Termites cause over $5 billion in property damage annually in the U.S., costing homeowners an average of $3,000 per infestation. While they are great for the environment (they help to recycle the nutrient base of the planet), they can wreak havoc on a home. Oftentimes, the costs associated with getting rid of these pests and repairing the damage they’ve caused isn’t covered by homeowners insurance. We spoke with Ben Schloss from Green Pest Solutions about ways to help you protect your home from termites.
Remove Wood near Your Home
Termites need food, moisture and warmth to survive, so reducing their access to their food source – wood – is the first step to keeping them away. Schloss recommends keeping wood at least 6 inches above soil and keeping mulch levels several inches below the siding and wooden parts of your home. If possible, you’ll want to avoid storing anything near your property that would encourage termites to move in. For example, firewood and twigs should be moved away from your home, and stumps, leaves and debris should be removed from the property entirely.
Anything that connects your home to soil can allow termites to enter, including wooden decks and fences. If possible, replace untreated wood that touches soil with treated materials. It’s possible to have a wooden deck without ending up with a termite problem, but you’ll need to maintain and protect your deck so it doesn’t rot and attract termites.
Limit Exposure to Moisture
Termites require water to thrive, so reducing moisture is key. Diverting water away from the foundation of your home with functioning downspouts and gutters, removing any standing water on roofs and keeping vents clear are all ways to decrease moisture near your home. Sprinkler systems, excessive mulch, and plants can also cause moisture to build up, so it’s important to try to reduce the effects of these. Make sure all leaking faucets and water pipes inside the house are repaired, and seal all entry points around water and utility lines.
Seal Termite Entry Points
It’s important to do routine maintenance in your home in order to eliminate points of entry for termites. Many termites enter homes at the ground level or below, so doorframes, decks, deck posts and planters placed against the house can all facilitate termite movement. Termites can also travel through cracks in the foundation, concrete and brick, so repairing these will help decrease the likelihood that they can move into the home.
Know the Warning Signs
Because termite colonies are often difficult to see, it is important to be mindful of these warning signs in order to catch a potential problem before it gets out of hand:
- Damaged Wood: Certain types of termites leave wood grain behind after they’ve eaten wood fiber, so you’ll see a small trail of grain mixed with soil.
- Hollow Wood: If termites are eating from the inside out of a wooden structure (like a deck, for example), you might not see any warning signs, sotap the outside of the wooden structure to determine if it sounds hollow. If it is, this could indicate an infestation.
- Discarded Wings: Reproducing termites, referred to as swarmers, are attracted to light and can be seen around the home. After they’ve swarmed, they shed their wings, so you may find piles of wings on surfaces or caught in spider webs. Schloss says, “Wings found on the ground can mean that termites are looking for places to start a new nest.” If you do find piles of these, you should take action immediately.
- Termite Droppings: Termites leave behind small droppings made of fecal matter near infestation points.
- Mud Tunnels: Termites create small mud tunnels made of wood and debris to protect themselves when traveling above ground. These can be easily seen when they’re created on concrete or exposed surfaces.
Termite queens can lay an egg every 15 seconds, so you should take action as soon as you realize you might have a problem.
What happens if, despite your best efforts, you still find yourself with a termite problem? Luckily, there are several do-it-yourself and professional treatment options. Be sure to look into the cost and effectiveness before deciding which treatment option is best for your situation, and if you’re planning to use chemicals or poisons, research the risks to your health before applying them yourself.
Many of the do-it-yourself options are great for small infestations. They will likely be cheaper and faster than hiring an exterminator but may require more patience on your part.
However, if the products you purchase at the store aren’t as effective, you might have to treat your home multiple times, costing you just as much as you would have paid to have an exterminator come out. A professional is better equipped to deal with larger problems, as they will have the most up-to-date information and products to ensure all the termites are exterminated. They’re generally well trained, so they might catch signs you’ve missed and have treatment options you don’t know about that help to prevent future infestations.
Many homeowners don’t realize they have termites until their home’s structure has been severely damaged. Prevention is always more cost-effective than treatment, so make sure to take the necessary steps to avoid such issues.
If you’re in the market for a new home, take preventive measures and request a home inspection prior to putting in an offer. A certified home inspector can determine if there are any issues associated with the home, including termites and other pests. If you’re purchasing a home with a VA loan, your home is likely to be pest-free.
If you need treatment options now, check both local and national termite extermination companies. Some offer free inspections or quotes, so you can request several quotes before settling on a company. Once you’ve chosen a company, they can provide treatment recommendations and prevention plans that are customized to your situation. Do you have any recommendations on pest prevention? Post them below in the comments!
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