Termites: How to remove and prevent them?

random_pupNovember 13, 2008

My husband and I are about to buy our first ever house in North California. The termite inspection report indicated some Drywood termites. Now, we would like to take care of the termites before we move in to the house but I'd like to understand my options better.

After calling the inspection company and the PCB, my understanding is that Fumigation is the way to treat drywood termites. Since I had read a bit about soil treatment, foaming, etc. I inquired about these treatments and I was told that they do not apply to our case since we do not have subterranean termites. Is this correct?

How do home-owners deal with the termite issue? Ideally I'd like to be assured that we have eradicated any termites after the fumigation process but of course the inspection will be done by the folks who fumigate the house and they will naturally claim "mission accomplished."

Also, how does one prevent any new infestations? I was under the impression that soil treatments act as preventive measures but I was wrong in that they are only used to treat subterranean termites.

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Here's an informative link for you.: http://www.ipm.ucdavis.edu/PMG/PESTNOTES/pn7440.html

I live in North Carolina (which only means that this may or may not be the case in California)where all Pest Control Companies are regulated by the Department of Agriculture. Here, consumers have the right to request that a State Inspector come out and review any inspections, services or claims made by pest and termite companies. These inspections are free to the consumer, but (sadly, due to work ethic) often result in fines for the termite companies who get caught cutting corners or making false claims.

Here's the link to your Pest Control Board: http://www.pestboard.ca.gov/

Too, it would seem that the seller would be responsible for correcting the termite situation, especially if a mortgage will be involved.

    Bookmark   November 13, 2008 at 6:40PM
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Are you sure you want to fumigate your house? I would research what chemical residues will remain on surfaces afterwards. Some pesticides are reported to be absorbed by wood and other furnishings or remain on surfaces for decades.

I wonder if they can be eradicated by heat or cold. There was an article in the paper recently about an apartment building that had a bed bug infestation. They were all evacuated and the building was heated to something like 140 degrees to kill them. I've read freezing can be an exterminating option also but maybe not in your area.

Try some googling to see other options. A traditional exterminator will likely be wanting to sell you the chemical pesticides.

Also research why the home might have become infested so preventative measures can be taken in the future. Is it common where you're buying? With the subs, around here, it's wet wood that draws them.

    Bookmark   November 13, 2008 at 7:33PM
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Thanks so much for the responses.

The house is an REO so we do not have an option of getting the seller to fix this. I will contact our Pest Control Board and see if we can have a free review of the inspection. (This sounds awesome!) Anybody know of such an option for California?

I heard about the heat-treatment as well and I am going to inquire more about it.

In general, do home-owners regularly get termite inspections to check if they have any new infestations (e.g., crawlspace)? Isn't this expensive?

Will keep you posted ...

    Bookmark   November 13, 2008 at 9:21PM
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Since your house is already subject to infestation, I would follow up with it continually at the recommended intervals. I don't think a visual inspection for signs of termites is costly. You may also be able to learn some of the signs yourself.

    Bookmark   November 13, 2008 at 10:13PM
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Googled a bit.

Boric acid is considered a natural treatment and seems to be used for just about anything. Termites are listed. Always use caution with anything added to the environment though.

Here's some more general Green information. I'd heard about barriers like sand and copper, many years ago, which are described here: Green Termite Control

Here is a link that might be useful: Boric Acid

    Bookmark   November 13, 2008 at 10:32PM
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Roughly and generally speaking, termite companies will treat for termites with the cost in the few thousands. Every year thereafter they will do an inspection for a few hundreds and this will include a warranty that they will treat again at their cost if termites return.

This policy generally stays in force as long as you keep getting yearly inspections. Miss one or two and you start all over.

    Bookmark   November 13, 2008 at 11:34PM
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Thanks so much! I will find out about the continued inspections.

