is widely considered the most effective termiticide available to the public, this chemical treatment will last up to ten years and can kill a termite colony in as little as 90 days. One bottle of concentrate will treat up to 60 lineal feet. In order to apply the Termidor SC, several steps must be followed.
- Dig a trench around the perimeter of your home measuring six inches wide by six inches deep. The trench should be against the foundation, not away from it.
- Pour four gallons per ten lineal feet of the termiticide. Work evenly one section at a time and make your way around the house. Be sure to wear protective gloves and avoid splashing.
- Once the termiticide has soaked into the soil, fill a gallon hand-pump sprayer with more of the mixture. Refill the trench by spraying the termiticide into the displaced soil as you go so that there is no untreated soil above the bottom treatment layer.
Dominion 2L (Subterranean)
A cheaper alternative to Termidor SC, Dominion 2L is also available to the public. One bottle will treat up to 120 lineal feet and generally lasts five to seven years before a new application is required. The application process of this termiticide is the same as Termidor SC.
Baiting Systems (Subterranean)
There are several baiting systems on the market, all of which follow the same basic principles. Bait stations with a cellulose compound are placed at 10-15 foot intervals around your home. You must check these regularly for signs of termite activity. Once a station becomes infested with termites, the cellulose cartridge is replaced by a termiticidal cartridge, killing the termites.
Bait stations are highly effective when monitored consistently, but may take years to fully eradicate a termite problem. If not checked regularly, their effectiveness diminishes. Note that this method works best when used in conjunction with a chemical barrier.
Termite Foam Treatment (Drywood)
This product requires you to drill holes in order to apply the treatment. When drilling into drywall, it is usually best to drill 18 inches from the floor and between each stud in the infested area. For drilling directly into the wood, it is best to drill small holes every three to four inches until you find a spot where the drill does not meet resistance.
This is likely a termite gallery and thus where you will apply the foam. Follow the label and apply the foam directly into the hole. Note that it may take up to 90 days to completely eliminate the termites in the treated area.
Boracare (All Species)
Boracare is a special wood treatment which is best used 90 days after applying a chemical barrier around your home. It is specially designed to soak into any cellulose material (wood, poster board, paper, cardboard, etc.) and acts as both a deterrent and a poison.
If ingested, it will kill the microorganisms within the termite’s digestive tract necessary for breaking down cellulose, effectively causing the termite to starve to death. It may also be sprayed on concrete to prevent the creation of mud tubes.
Unfortunately, while this product works on a variety of insect and even fungi, it cannot be applied to wood that is painted, stained, or otherwise finished unless they are first stripped.
Professional Termite Treatment Methods
Many treatment methods may only be administered by certified professionals due to the cost of equipment and handling of dangerous chemicals. These methods are often considered a last resort, and may require extensive preparation and additional costs. The most common methods are gas fumigation, heat fumigation, and orange oil treatment.
Termite Tenting/Fumigation (Drywood)
In extreme cases of termite infestation, exterminators will usually recommend fumigation. This method, also known as tenting, is different from spot fumigation methods, and may only be administered by a professional exterminator. While highly effective, tenting is also dangerous towards humans and will require your entire family to stay elsewhere during the treatment.
Termite tenting gets its name from the use of a tarpaulin or tent in order to seal the house. The tarp is usually anchored to the ground using large containers of water, which you will be expected to provide.
Once sealed, termiticidal gasses such as methyl bromide or Vikane are pumped into the home. Large fans are installed within the house, distributing the gasses concentrate and allowing them to seep into every portion of the structure.
Methyl bromide is slowly being phased out in favor of Vikane due to environmental and health concerns. Vikane does not leave surface residue and has less impact on the environment. The disadvantage is that Vikane gas will kill termite colonies but cannot prevent future infestations. For this reason, it is best followed up with additional barrier methods.
The entire process generally lasts two to three days, and extensive preparation is required beforehand. These preparations include:
- sealing all food and medicine into protective bags, which the exterminator will provide
- all plants removed within a certain radius of the home and the soil soaked with water to prevent the termiticidal gas from seeping into the ground
- all bedding must be removed, and mattresses or box springs must either be removed or sealed in fumigant-proof bags.
- attached fencers or similar structures must be removed temporarily to provide a proper seal
- all external attachments such as lightning rods, television aerials, and weather vanes, must be removed prior to tenting
- anything living in the house must be removed, including plants, fish, and people
Note that in cases where two or more homes are attached, those homes will also need to follow this procedure, as there is no way to prevent the gasses from seeping into an attached structure.
