Termites are invasive, destructive pests. Known for accessing and destroying structural wood, termites can compromise houses, furniture, and more.
Because of this, it’s essential to start thinking about termite extermination at the first sign of these nasty little wood-eaters.
In this blog, we’re sharing our top tips for getting rid of termites and info about when to call a professional.
Let’s dive in.
- To get rid of termites, install physical barriers, reduce wood and soil moisture, use chemical deterrents and soil barriers, and deploy termite baits.
- For prevention, inspect and treat lumber, avoid moist wood, screen openings, dust wall voids, paint unsealed wood, and fill gaps in wood surfaces.
- Since getting rid of termites can be dangerous to both you and your home, we always recommend hiring a professional pest management company for help.
Before You Get Started
Before you begin DIY termite extermination, do these things:
1. Prioritize safety
Termites live in hidden, hard-to-reach areas, and getting rid of them often involves dealing with harsh pesticides. With this in mind, gather personal protective equipment (PPE) like long pants, boots, gloves, and eye protection. Remember to read the label of the pesticides you’re working with, and wear respiratory protection if needed.
2. Inspect for termites
Before you can get rid of termites, you need to verify that you’re dealing with termites and not ants or other pests.
You also need to figure out if you’re dealing with subterranean or non-subterranean termites. Here’s a quick breakdown of how to inspect for each type:
- To inspect for subterranean termites, look for signs of brown, mud-like material that appears in irregular patterns on damp wood.
- Since subterranean termites are usually found at or near ground level, examine areas near the base of the home, including the crawlspace, basement, beams, sill plates, floor joists, and subfloors. Pay special attention to the areas where concrete slabs, steps, and porches join with wood structures.
- Look for mud tubes. Termite mud tubes are usually about ¼”-1” in diameter (about the width of a pencil) and can be many feet long. They’re common around joints, window frames, subfloors, door and window sills, and under porches.
- You can also tap damaged wood with a screwdriver and listen for a hollow sound, which indicates the presence of termite damage.
- Use a screwdriver or pocket knife to probe damaged wood. If termite damage is present, the blade will poke through the wood, uncovering the termite cavities within.
- To inspect for non-subterranean termites, look for excretal pellets. These are hard pellets with rounded ends and six concave surfaces on the side. These pellets are usually present on or near the damaged wood surface.
- Check for cracks and crevices in wood surfaces, which drywood termites use to enter wood.
- Inspect all exposed and accessible wood surfaces, especially those near the exterior and interior of the building, including perimeter walls.
- Inspect areas for visible termite damage and the entrance and exit holes termites use to get into wood.
- Look for live swarms of termites or shed wings, which are common in extensive termite infestations.
3. Gather your equipment
Before you attack the termites, gather your pest control equipment.
While the pros use tools like electric rotary drills to test wall voids, you can get away with a screwdriver or pocket knife, a heavy-duty flashlight, some good gloves and PPE, and a mask or respirator.
4. Make a plan
To treat termites effectively, you’ll need to make a plan. This involves considering which products you’re going to use and how you’re going to use them.
This, of course, is determined by the results of your initial termite inspection.
When you know what kind of termites you’re dealing with, you can choose the appropriate control products.
5. Know when to call a pro
While DIY termite control is possible, termites are best left to the pros.
Contact a pest management company if you want fast, comprehensive control or if you don’t feel comfortable using termite control products and devices.
How to Get Rid of Subterranean Termites
That said, if you decide to proceed with the DIY approach, however, follow these tips to stay safe:
Want to get rid of termites naturally?
Try these tactics:
1. Physical barriers
Physical barriers like stainless steel mesh can help keep termites out of wood and wood structures.
The catch is that most of these barriers must be installed during preconstruction and can be costly, difficult, or impossible to add to an existing structure.
Another option is to install termite shields on a structure to provide a physical barrier. Termite shields are metal sheets that cover the top of a foundation wall.
Some have an edge that protrudes about 2” at a 45-degree angle. For the termite shields to function correctly, they must be joined together and secured correctly to the foundation wall.
When termite shields are in place, it forces termites to build tubes over or on top of the shield, which makes their progress more obvious and allows you to catch (and stop) it earlier.
Physical barriers made from sand, granite, and basalt can also help protect structures from termite damage by creating a line of material that termites cannot move through.
While most physical barriers must be installed before or during the construction of a home or building, they’re an excellent way to control termites, especially when used in conjunction with other termite barriers.
2. Reduce wood and soil moisture
One of the most effective natural ways to kill termites is to reduce moisture levels in wood and the soil that surrounds it and to eliminate wood-to-soil contact wherever possible.
There are a few ways to do this, including installing pressure-treated wood and termite shields and removing things that trap moisture, such as shrubs, stumps, and other wood near the foundation of a home.
If you want to try some conventional methods to get rid of termites, consider the following:
3. Chemical deterrents
Chemical deterrents like pressure treatments and borates are designed to be applied directly to structural wood. When applied correctly, these deterrents make the wood toxic to termites.
While mechanical alterations like this are expensive, they’re a great way to control termite predation in high-risk areas where wood encounters soil or is constantly subjected to moisture.
That said, borate-treated wood should only be used indoors since it will not hold up to moisture.
4. Chemical soil barriers
Termiticides are chemical compounds that can be applied to the soil under and near a building, where they create a chemical soil barrier that termites can’t cross.
Today, there are two primary types of chemical soil barriers: pyrethroid-based formulas that repel termites and cause them to change the direction of their foraging, and non-repellent barriers, which kill foragers and other individuals who encounter them, making it impossible for termites to access the structure.
Similar to wood treatments, soil barriers are most effective and affordable when applied during the preconstruction phase. Once a house is built, they can be prohibitive or impossible to apply.
