Did you know that termites are the largest threat to any wooden structure—even more of a threat than fires, flooding, or strong wind? Termites are such a problem, The National Pest Management Association states that they cause Americans over $5 billion in damage each year. Subterranean termites will eat every day, all day, thus making them the most destructive species of termites in the country.
As a proud homeowner, it would make sense that you’re worried about the potential damage that a termite infestation could cause your property and home. Fortunately, you can circumvent an infestation with proper termite pest control.
In this guide, we will explain what causes termites to invade your home, how to check for termites, the different types of termites, how to get rid of termites, and the possible options for treatment for termites.
What Causes Termites To Invade Your Home?
Termites aren’t like other pests because they don’t go after food in your cabinets or crumbs that are on the floor. Instead, termites thrive off of wood. Here are most common reasons why termites will infest your home.
- 1. If your stoop is unkempt (it has cracks, or it is sagging), moisture and precipitation will pool against your home and its foundation. There have been instances where builders have been known to use scraps of plywood to fill in the gaps under the steps. Combine this with the moisture building up, it will encourage termites to forage in the decaying wood.
- 2. If you don’t trim your tree limbs regularly, you are impeding the evaporation of moisture from your home. Try to keep tree limbs trimmed so that worker termites aren’t encouraged to go toward your home.
- 3. If you use mulch to make your flower beds look nice, you might want to reconsider putting the mulch next to your foundation. Some people will even let the debris get so bad that it will build up over time and completely block the foundation. This gives termites direct access to enter your home.
When you touch mulch, you notice that it is very moist and it can cause mold and fungus to grow, both of which are favorites for termites. If you need some sort of decoration in your flower beds, use decorative rocks, as they drain easily and prevents that fungal growth that termites love.
- 4. If you cut down a dead tree, you will want to spend the extra money that tree removal companies will charge to have those stumps ground down. Stumps, when left as is, will collect water and promote fungus to grow. The roots to that stump may extend to your house, thus making a pathway for the fungus and those termites to eventually make their way to your home.
- 5. If you have gutters, it’s a good idea to keep them free of debris. Water can collect in the gutters and could potentially cause water to collect in the void of your walls. If you have wet insulation and wood, then you are increasing the chances of termites setting up a “satellite colony” there. There are termite pest control products that can help prevent termites returning to the ground, which they will do every 24-hours.
- 6. If your gutters drain close to the house, you are making it easy for foraging termites to find your home because the water is collecting along the foundation of your home. You can avoid this by directing the water as far from your home as you can.
- 7. If you have wood lying around the foundation of your home, you are just asking for termites to move in. You want to eliminate any instance of wood to dirt contact as to prevent termites to nesting there. You want to use pressure treated wood for garage door frames, shed floors, or any other structure that requires wood to dirt contact.
- 8. If you have firewood, make sure it isn’t sitting on the ground. You never want to keep the wood that you intend on bringing into your home on the ground because you are bringing them directly into your house. You can find racks at your home and garden store that will put some space between your logs and the ground.
- 9. If you have a crawl space under your house, you want to make sure it is free from debris, it is well ventilated, and there is a moisture barrier in place. These measures may seem extreme for a space that doesn’t get any use, but the space under your house is a breeding ground for all sorts of pests, not just termites. You want to keep it as clean and dry as possible.
- 10. Once a year, you will want to have a professional come and inspect your home to make sure you don’t have any termites. You want to choose a licensed and certified professional because they know how to identify termites and can spot the signs of termites. Of course, they will also give you an estimated cost of termite treatment if it is necessary.
How Do You Know If You Have Termites?
Now that you aren’t wondering where do termites come from, you might be wondering how to tell if you have termites. First of all, before you can identify if you have a termite problem, you need to know that there’re two main types of termites:
Dry Wood Termites
Dry wood termites are found in furniture, the framing of your home, and even in the hardwood flooring. This type of termite will first enter your home as winged termites that are ready for reproduction. They will find a crack in the wood and dig and seal themselves in a tiny next where they will lay eggs and create a colony.
