How the Heck Do I Get Rid of Termites?

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Termites. Even the mention of the word is enough to make wood tremble with fear. They could be in your home right now, munching away on your walls, ceilings and floors like stoners at a free Taco Bell buffet. So what do you do when you have them? How do you even know you have them? Once they’re gone, how do I keep them away for good? Don’t worry HomeFixated fans; I’ll share all these answers and more. Use the following tricks for discovering, destroying and preventing termites and you can rest assured in knowing that your home is going to be free and clean (mostly?) from these wood-chomping insects from hell.

The Four Horsemen of the Wood-pocalypse

Untreated 2x4 devoured by termites in less than 3 months
Untreated 2×4 devoured by termites in less than 3 months

To add to the madness that termites are going to eat your home literally out from underneath of you, there are fifty known species of termites in the U.S. alone. But the good news is that there are only four different species of the evil little wood chomping devils that you’ll need to watch out for.

  1. Dampwood Termites- There are several species of this big fellow that range across the United States. These guys get their name from the damp wood that they can be found in. They are common in wet areas along the pacific coast but can be found in areas from south Florida to the southern desert.
  2. Drywood Termites- Drywood termites are as their name implies: they don’t need a lot of moisture to survive and like to live in kiln-dried wood. When these colonies mature, winged termites swarm out by the thousands to create a new colony. These buggers can be found from the coastal areas in southern states and westward just beyond the Mississippi River.
  3. Formosan Termite- The Formosan termite can be found just about everywhere in the U.S. but thrives in the southern states. They hitched a ride during World War II from East Asia and continue to spread throughout the country through shipments of infested wood and cardboard.
  4. Subterranean Termite- These wood devouring pests need lots of moisture to survive and swarm to a new location when heavy rains and warm temperatures prevail. They often get mistaken for flying ants because these little woodworkers need contact with the soil to survive and sometimes construct mud tubes from the ground to the wood. Subterranean termites can be found in every state in the U.S. with the exception of Alaska.

The Three Rules of Termite Real Estate: Location, Location, Location

Just like the three rules of real estate, you can be sure that termites will pick out the most suitable location for their home wrecking destructive dens. That means moist locations with lots of delicious wood are going to be their main breeding ground. Eradicate the following three items from your home and keep termites at bay.

  • Moisture- Eliminate this from around your home and you’ll also limit other nasty wood fungus and molds that can destroy your home’s wooden exterior and interior materials. AC units should drain away from the home at least three feet, remove all standing water from around foundations, roofing and concrete and make sure your downspouts are easily able to percolate discharging roof runoff into the surrounding soil.
  • Termites and brown termite poop (frass)
    Termites and brown termite poop (frass)

    Wood- Firewood, paper and cardboard lying outdoors on open ground against your home is an open house invitation for termites. Get rid of any firewood leaning against any structure, be sure any stumps left in the ground are thoroughly removed and be sure no wood materials attached to your home are less than six inches off of the ground.

  • Penetrations- It’s super easy for a tiny ant-sized termite swarm to wander into any opening in the home. Seal and caulk around all penetrations into the home. This includes but is not limited to: hose bibs, electrical meters, outlets, ventilation, cracks and seams. If you see a gap or space leading into you home; seal it and you’ll seal out termites. Another tip—use a little wire screen to seal crawlspace openings and vents underneath the home.

Termite Intervention: The Warning Signals

Not to be confused with sassafras. If you see frass, you've got termites!
Not to be confused with sassafras. If you see frass, you’ve got termites!

You don’t have to spot these nasty creatures in action to know that you’ve got a termite infestation. Seeing a swarm of insects around your home is an obvious sign they’re present, but signs like bubbling paint, mud tubes on the walls and piles of black or brown sand-like frass (termite poop to me and you) lying about on ledges, floors, and sills are almost sure signs that you’ve got termites. It’s a good idea to check any suspect materials with a simple metal probe such as a screwdriver or large nail. Tap the wood and if it sounds hollow, you’d better give it a good poking. Poke the wood and if you see little carved channels, frass or powdered wood particles, it’s time to call in the pros or roll up your own sleeves.

Do I Go with a Pro or do I Go the DIY Route?

As someone who gets to see termite damage on an almost daily basis, in my opinion, once you have an infestation problem in your home; it’s time to call in a professional to spray the damaged area, or in some cases, tent the home. A pro can treat the infected area immediately so you can get to work repairing the damages right away. On the other hand, if your deck, outbuilding or other not-as-drastic-as-my-house-being-destroyed wood materials are infected with termites, it’s easy enough to kill them using basic stuff you get from the store.

Borate treatment on interior wall floor plates and studs courtesy of Sentry Pest Control
Borate treatment on interior wall floor plates and studs courtesy of Sentry Pest Control

Borate (not to be confused with boric acid) works really well for getting rid of termites, and help keeps them away for good. Some wood already comes treated with borate. You can tell because of all the blue stuff that’s on the wood. However, it doesn’t work well when it comes into contact with moisture. That’s great when it’s inside of your walls, but what about a deck that gets wet every time it rains? Beneficial nematodes work great for around decks and other outdoor wood structures that get wet every time it rains. These little segmented worms eat not only termites, but a host of other garden pests too. Plus, nothing starts a good conversation by telling someone you have beneficial nematodes roaming in your backyard. Check out the video on nematodes below and see how devastating these little guys can be to insects. Oh, if insect gore bothers you, we recommend only viewing this on an empty stomach!

Have any termite tales of woe or tips to share? Chime in via the comments below!

Featured Image – Jared Belson

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About Eric

Since Eric built his first skateboard ramp in his parents driveway; he’s breathed, slept and eaten DIY construction. As a second generation master carpenter who runs two Florida-based construction firms, Eric’s had the chance to work on everything from Mcmansions to your local mall to the cat lady’s bathroom. So when it comes to dealing with construction s@#t; he’s the man—literally. There isn’t a tool or construction material that Eric hasn’t used and abused, and if there is; it’s rocking in a dark corner nervously waiting for him to show up for work.

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3 thoughts on “How the Heck Do I Get Rid of Termites?”

  1. This is a great article. This is one of the most authoritative informative articles I have found on the subject. I think you give a great explanation for why it is important to hire a professional to help you with any termite damage you may have.

  2. It is good to know that bubbling paint is a good sign that termites are present. Thank you for sharing the different tips on how to check it after a questionable area is found. I wonder if any of these warning signals are synonymous with other bug invasions? It would be good to know early what kind of bug I’m dealing with.


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