How do you prevent termites from damaging your home? They are called ‘silent destroyers’ because they may be tearing up your house without you noticing any signs of destruction.
So often you don’t know that you have termites. Still, there are various things you can do to inhibit the threat.
Experts estimate it generally takes 3 to 8 years for termites to cause considerable damage although some of the more destructive termite types can cause major structural damage in as little as a few months.
They are significant pests because of the severe damage they can cause to wooden structures such as your home, the fence, a barn or what not.
Termites can be very destructive
How to recognize a termite infestation
You can generally recognize a termite infestation by watching the insects swarm, by noticing “the flying ants in spring”, by noticing the mud tubes they build as they forage for new food sources, the bubbling paint on the walls, and by noticing damaged wood where termites have been active.
- Termites generally are about the size of ants, are white to tan in color, have long segmented bodies, round heads with two prominent antennae attached, and six legs.
How to Prevent Termites: 14 Tips
Below are 14preventive measures you can take to guard your house and property against termite infestations. You may use these tips to help keep termites away from your property.
1. Identify and fix all water leaks in your home, both inside and outside
Termites need water (even drywood termites need water), and if the water source comes from your home, the colony will not have to work as hard to get water. Eliminating their water source might induce them to look elsewhere to establish their colony.
- Repair leaking water pipes, A/C units, and faucets.
- Seal entry points around water and pipes or utility lines.
- Divert water away the foundation of your home.
2. Eliminate any standing or pooling water from around your home
This might include installing French drains that allow water to percolate into the soil more quickly after a rain storm so it doesn’t pool near your home’s foundation.
It also means getting rid of standing water on the roof and other locations. This measure will help reduce mosquitoes in the yard too.
3. Keep all rain gutters and drain lines clean of debris
Gutters serve to efficiently convey water from your roof away from your home. Clogged gutters and drain lines leak, and allow water to pool in the gutters along the roofline and on the ground near the footers of your home. Make sure your gutters are serving their purpose.
4. Remove any brush or heavy growth from around your home
Vegetation can create areas of trapped moisture which termites can then use to support their colony. Vegetation can also facilitate a pathway for termites to find new wood to feed on (like your home’s wood siding).
Therefore, keep the area around your foundation raked and clean to enable proper drainage and keep your shrubbery trimmed back from your home’s exterior walls.
5. Seal potential access points
Proper sealing/caulking of any openings on the outside of your home can help limit the access to your home’s interior by termites.
Therefore, seal any holes, cracks, open seams, and fissures in places such as your foundation, footers, between siding boards and window-frames, etc.
Place screens on outside vents. Remove vegetation growing over vents.
6. Install physical termite barriers
There are various options:
- Chemically treated soil (a.k.a. chemical termite barrier) around the outside of your home. Deadly to termites, safe for humans, pets and other animals. Generally, 3 types of chemicals are used; Fipronil, Bifenthrin and Imidacloprid. These are sold under the brand names Termidor, Premise, Prothor or Biflex.
- A physical barrier between the soil and the home often in the form of a stainless steel mesh. These barriers will help keeping termites at bay but are not 100% effective.
- A combination of both in the form of a chemically treated physical barrier. For instance a layer of chemical-treated webbing sealed between two sheets of plastic.
Make sure your home is properly ventilated, including your attic and any internal crawl space areas. Adequate airflow prevents the buildup of moisture needed by termite colonies.
8. Remove dead trees, old stumps, or roots in your yard
As these decay, they provide food and habitat for termites. When the food is gone, the termite colony will look for new sources of food, including your house.
9. Never bury waste lumber or wood scraps in your yard
This will attract the termites and serve as a beacon for them to become established on your property.
10. Do not allow excess building materials or firewood to be stacked against your house
Remember, termites are attracted to wood. Why offer them an appetizer, and a bridge to a main course (your house)? Scrap wood touching the ground is an open invitation to hungry termites.
Keep firewood at least 20 feet away from the house.
If your property is not large enough for wood storage away from the house, put a barrier beneath the wood to prevent direct access by the termites.
Stack the wood on a concrete slab or on a heavy metal stand that raises the wood off the ground (this will also help keep the wood dry and ready to be burned in your fireplace).
11. Use termite-resistant wood for any wooden structures that will have direct contact with the ground
Unprotected wood used for outdoor decks or landscaping is vulnerable to damage by termites. Over 90% of all termite infestations start from wood-soil contact.
If possible, keep an 18-inch gap between soil and your home’s wood structures.
Naturally termite-resistant wood types include redwood, cypress, and cedar.
Treated lumber includes pressure-treated pine, which is extensively used in the Southern U.S. for fences, decks, gazebos, etc.
Treated lumber is more long-lasting than naturally resistant wood.
The chemicals in treated lumber do not guarantee that termites will not invade the wood, but they can act as a deterrent for several years (whereas untreated pine might last just a few seasons).
Home improvement centers now offer concrete supports that raise the wooden support beams for decks and patios off of the ground.
You might also use composite boards in your deck or fence-construction in lieu of wooden boards. Composite boards are composed of woodchips and/or sawdust and plastic, and offer superior termite-resistance, compared to wood.
12. Avoid using mulch near your home
Mulch does two things for termites: (1) it provides a food source, and (2) it collects moisture, providing them with their water source.
If you place mulch too close to your home’s footers, it is only a small step for a termite colony to move from the mulch into your walls.
As an alternative to wood mulch, try using rubber mulch (made from shredded used auto tires). Rubber mulch provides the utility of natural mulch without the risks.
13. Periodically have your home inspected for termite damage
An annual termite inspection can save your home with early detection. Also, a trained pest control specialist can offer recommendations to help you prevent a termite invasion.
They also might find something that your own termite-prevention measures missed.
14. Special notes on Formosan Termite Prevention
The worst of any termite species is the invasive Formosan Termite, which is likely a native of southern China.
Formosan Termites have spread to many areas of the world, including the United States. These termites are subterranean termites, and what separates them from other subterranean termites and makes them much more dangerous to structures is their colony size.
A standard native subterranean termite colony might number a couple hundred thousand termites, while a Formosan Termite colony can number millions of termites.
They make a much larger infestation and can destroy wood at a faster rate. Their colonies extend for hundreds of feet underground from their food source, so this makes eradication efforts very difficult.
Formosan termite prevention includes all steps used for native subterranean termites, and one other thing:
Be on the lookout for extensive networks of soil-tubes climbing basement walls or other non-wood surfaces, which the termites build in their search for new wood to invade.
Types of termites
Termites in the United States are generally of four types:
- Subterranean termites,
- Drywood termites,
- Dampwood termites,
- Formosan termites.
Subterranean termites make their nests underground and emerge to attack wood they can easily reach. These termites are the most common cause of termite infestation.
Drywood termites remain entirely above ground and do not connect to the soil—infesting dry wood, such as structural lumber, dead limbs on trees, utility poles, decks, fences, lumber in storage, and furniture.
Dampwood termites are most often found in cool, humid areas along the coast, and infest decayed wood that remains moist from water contact.
Formosan termites are subterranean termites from Asia—now in 11 states in the U.S., and known to establish huge colonies that voraciously feed on the structures they attack.
What did you do to inhibit these little buggers from destroying your home?
Got questions? Want to share your experiences? Share your thoughts below.
Termites.com. (2015). Formosan Termites. http://www.termites.com/types-of-termites/formosan-termite/
UCIPM. (2014, May). Subterranean and Other Termites. Retrieved from http://www.ipm.ucdavis.edu/PMG/PESTNOTES/pn7415.html#MANAGEMENT