If the colony isn’t detected early enough, they can cause a whole lot of damage to your home in as little as two years. Since this type of termite doesn’t need to be in contact with soil at any point of their life, they will do much more damage than subterranean termites. They can enter your home at the foundation, but they can gain access all the way up to the roof if need be.
Subterranean termites are found in moist soil. These termites thrive in the soil, and any wood that is in contact with soil, such as porch steps, posts and support beams for a deck, as well as door frames and even pathways, are the perfect entry place for these termites. Also, these termites can gain entry to your home through cracks or holes in concrete, brick, and mortar, or cracks in the foundation itself.
These termites will only go up several feet off of the ground, and you can find their colonies because of the mud tubes the start in the soil and move upward. These tubes are necessary for the termites to maintain the proper hydration to keep their bodies soft until they can get to the wood.
Both species prefer warm climates, but don’t be surprised that if you live someplace cold that you’ll have termites living in the soil. Of course, you may not care which species is eating away at your home, you do want to have someone look at which species you have so they can recommend the best termite treatment.
Damp wood termite
There is another type of termite, the damp-wood termite. As the name indicates, these termites dwell in wood that has a high moisture content—typically rotting wood that you may find out in the woods or at the bottom of a trash pile. We rarely find them in our homes and other wooden structures because the wood isn’t damp
So what are some of the indicators that these termite pest control specialists look for when determining if you do, in fact, have a termite problem? Here are five signs that are clear indicators that you’ve got an infestation on your hands.
1. Wood that sounds hollow when struck. Termites are typically found in a dark and humid environment. This means that you won’t find them lounging on top of the wood, munching their way through. Instead, they are actually inside the wood, hollowing out the wood by eating it from the inside. When you knock on a piece of wood, be it a tree or a piece of timber, and it sounds hollow, then you have termites.
2. There are groupings of swarming termites or remnants of discarded wings. Termites that are ready to reproduce will often fly away from their original colony and go somewhere else to start a new colony. Underground termites are pretty predictable and will swarm in the spring. Unfortunately, dry wood termites aren’t as predictable. You can still watch for dry wood termites by looking out for clusters of discarded wings.
3. Paint on wooden surfaces isn't smooth. Swarming dry wood termites tend to enter the wood through a tiny hole in the wood, most of the time you’ll find these holes hidden in the cracks of paint. You should pay close attention to any cracks you may find in your foundation, the roof siding, as well as around the vents and your windows. If you do have cracks, you’ll want to seal them right away and phone an expert for a better investigation.
4. There are mud tubes on outer walls. Termites that live underground will build mud tubes on the surface of your foundation. These tubes provide moisture while they are out looking for food. You can prevent them from forming these tubes by keeping mulch, wood chips, and firewood away from your house so that there isn’t an environment available for these termites prefer.
5. Termite droppings called frass. When dry wood termites eat through wood, they will produce a wood-colored excrement, called frass. To prevent these termites from finding a food source, make sure you keep your gutters, downspouts and the crawlspace under your home free from debris and other wood-like materials.
How To Treat Termites
If you do realize that you have a termite problem on your hands, but it isn’t so bad that you feel like you need to call the professionals, there are ways of getting rid of termites that you can do on your own. We do want to inform you that doing your own termite pest control isn’t going to be easy and it may not be for everyone.
With that said, you have two options for dealing with these wood-loving pests, a termiticide (a liquid insecticide formulated for termites) and a termite bait.
Termiticides are liquid barriers that prevent termites from getting into a wooden structure. When you use these treatments, you are also preventing termites that may already be inside the structure from getting to the moist soil which is necessary for them to live.
If you want to hasten your results with these termiticides, you can apply the solution (make sure you read the directions on the termiticide packaging!) close to the infested area. Keep in mind that this could require some drilling and if you have to drill through concrete, it could be too much for you to handle alone, and this would be a good reason to call an expert.
However, if you have a crawlspace, you can thoroughly saturate the ground around your home, which isn’t going to be nearly as challenging.
You want to look for products that are non-repellents because they aren’t detectable to the termite. If you use a repellent type of termiticide, you run the risk of termites being able to find even the smallest gap of untreated soil and using that to infiltrate your home.