Methyl bromide was once the most common termiticidal gas. However, it is being phased out in the United States due to several major health and environmental risks.
Exposure to the gas at concentrated levels can result in damage or failure of the central nervous and respiratory systems, as well as damage to skin, eyes, and lungs. While it dissipates rapidly, the gas is known to deplete ozone and will harm or kill anything living at the site of the fumigation.
Vikane, or Solfuryl flouride, is safer than Methyl bromide and is being phased in as the primary fumigant gas in the United States. This treatment is not without its own health risks, however. It is easily inhaled and traces may linger for as much as 30-40 years. Side effects of exposure may include:
- metabolic acidiosis
- pulmonary edema
- heart arrhythmia
- lowered levels of calcium
In some extreme cases, exposure to Vikane gas may result in death.
Fumigation is an extremely expensive venture and is generally reserved for only the most extreme cases where there is extensive structural damage. Costs vary greatly due to local laws, location of the house, and numerous other factors.
These estimations do not take into account other cost factors, such as temporary housing for your family and pets, barrier methods to prevent future infestations, and repairs to the structural damage.
Termite Heat Treatment (Drywood)
An increasingly popular alternative to gas fumigation is the use of heat treatments. When heat treating, hot air is pumped into the home instead of chemicals. This temperature is then maintained until the termite colony has been destroyed. The entire process including setup usually takes less than one day. Another advantage is that heat may be used for spot treatments.
Preparation and Treatment
A thorough inspection of your home by a professional exterminator will locate the active colonies. He or she will then create a list of items and appliances which must be removed from the house before treatment may begin.
Special heaters are then used to blow hot air throughout your home, raising the temperature to between 120 and 140 degrees Fahrenheit. In order to effectively kill the termites, wood must keep an internal temperature of 120 degrees for at least 35 minutes.
Disadvantages of Heat Treatment
While safer than fumigation, heat treatments may cause some damage to heat-sensitive items such as wax seals if left within your home. Most furniture, toys, and other items will not be able to withstand heat treatment and must be removed from target areas.
In some instances, cool rooms may be sectioned off, and the use of fans or thermal blankets used to protect some items from damage. Spot treatments require the use of sensors to ensure a lethal temperature is maintained in the target areas.
Appliances must also be turned off to avoid damage. As this method does not leave chemical traces, it cannot prevent future infestations, and there is a chance during spot treatments that termites will flee the areas being heated.
Heat Fumigation Costs
If you are considering heat fumigation, it is important to consider hidden costs. For a whole-house treatment, the home must be tented in the same manner as gas fumigation. Anything sensitive to heat, such as plastics and furniture, must be removed or placed in designated cool rooms.
The process itself varies in cost. While spot heat treatments involve fewer additional costs, it is more difficult to maintain constant temperatures and some termites may flee the treated area, leaving prices high.
Cold Treatment (Drywood)
This method works the same as heat treatment. For cold treatment, liquid nitrogen is used to bring the target area’s temperature down to a constant 15 degrees Fahrenheit. Unfortunately, this process requires four days to complete.
In small areas, it is possible to drop the temperature to negative five degrees Fahrenheit, killing the termites in as little as five minutes. The same risks, costs, and considerations as heat treatment apply.
Electro-Gun and Microwave Termite Treatment (Drywood)
A relatively new form of treatment, the electro-gun and microwave system is available in many areas. These guns are used on small colonies and send 180,000 volts through the termite galleries. This heats the wood both inside and out, killing any termites. Unfortunately, the process requires precise detection and is not yet widely offered by professionals.
Orange Oil Termite Treatment (Drywood)
Orange oils contain D-limonene, a chemical extracted from orange rinds and common in many household products. This method is preferred among those who are concerned with the use of pesticides, and is highly biodegradable. The downside is that termites must come into contact with the oil for it to be effective, so this is not a long-term solution.
How it works
Treatment consists of drilling holes into infested wood and injecting the orange oil. The oil dissolves the termite’s exoskeleton, killing it upon contact, and the surrounding wood soaks up much of the oil. Any termites that did not come into contact with the oil will die if they consume recently treated wood. When treatment is completed, the holes are sealed, leaving an orange scent.
