Termites can cause serious damage to your home, affecting both its structure and integrity. Termite damage can also be costly to repair. Let’s take a closer look at how to recognize when you have a termite problem, as well as the different types of termite treatments that are available today.
The first step in preventing termites is to identify when you have a problem. Termites eat wood from the inside out so they often go undetected for long periods of time, causing substantial damage before you even realize you have a problem. Recognizing the signs of termites in your home is a good first step to identifying their presence. Common signs of termites include:
- Noise: Soldier termites bang their heads against the wood or shake their bodies when disturbed. This can be heard as a quiet clicking sound coming from your walls.
- Discarded wings: Swarming termites leave existing colonies to reproduce and establish new colonies. Once they mate, they discard their wings. These wings can often be found near doors and windows.
- Warped wood: Termites produce moisture as they tunnel through wood. This moisture causes wood to warp, making doors and windows difficult to open and paint to bubble. This can often resemble water damage.
- Damaged wood: Termites eat wood from the inside out, leaving behind a labyrinth of tunnels in damaged wood. This wood will then make a hollow or papery sound when tapped on.
- Feces: Termite feces, also known as frass, is left behind as termites tunnel through wood. Frass can be seen as piles of pellets, black marks, or a dark, powdery substance near the sites of damage.
- Mud tubes: Subterranean termites will build mud tubes to provide moisture and to protect them from predators. They use these tubes to travel between their colony and their food source. These tubes are usually found near foundations.
- Using concrete foundation.
- Leaving ventilation space between the soil and the wood.
- Covering exposed wood surfaces with sealant or a metal barrier.
- Keeping the soil around foundations dry (through proper grading, adequate drainage, and clear gutters and downspouts).
- Reducing openings termites can use to get in (by filling cracks in cement foundations and sealing around where utilities pass through walls).
- Fixing leaks immediately.
- Keeping vents free from blockage.
- Making sure trees and shrubs are not planted too close to the home.
- Not allowing trees and shrubs to grow against exposed wood.
- Not piling firewood or wood debris next to the house.
- Having annual termite inspections performed.
Once you have an established termite infestation, the next step is deciding which termite control treatment is best for your situation. Treatments depend on a variety of factors including the type of termite you are dealing with, the severity of the infestation, the type and size of your home, whether it is a new construction or an existing home, the cost of the treatment, and more. There are four main types of termite treatments:
Liquid-soil termite treatments are used on the soil surrounding your home to act as a treatment barrier. They are long lasting, providing protection for an average of 5 years. With these treatments, a trench is dug around the perimeter of your home and liquid termiticide is applied. The trench is then filled back in. This method helps prevent future infestations, as well as killing any existing termites as they travel between your home and their nests.
Bait station treatments are another option for treating termites. In this method, bait stations are strategically placed around your home. Each station contains a slow-acting termiticide that the termites take back to their nests and share with other termites. These treatments can take longer to affect termites. They also require regular monitoring and maintenance to make sure each station still contains bait.
Wood treatments offer another alternative to termite control. These treatments utilize either surface sprays and treatments or injected sprays and foams. Wood treatments kill existing termites and also soak into the wood to prevent future problems. These treatments require direct access to infested wood which can be difficult to get to in some circumstances. Sprays are better for use in new construction treatments as the wood can be treated as the house is being built. Injected foams are better for use on existing structures as they can expand into cracks and crevices that sprays may not be able to reach.
Pre-treated building materials are best used for new construction. The termiticide can either be sprayed or brushed on. Termiticide can also be applied anywhere the new structure comes into contact with the soil, allowing the soil to be pretreated. Using pressure treated wood is also an option as termites are less likely to infest wood that has been mixed with chemicals.