If you aren’t comfortable soaking the ground around your home with chemicals on your own, there are baiting systems available that you can use instead. These baiting systems go directly into the soil around your home. The termites will find these bait traps, eat it, and ultimately die.
Baiting termite colonies are a lot simpler and effective means of treating termites. These baits can also help you keep an eye on the termite situation way before they even become a problem. This is an ideal option for situations where the soil is untreatable because there is a body of water nearby which could become contaminated, or if you are concerned about a chemical pesticide, or even in instances where soil treatments have failed in the past.
If you want to create a DIY baiting system, you can follow these steps:
- 1. First, install monitoring stations ten feet apart from one another around your home’s foundation. These stations will be placed in a hole in the ground near the foundation. These stations have holes in them that allow the termites to get inside and eat the food, which is usually a piece of untreated wood.
- 2. Secondly, replace the untreated wood with bait that’s been laced with a slow-acting chemical that allows the termites to take it back to the colony and share with others. This system was designed so that not do the foraging termites die, but so do the rest of the inhabitants of that colony.
- 3. Finally, keep watching the baits and replace them when they are empty. By letting the baits to be empty for too long, the termites will find their way back to your home.
If you’ve ever ridden through a neighborhood and one of the houses looks like it’s been replaced with a massive bounce house, this is actually a termite tent. The house is completely covered by nylon tent, and it’s sealed up nice and tight.
Then the termite pest control professionals (yes, this is an option where a professional termite extermination company is required) will pump the home full an odorless, colorless, but very poisonous gas, typically sulfuryl fluoride, that will kill the termites.
The whole termite fumigation process can be as short as six hours or as long as a week, depending on the weather, how bad the infestation is, the size of the building, and the dosage of chemicals being used.
During the time of the fumigation, no termites can get in or out of the structure, thus completely eliminating the whole population. To make sure that the gas is dispersed through the entire home, fans are used to circulate the air. When the fumigation period is over, all termites and even the termite eggs will be dead.
Once the process is over, the house is aired out, and the air quality is tested to ensure that homeowners are able to come back into the home. The gas doesn’t leave a residue on anything meaning that items in the home will be okay to use, although most fumigation companies insist that you cover furniture that is used for long periods of time, such as a bed or couches.
Also, before the fumigation begins, homeowners will have to remove food, medications, and house plants from the house. Some technicians will provide special bags that these items could be stored in, just in case the homeowner cannot take them with them.
Termite Pest Control Wrap-Up
Trying to rid your home of a termite infestation isn’t easy. In fact, it can be a pain and downright expensive if the problem is that severe. However, with preventative termite pest control, you can greatly reduce the risk of your home becoming infested by the wood munchers, and all it really takes is a little bit of common sense.
Many homeowners want to improve the landscaping of their home by adding mulch in the flower beds around their home, but this is like laying out a welcome mat to subterranean termites. Instead, choose decorative rocks. In the same vein, keep any debris like leaves, soil, or firewood away from the foundation.
Another way you can prevent termites from making your home their own is by installing termite bait traps around the perimeter of your home. While you will have to monitor the traps regularly, it is a small chore that can save you thousands of dollars in the form of potential damage caused by the termites.
You work hard for your money. You’ve worked hard to have a house that you are proud of. You don’t want to have to find out that your house is riddled with termites and is on the verge of collapsing around you and your family because you didn’t take necessary precautions or you didn’t know what to look for to prevent a termite infestation.
If you are a proactive kind of person, there are termite repellents and sprays available that will help eliminate the problem. However, if you discover that your termite problem is more serious than you thought, you shouldn’t hesitate for a second to call a professional. Your home is on the line, and you shouldn’t hesitate to do whatever needs to be done to keep it bug-free—even if it has to be covered in a fumigation tent and you will need to leave the house for a week.
When you return home, you can have the peace of mind in knowing that all the termite colonies and eggs are dead. Of course, after you go the fumigation route, you might want to become more vigilant about looking for signs that indicate the termites are back.