Costs and Considerations
Orange oil only works on small areas where a termite colony has been discovered. As most wood in the home is hidden, plastered over, or in difficult to reach areas, it is almost impossible to test every single piece of wood for infestation. This means that orange oil treatments are only effective where applied and should not be the sole method of extermination.
The cost of an orange oil treatment varies considerably, and while initial treatments may seem cheap, ongoing treatments can cost more than a full fumigation. As it is possible for termites to flee treated areas and return within weeks, it is often likely that the same areas will have to be treated multiple times.
Finally, orange oil is only a temporary solution and additional methods are necessary in order to prevent future infestations.
Bait Traps (Subterranean)
Once subterranean termite activity has been located, a professional will install monitoring stations in the area to determine the best locations for placing bait traps. Workers will identify the traps as a new source of food and share the insecticides with other members of their colony.
As the poisons used require up to several weeks to kill, most exterminators will use other methods in conjunction with bait traps.
Professional Termite Treatment Cost Comparisons
The following chart provides a quick reference for choosing a professional treatment method. Note that the prices listed do not include additional costs such as storage, temporary housing, or repairs. As the cost may vary greatly from one location to another, it is always best to get an estimate from at least three professional exterminator services before making a final decision.
|Treatment method||Effectiveness||Est. Price||Notes|
|Gas Fumigation||99-100%||$4-7.50/sq. ft.||Must vacate home for 3-5 days; numerous additional costs.|
|Heat Fumigation||95%||$1/sq. ft.||Must remove or protect all heat-sensitive items.|
|Liquid Nitrogen||90%||(no data)||Drilling is required.|
|Microwave||90%||$1,150||May cause heat damage; small area treatment only.|
|Orange Oil||81%||$750-3,500*||Highly localized and only treats detected colonies.|
|Chemical Barrier||N/A||$1.08-2/sq. ft.||Cost increases for slab foundations; drilling is required; used in conjunction with other treatments.|
|Bait||N/A||$1.20-2.40/sq. ft.||Should be used in conjunction with other treatment methods.|
|Electrocution||10-90%||$1,150||Effectiveness is based upon the number of holes drilled.|
How long does termite treatment last?
The type of treatment plays a large role in how long the termites will be kept away. If you have had a treatment, this is approximately how long it will last, provided it was properly applied:
- Tenting, whether gas, heat, or cold, only eliminates your infestation. It does not protect against future infestations.
- Orange Oil treatments last for no more than one month, and only affect the treated wood.
- Borate treatments will generally last as long as the wood that was treated.
- Liquid barriers are effective for between five and ten years, depending upon the chemical used.
- Soil treatments may last anywhere from a few days to several years. Be sure to check any labels or ask your exterminator for that product’s effective lifespan.
- Microwave and electrocution methods are instantaneous and do not provide further protection, nor do they eliminate risk from undiscovered termite colonies.
- Bait traps eliminate termites over a long period of time and are an ongoing treatment. Their success depends largely upon how well you maintain the traps and whether the termites have simply tunneled around them.
If you have hired a professional exterminator, then chances are, you have a warranty. In such cases, additional applications of the treatment may be covered. Be sure to check the contract to see if a spot treatment is covered.
Tips for Hiring a Professional
When hiring a professional exterminator, it is important to shop around. Different companies will prefer different treatment methods, and some may skew facts in order to get you to choose their method over a more effective one.
For example, many exterminators will push for alternatives to fumigation when fumigation is necessary. Others may even suggest fumigation for a smaller infestation. It is important to remember that termite damage happens over time, and a week or two to choose the right exterminator will make very little difference.
Read the Fine Print!
You have probably heard this saying countless times, and it is no less true for exterminators. While one would expect a professional exterminator to offer the best possible treatment, termite control is a highly competitive market.
Before signing any contract, be sure to check the fine print for any disclaimers on “100 percent guaranteed” contracts which suggest that you pay the cost if the exterminator later determines a different treatment method is necessary. This could easily lead to paying several times what you should have paid and extra damage to your home.
Questions to Ask Before Choosing an Exterminator
One exterminator may suggest a treatment which sounds good, but several others may advise against that treatment. Different companies also offer different benefits to using their services.
Therefore, it is best to call at least three different exterminators before making a decision and weighing their answers carefully. These questions will help you choose the best exterminator for your needs:
- What treatment(s) do you recommend?
- May I see your insurance certificate?
