How to Protect Your House From Termites
How to Protect Your House From Termites or Why I’m Canceling My Termite Treatment
You may have seen my update at the Millie’s Remodel and how I found termite damage under the laundry room floor. I was just completing demolition and discovered the two exterior rim joists crumbled in my fingers. I quickly called my framing contractor and begged him to come out as soon as possible to repair the damage. Then I quietly cursed the former owners of the house for not properly knowing how to protect the house from termites.
Unfortunately, work on the house had come to a screeching halt until this fix could be completed. Luckily, my framers came at the end of the week and replaced the destroyed joists and subfloor. But, all this could have been avoided if the owners knew more about termites. So, today I’m here to beg you to educate yourself on termites and the costly damage they can do to your home. Learn how to protect your house from termites! If you live in the United States (with the exception of Alaska), you have termites! All you Northerners, stop shaking your head at me. I know you’ve been told termites aren’t an issue for you. Keep reading and I’ll tell you why you do need to be concerned!
As a general contractor, a real estate investor, and all around handy girl, I’ve seen my fair share of termite damaged homes (including my personal home.) Therefore, when I hear from people that they don’t believe in termite treatments, I give them a dumbfounded look.
Termites can damage your home, causing costly repairs—or worst yet—an unsafe home. Did you know there is a termite species that can cause major structural damage to a house within six months! And these termites (Formosan Termites) love warm and humid environments. If that describes your area, you are playing with fire (or little wood eating insects) if you don’t have a termite prevention plan.
Top Myths Why People Don’t Have a Termite Treatment Plan:
- Termites Aren’t Common in Our Area
Currently termites have been reported in all of the United States with the exception of Alaska. Warmer temperatures have created a friendlier atmosphere for termites, even in northern states.
- My House is Made of Brick
You may think because your home’s exterior is brick, you aren’t at risk of a termite infestation. But, what’s inside your walls? If your home’s framing (interior walls, floor and ceiling system) have any wood, you are at risk. Not to mention those beautiful wood floors you cherish. The only exception would be if you live in a concrete bunker (or concrete block house) with vinyl or tile floors. And even still, if you have any wood in your house, it can be at risk.
- I Get an Annual Termite Inspection
Some people think they can have their home inspected on a regular basis, and if termites are discovered they can treat the infestation. Remember what I said about the aggressive termite colony that can do major structural damage in as little as six months. This is a new strategy I just heard about, but frankly I believe in prevention vs. repairs.
- I’ve Never Seen Any Termites Near My Home
Most termites are subterranean, meaning they live underground. It’s not likely you would see them or notice an infestation until your home has sustained major damage. Termite tunnels can be detected inside a crawlspace or on the foundation walls. If your home’s foundation is close to ground level, you may not see anything at all until it’s too late. Also, if you have an enclosed crawlspace or encapsulated crawlspace, you may not see the tunnels behind a vapor barrier.
Types of Termites in the Colony:
- Termites workers (the ones that do the actual damage) are small white insects approximately 1cm in size. They are actually very fragile and need moisture to live. Therefore they will bring moisture with them, which helps break down the wood fibers faster. The workers feed the colony.
- Soldiers: Like their name suggests, the termite soldiers have armored heads and powerful jaws eager to defend the colony from enemies such as ants.
- Swarmers: In the spring and early summer, termites will swarm. This is when they grow wings and mate. Sometimes swarming termites are mistaken for flying ants. Although similar, upon closer inspection termites do not have three distinct body segments that ants have. Termites also have four wings the same shape and size. If you see swarmers (or a collection of wings) anywhere around your home, you should contact a professional pest control company immediately!
- The Queen: This Mother can reach up to four inches in length and is responsible for increasing her colony size. Her sole purpose is to mate and lay eggs. At a pace of one egg per second, she can lay up to a million eggs in her lifespan. Lest you think the colony is dead when she dies, another queen is merely waiting in the wings (so to speak.)
How Can You Tell if You Have Termites?
- Swarming termites or termite wings around or inside your home.
- Cracked, bubbled paint, or pin holes can be a sign of termites trying to get out of the walls to swarm.)
- Wood that sounds hollow when tapped.
- Mud tubes or tunnels on your home’s foundation, walls or crawlspace.
Top Ways to Protect Your Home from Termites:
- Eliminate water from around your home:
- Fix leaky faucets and pipes, repair or replace defective gutters or downspouts, get rid of standing water, and trim excessive vegetation from around your home.
- Eliminate food sources for termites on and around your home:
- Keep firewood, paper, and untreated lumber away from the exterior of your home.
- Make sure your home’s siding is not touching or below the ground level. Only concrete, cinder block or brick should be in direct contact with the earth.
- Keep up with all home maintenance and inspections.
- Siding should be in good condition. Replace rotted siding as soon as possible.
- Keep mulch and organic bed coverings at least a foot or more away from foundation walls.
- Inspect your foundation and crawlspace walls for mud tunnels.
- Have an annual termite inspection and termite contract with a reputable company
What to Do If You Find Termite Damage in Your Home?
Dealing with termite damage can be as easy as adding a sister board to a damaged joist or stud in your crawlspace or attic where the framing members are accessible. Worse damage may require replacing the framing member. Some damage requires removing interior finishes and drywall to replace damaged studs and wall members inside the wall. Severe damage may require a structural engineer consultation to determine how to repair, support, or replace load bearing framing, beams, or girders.
Types of Termite Treatments:
- Soil-Applied Barrier Treatment – a trench is dug around the home and chemicals containing termiticides are poured into the trench.