Any suggestions on how to pick the treatement? The current termite company suggested Fumigation as there were some drywood termites. Should we throw in another treatments (e.g., soil treatment, etc.)? These will naturally add the cost but do they help?

Thanks so much, once again!

    Bookmark   November 14, 2008 at 12:19AM
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In North Carolina, you can call any termite company and get a free home inspection. Of course, they're going to try to sell you something after the inspection, but it's illegal for them to tell you that you have termites if you really don't. So you at least get a free visual inspection.

There are other methods for treating for drywood termites, it depends on how extensive the infestation is. The link I provided in my response above explains some of that.

If you hire a termite company to get rid of the termites, they should tell you the full cost before beginning work. After that, it should not matter how many times they have to treat, how many areas must be treated or how many treatment methods are used - your price should not go up. This will come with dealing with reputable companies.

I can tell you how it would work with Terminix because I was an inspector for them here in NC. Remember that Terminix is franchised, so some policies may vary by location. Also, this is not to promote Terminix over any other company, but only to use my experience to give a general idea of what to look for.

If you go under coverage with Terminix, your most expensive year will be the first. This price will be based on the square footage of the home (to include garages, overhang porches and any outbuildings you want covered.) As someone mentioned above, it will cost you (generally) between 1 and 5 thousand for the first year. This will cover anything they have to do to get rid of the termites and to place your home and contents under a $25,000 damage repair warranty. Each year afterward, you will have a set renewal fee, probably a couple hundred dollars. This renewal will cover any and all inspections for that year, any and all materials and labor needed to retreat (if necessary) you home and the continued $25,000 warranty. No additional expenses for anything should ever be asked of you outside of the set renewal amount. Too, this renewal is set for as long as you stay under coverage.

I mention the last sentence in the above paragraph because this is something you should ask about when getting bids. Some companies have the initial cost, then 5 or so years of renewals, then you have to pay the initial cost again. This is nonsense, so make sure you ask whether you'll ever have the initial expense again.

I do not recommend attempting to treat termites your self. If you find evidence of them, you should leave them alone (don't spray anything on them or do anything to interrupt them such as moving things), just call a termite company. This is because termites are very cautious and colonies number between 250,000 and 1,000,000,000. If you spray them, you won't even kill 1% of them. The rest will just move somewhere else (maybe a few feet, maybe to the other side of a room, maybe to three other sides of a room!) At that point, you'll no longer know where they are until you again see visual evidence, which usually means they've already done considerable damage. Leave them alone and call a termite company who can use the known location of the termites to eliminate the entire colony.

I am still registered in my state for pest and termite, so if you have any questions feel free to contact me. I do not perform this type of work any longer aside from my own home and I certainly don't know everything, but I'll be happy to answer anything I can or point you in the right direction without trying to sell you anything.

    Bookmark   November 14, 2008 at 8:22AM
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Should we throw in another treatments (e.g., soil treatment, etc.)?

I would research methods first and then contact several companies. Try to find conservative, green companies as well. As with many things, the Green link above notes that several methods in combination can be a good approach. That also helps to reduce the amount of chemical exposure needed to eradicate them.

I would be particularly concerned if you have children or are in child-bearing years. Of if you have pets around, of course, too. They told me many years ago that the chems were safe for pets, though today, that doesn't hold much weight for me. I would never fumigate my home again (this was fleas) and would be very reluctant about using the chemical sprays again, particularly on a monthly schedule. (They would spray the carpets and crevices inside my home. I do remember a lingering chemical smell. Don't know if that's done anymore but it's pretty scarey if you really think about it.)

I also had termites, way back, due to a water drainage problem in that area. It was the regular monthly exterminator who noted something while there. In my case, they could easily look around the foundation walls for evidence, and he showed me how the insects create little dirt tunnels going up to the house/wood. The treatment was to drill holes around the foundation, inside and out, and inject a chemical barrier.