- What will your company do if the termites return after treatment?
- Does my home qualify for a repair guarantee?
- Would I have to pay a deductible on a repair guarantee?
- Can I renew my contract after the initial one-year guarantee, and for how many additional years?
- How much will it cost to renew my contract?
- Once the contract period is over, will I have to retreat my home at my own expense?
- Will there be a discount for the next treatment?
How to Prevent Termite Infestations
Whether you are building a new home or you are clear of infestation, it is important to take steps to prevent termites from invading down the road. Thankfully, there are several ways to reduce the risk of termites, many of which do not require the use of pesticides.
Termite Prevention when Building a new Home
If you are building a new home, there are several measures you can take to help prevent a termite invasion. These methods do not permanently eliminate the risk of infestation, but they will make it harder for termites to attack your home.
Choosing Your Wood
Resinous woods are naturally resistant to termites. You can also purchase wood which is injected with chemicals or treated with borax. Finally, there is some evidence to suggest that pressure treated woods may help deter some species of termites, although it has not yet been determined how effective this is.
Seal Your Home
Make sure that all windows have tight-fitting screens. Test all doors and windows to ensure the frames are completely sealed. Try to keep any wood, including deck posts, at least six inches above the ground using concrete or block bases.
If there are any trees or shrubs near the construction area, be sure to prune them back if they cannot be moved and test regularly for signs of termites in the wood.
Protecting Your Home From Termites
There are many simple things you can do to help prevent a termite invasion. These simple tips may help protect your home from attack.
Avoid Excess Moisture
Subterranean termites love moisture and need it to survive. Check throughout your home for leaks, including fixtures, pipes, and garden hoses. Keep your gutters clean, and clear up any puddles or standing water.
Remove Potential Food Sources
Any wood or tree stumps in your yard may prove as an attractive food source to termites. To avoid possible infestation, keep wood piles raised at least six inches above the ground. If you use wood mulch, do not place it within six inches of your home.
Treat Wood Surfaces with Repellent
While wood shingles cannot be easily protected, you can dilute one tablespoon of permethrin per gallon of paint, wallpaper glue, tile glue, cement, or even wood polish when doing repairs or construction. Permethrin is considered safe and will serve as an effective repellent until the paint or other substance is removed.
Seal any Cracks
By simply caulking around windows and doors, adding screens, and sealing the openings around cables entering your home, you can prevent termites from getting into your home. Even if you already have an infestation, sealing any crawl spaces will help keep additional termites from entering.
Using Barriers Against Subterranean Termites
Barriers are a useful means of combating subterranean termites. While these barriers are often most effective if installed during construction, they may also be added to existing structures. It should be noted that barriers work best when part of a deterrent system and not on their own.
There are many types of barrier you may choose from in addition to using chemicals such as Termidor. Note that these barriers are merely deterrents and do not actually kill termites.
Particle barriers, such as sand and basalt, are best used in climates where the underlying soil does not easily expand with moisture. They also cannot be mixed with soil during construction. Mixing dirt or dust during construction into a particle barrier greatly reduce the effectiveness. Some particle barriers are installed with Biobarrier, which prevents root invasion.
When installing particle barriers or doing later construction, be sure to consult with pest control experts on ways to avoid damaging the barrier.
The cost of adding a barrier to your home varies greatly. Some of the factors which affect the price are:
- whether your home is currently pre-construction or has already been built
- the size of the area to be protected
- the material(s) used for the barrier
- whether the barrier has a chemical, physical, or is a hybrid of components
- signs of any past or current infestation
Basaltic Termite barriers, or BTBs for short, and constructed using basalt, a volcanic rock. The basalt is crushed into particles between one point six and two point five millimeters. This makes the particles too heavy for termites to move while also leaving spaces too small for them to squeeze through.
When used in pre-construction, BTBs are added in layers several inches thick beneath and around the foundation. They may also be installed around existing foundations. Due to the cost of transporting basalt, this type of barrier is most common in Hawaii.
Plastic Termite Barriers
These barriers use plastic sheeting treated with an insect repellent or insecticide to repel termites. They are installed underneath the foundation slab during construction and may involve either one treated layer, or two layers with a layer of termiticide in between.
Pre-construction options include polythylene sheeting treated with termiticide used to seal the places where water pipes enter the house. The termiticides will last up to 20 years. The sheets not only act as a barrier, but they also reduce moisture and may even kill some invaders.