- Bait Stations – Cellulose and insect growth regulator housed in bait stations are installed in the ground around the perimeter of the structure to be protected.
Why I am Canceling My Termite Treatment:
Here’s where I want to let you know this is a sponsored post for Corteva, the manufacturers of Sentricon. I think you know by now that I don’t write sponsored posts unless I thoroughly believe in a product. Yes, I was compensated for my time, but I care more about getting the best information and advice into your hands than I do about collecting money in my account.
Now, let me tell you why I’m canceling my traditional termite treatment plan and how I’ve decided to switch to the Sentricon bait system.
Several months before I found the termite damage at Millie’s Remodel, I renewed our termite contract on our personal residence. The scheduler told me I was due for an inspection and the booster treatment. I knew this meant they had to dig a trench and create a liquid barrier around our home. But, I had no idea how much liquid (aka chemicals) had to be poured in the trench. I was shocked as I watched the technician pour a small river around the entire house. Secretly I thought to myself, “There has to be a better solution.” At the time I wasn’t convinced there was a better termite treatment available. And I certainly wasn’t going to gamble the safety of my house with termites.
A few days later I couldn’t get the images of all those chemicals being poured into the soil out of my head. As an environmentalist, I don’t like using any chemicals around my home, so why would I want massive chemicals dumped into the soil at the base of my house? I ended up doing a lot of research and came across an excellent source of information about termites and EPA approved treatment plans. One of the things I saw on the website furthered my concern about using the traditional soil-applied barrier method to protect our home from termites.
A quote from the EPA website regarding Liquid Soil-Applied Termiticides (aka trench and liquid pour):
If conducted improperly, these treatments can cause contamination of the home and surrounding drinking water wells and will not protect against termites. For that reason, it is important to hire a pest management professional who is licensed and trained to take proper precautions.
I still wasn’t ready to forgo a termite treatment plan. I had seen first hand the damage termites did to our kitchen walls. The problem was our house was not treated before and after a garage addition was built. (Always talk to a termite contractor before building a home or addition. A treatment has to be applied before framing while the crawlspace or slab is open.)
Therefore when Sentricon approached me about their termite system, I was all ears. You should know I was skeptical about bait systems. I mistakenly thought they would attract more termites to a property. After asking a lot of questions, I agreed to try the Sentricon system. But, I talked to several experts at Corteva (the manufacturers of Sentricon), and after thirty minutes of me peppering them with questions, I felt at ease about trusting my investment property with their termite system.
Want to do your own research about the Sentricon System? You’ll want to read more about home treatment on the Sentricon website. Plus, you’ll find the FAQ page extremely helpful for answering a lot of your questions.
How the Sentricon Termite Bait System is Installed:
I scheduled my local Sentricon specialists to first inspect the property to see if it was a good candidate for the system. The tech came out and looked in the crawlspace and around the property. Then he drew a map with a plan for where to install the Sentricon bait stations.
Next we scheduled an installation day. Dave from Arrow Exterminators arrived promptly on install day and was polite enough to answer another list of questions I had. Instead of making you read them, you can watch my video from the Sentricon installation date.
Let me tell you, it was definitely a lot less shocking watching Dave from Arrow Exterminators installing the Sentricon system versus watching chemicals being liberally poured against the foundation.
After numbering the stations, the tech removes the cap on the bait station and scans both the cap…
…and the bait.
The information is stored and makes their job easy when they come back out to check the stations.
Small holes are drilled into the earth around the perimeter of the house.
Then the bait station is inserted into the hole.
The tech may kick dirt over the station to make it invisible to humans! But, it’s not invisible to termites. Although they are blind, they will find it.
When the termite company returns next year to check on the stations, they can use a special wand detector (like a metal detector) to locate the bait stations (after checking the map saved in the file.)
Want to learn more about termites? The Sentricon blog is full of amazing facts and good information about termites and treatment plans. If you want to find out more about the Sentricon system, you’ll find their FAQ page helpful!
Hopefully I’ve helped educate you on termite treatments. I leave you with these questions: How confident are you with your termite treatment plan? Is it worth risking your home’s health? From past experience I can tell you I’d rather have a prevention plan than a wait and see plan. How about you?
Disclosure: This is a sponsored post for Corteva, the makers of Sentricon. I was provided complimentary termite protection for a year and was compensated for my time and efforts to promote Sentricon. I was not told what to write. All opinions are my own. I am particular about the brands I represent and will always let you know when you are reading a sponsored post.
This sounds great, I have been trying to use less chemicals around the house – especially with kids and pets around! I think I have termites already, since this is a plan for preventing termites do you also recommend a treatment plan for removing/killing the ones already in my house?
I would talk to your termite contract provider for their recommendations.
This was so timely for us. We live in Northeastern Illinois, a suburb northwest of Chicago. After moving into our home, we discovered that two homes on our block had termite damage. Fortunately the previous owner of our home installed the Sentricon system. I was 1. flabbergasted to find out termites existed in Northern Illinois 2. PO’d that this was not disclosed during our purchase 3. Unsure if the prevention system installed was the best option. So glad you provided this information. I feel much better now. Cannot thank you enough.
Connie, thank you so much for taking the time to leave your comment. Glad to share the info.
We JUST switched to these bait things. We’ve had a termite contract forever, but never did any treating. We did find some damage when we had to gut our master shower (leaky shower pan) and they covered it. But last year we added the bait things (also with Arrow who bought Fry, our original provider) .
So good to hear! I was definitely happy with their professionalism.