    Bookmark   November 14, 2008 at 11:56AM
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Unlike subterranean termites, which, squirrelheaven had, drywood termites do not require contact with the soil in order to survive. A soil treatment would not be applicable, but spot treating the wood, again depending upon the extent of the infestation, may be an option over fumigation.

Too, bear in mind that termite treatment is wholly different from flea treatments. Flea treatments can, indeed, be toxic (hence the reason for having to leave the premises during and for four hours after treatment. Termite treatments are growth regulators, so unless people or pets molt (shed their outer skin), the treatments are not a threat.

    Bookmark   November 14, 2008 at 5:01PM
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Coastal, wondering what the dry wood termites do for water?

    Bookmark   November 14, 2008 at 6:03PM
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Think of their name, "drywood termites." They don't depend upon moisture as much as some other termites, such as subterranean. In fact, drywood termites can be found in wood that has a moisture content as low as 3%, and can withstand dry conditions for along period of time. Some of their water is gained by their environment, though the vast majority (if not all, in some cases) is metabolized through the wood they eat. (Even at 3%, wood has enough moisture to sustain drywood termites.)

    Bookmark   November 14, 2008 at 9:17PM
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Dry wood termites are much harder to eradicate than subterranean.
You can use physical barriers (sand, flashing) to limit access, or actually kill the things with any number of pesticides. Borax (sodium borate) is a chemical just like every other compound. It has limited effectiveness since it can be washed away.
It is a contact poison for many insects, but since termites are inside the wood they may never touch borax spread on the surface.

Especially for termites (both kinds) it is the long term residuals that greatly help to prevent re-infestation.

Or you can just repeat the treatments over and over.

    Bookmark   November 15, 2008 at 10:48AM
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Thanks so much for the responses.

Brickeyee, do you just put Borax by the window sills, door entrances?

I called three different companies yesterday and I am waiting to hear their quotes. Two things that came out of this:

One of the local companies I spoke with said that guarantees/warranties on fumigation are useless. As an example, they said that termites that start a day after the fumigation would take about 10-15 years to build a colony. In all, they suggest that getting a fumigation every 10 years is just more than enough protection. Of course, the other company kept selling me all kinds of yearly renewable warranties.

How long does it take for termites to restart their colony? I couldn't find any information on this over the internet.

Second, one of the companies quoted me a rough estimate which is about $400 less than the other companies' estimates. I asked about their warranty, license, and the fumigation process, which seems to be the same as the others. I am wondering if I missed anything and if there is a catch.

    Bookmark   November 15, 2008 at 12:30PM
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"do you just put Borax by the window sills, door entrances?"

Since that is not the normal entry route for termites (of either type) it would not do anything.

Borax can be used when a place is built by sprinkling it in the stub bays to try and limit insects.

Placing it under kitchen cabinets (the volume between the bottom of the cabinet and the actual floor is not normally accessible) can help also.

If dry wood termites are present in the area, it is just random chance on what they land on and take residence in the house.

That is why tenting and the fact that some residual remains is needed.

    Bookmark   November 16, 2008 at 12:48PM
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You can spot treat termites with WD-40.

    Bookmark   February 26, 2011 at 4:07PM
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I have a 12"x12" x 15' Beachwood beam from a 115 year old barn. It is dry but has evidence of termites and I want to clean it before cutting it up for an indoor fireplace mantle piece. I intend to pressure wash the surface to get a cleaner wood surface, but need a suggestion on how to clear up the termites before or after I do the wash.

    Bookmark   July 14, 2012 at 1:40PM
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"You can spot treat termites with WD-40."
Waste of time and money.

With no residual action you will do nothing except kill the ones you hit with spray.

You are unlikely to ba able to get a mortgage with any signs of termites present without treatment.

Unless you plan on tearing the whole house apart there is NO WAY to reliably gauge the size of the infestation.

Tenting and fumigating is the normal course to ensure eradication.

    Bookmark   July 14, 2012 at 6:31PM
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