Most termites cannot consume plastic, although Formosans have been known to attack plastic in search of food sources.
While not as effective as a chemical barrier, you may add a sand barrier around your home. This is a trench approximately four inches deep and at least 20 inches wide filled with sand that is between 2 and 2.8 millimeters in size. Smaller sand collapses when the termites attempt to burrow into it, and larger grains are too heavy for them to move.
This will deter many types of subterranean termite, who prefer loose, damp soil. However, there are some species which prefer sand and will remain a threat. They have shown some effectiveness in reducing the risk of Formosan termites in Hawaii.
It is possible to use a residual treatment on the soil before pouring your foundation slabs. You can also purchase chemically-treated insulation and synthetic blocks which will create a lasting barrier. Finally, pre-treating the soil around the perimeter of your home will help provide an early defense against termites and other insects.
Stainless Steel Mesh Barriers
These barriers use a non-toxic steel mesh with openings between 0.66 and 0.44 millimeters. Termites cannot chew or squeeze their way through the barrier, and a variety of shapes are available to deal with different obstacles, such as water pipes. Mesh barriers may only be available through select dealers, and at least one brand requires professional installation.
These barriers are often difficult and expensive to install, but may prove both a partial deterrent and early warning system. A termite shield consists of durable metal sheeting carefully assembled to provide no holes or cracks through which a termite may enter.
Termites will often build mud tubes around or over a shield in order to find an entry point. This allows you to detect a pending termite invasion if you regularly check for signs of tubing. They are not an effective barrier on their own. They are most effective when installed during construction and in conjunction with other forms of deterrent.
Unlike other barriers, termite shields are most often built above-ground where the lower masonry wall meets the wooden beams and components that make up the first floor, or directly on top of a poured foundation.
Dealing with Termite Damage
If you have already suffered from a termite infestation, then you may be facing repairs. Some of these repairs may be simple, but others may require the replacement of structural beams or other major repairs.
What Sort of Damage Can Termites Cause, and How Extensive?
Termites feed on cellulose, meaning anything plant-based is on their menu. This means that everything from beams to furniture and even wallpaper may become fair game. If left untreated, termites can significantly weaken your home to the point of collapse.
Here are just some common areas in which termites are known to cause damage:
Termites may tunnel through ceilings, including drywall. The most noticeable sign of an infested ceiling is sag. Kick holes may also be visible. Left untreated, the ceiling will collapse.
If your floor is beginning to feel weak or soft, then it may be a good idea to take a screwdriver and knock along the soft spots. Damaged floors will almost always need replaced, as they may not be able to handle heavy traffic.
The most common place people imagine a termite colony is also one of the most frustrating. Dealing with drywall termites in your walls mean drilling numerous holes. While it may be less expensive to repair a damaged wall than floor or ceiling, it is time-consuming and some wall studs may need to be replaced.
Termite alates will often land on eaves and dirty gutters are an attractive food source for termites in dry weather. This gives them the perfect chance to munch on the wood in your roof, leading to sagging, leaking, and ultimately collapse. Unfortunately, termite roof damage can only be repaired by replacing sections or the entire roof surface.
Most decks are built using pre-treated wood. However, if your deck hasn’t been properly treated, a termite infestation could cause the deck to become brittle or even collapse. This is especially true of subterranean termites, which will attack the support posts before reaching the floor and railings of the deck.
Drywood termites pose a special threat to wooden furniture. Termite colonies may remain completely unnoticed until the wood has been severely compromised. This may cause your table or sofa to collapse in time.
Does Homeowner’s Insurance Cover Termite Damage?
Unfortunately, the majority of insurance policies do not cover termite damage. Homeowner’s insurance is designed for sudden, accidental damage. As insect damage generally happens over time, most insurance companies consider it a maintenance issue and the responsibility of the homeowner.
For this reason, it is best to consider a termite bond if your home has suffered from multiple infestations.
Final Thoughts on How To Get Rid of Termites
Termites cause approximately five billion dollars in property damage each year within the United States. It is important to have your home inspected for termites every two years as most homeowner’s insurance policies do not cover termite damage.
Be careful in selecting a professional exterminator or treatment method, as the size of your home, the extent of the infestation, and type of termite invading all play a part in what treatments will work best and be most cost-effective.
Finally, use multiple preventative measures to help avoid any infestations in the future.