For best results, termiticides and chemical barriers should be used in cracks in the foundation wall or building footing.
5. Termite baits
Like soil treatments, termite baits use slow-acting chemicals to kill even non-foraging members of the termite colony once the foraging members bring it back to the nest.
Termite baits kill the entire colony quickly and can be an effective treatment method as long as you continually inspect the property to identify new termite activity and set baits accordingly.
How to Get Rid of Non-Subterranean Termites
To get rid of non-subterranean termites, follow these tips:
1. Structural fumigation
Structural fumigation is an effective way to get rid of non-subterranean termites, but you need to hire an expert to do it for you.
Structural fumigation involves covering the entire building with a gas-tight cover and deploying harsh fumigants that penetrate wood and kill the termites within it.
2. Direct wood treatment
To treat wood directly, professionals use a ½” drill to drill through the termite galleries in the infested wood and then inject liquid insecticides (like borate) into the active galleries.
Once the infested wood has been treated, the holes are blocked with wood dowels.
Note: This is NOT a treatment that’s appropriate for all DIYers. If you do it wrong, you could lose your whole home to structural collapse. If you’re interested in direct wood treatment, call in the pros for help.
3. Heat fumigation
Heat fumigation is another effective way to get rid of termites. With heat treatments, the structure is tarped in a way that’s similar to structural fumigation, and hot air is piped into the structure until the internal temperature is about 140-150 degrees.
At this temperature, timbers in the treated area will reach an internal temperature of 120 degrees Fahrenheit, which is hot enough to kill termites within 35 minutes.
Temperature probes can also be used to deliver directed heat to severely infested areas, as long as you’ve conducted the needed inspections to know where those areas are.
For heat fumigation to be effective, it should only be used in places with exposed timbers, where any heat-sensitive items can easily be removed. This is also a tactic best left to professional pest control experts since it can be dangerous for you or your home.
4. Extreme cold
Cold can also kill termites. In some cases, liquid nitrogen can be used to create temperature pockets of -20 degrees Fahrenheit, which will kill termites after only about five minutes of exposure.
Of course, only limited areas can be exposed to this temperature, and you’ll need the help of a professional if you want to utilize cold treatments.
Sometimes, it’s possible to use handheld units to deliver high-voltage electrical charges to termite-infested wood. While these devices can kill termites while preventing structural damage, they’re also best left to the professionals.
How to Keep Termites From Coming Back
To get rid of termites permanently, follow these prevention tips:
- Inspect all lumber, especially reclaimed lumber, for termite infestation before using it to build.
- Treat infested lumber before using it.
- Do not use moist or moisture-damaged wood to construct buildings or furniture.
- Screen the doors, windows, and ventilation openings (including attic windows) with 20-mesh metal wire cloth made from non-corrosive materials. This prevents winged termites from entering the structure.
- If you’re building a new structure, use chemically-treated wood or wood from trees that are naturally resistant to termite attacks.
- Dust wall voids with insecticidal dust labeled to control flying termites.
- Paint all unsealed exterior wood surfaces, using enough layers of paint to fill small gaps and cracks and close up potential termite entrance areas.
- Fill larger gaps and cracks in the wood surface with plastic wood or putty.
- Whenever possible, build with termite-resistant materials like steel, concrete, brick, or stone.
Are Termites Destroying Your Home? We can Help!
Despite their small size, termites are capable of destroying wood and causing expensive, dangerous damage.
Fortunately, you don’t have to live with termites forever.
By following the DIY termite control tips outlined in this blog, you can get rid of termites in and around your home, regardless of whether you’re dealing with subterranean or non-subterranean termites.
If you need extra help or your DIY efforts aren’t working, contact a skilled pest management professional. Give us a call at (844) 532-0076, and we’ll connect you with local professionals in your area.
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Termite Control FAQs
Termites are wood-destroying pests that are found all over the world. In nature, termites serve a critical purpose: they help process dead wood and other rotting organic materials.
In residential areas, however, termites can be incredibly destructive, infesting critical structures like beams, expansion joints, and foundation walls.
While termites look a little bit like ants, you can identify them by looking for a non-elbowed antenna, two pairs of wings that are equal in length, a thick and ribbed body, and non-existent eyes.
Subterranean termites live in moist soil or other moist environments, where they construct mud tubes. They prefer to eat slash pine, lob-lolly pine, and sugar maple.
That said, no wood is entirely resistant to attack from subterranean termites. They prefer eating decayed wood and can consume it at a rate of 2.5% of their body weight (or about 10.5 mg of wood) each day.
Non-subterranean termites are divided into two groups: drywood and dampwood termites.
Drywood termites are the most common in most parts of the US, and the dark western drywood termite is the most destructive species.
Other destructive varieties include the light western drywood termite, the West Indian rough-headed powderpost drywood termite, the southeastern drywood termite, and the dark southeastern drywood termite.
Drywood termites live, feed, and nest in undecayed wood with a low moisture content – hence their name.
While subterranean termites require contact with the soil to survive, drywood termites can live entirely within the wood.
The damage they do is also different: subterranean termites excavate softwood layers between hardwood layers, while drywood termites cut across the wood’s grain, excavating spacious chambers connected by narrow tunnels.
Dampwood termites are some of the largest termites, and they tend to consume wood with a high degree of moisture. As such, they’re usually associated with wood decay.
Because non-subterranean termites don’t need soil to survive, they can enter new environments by hitching a ride on infested furniture, building materials, or other wood objects. These pests consume wood products, including structure timbers, furniture, and more.
Termites will infest areas that offer them ample food (wood), moisture, and shelter. Most structural termite infestations occur in areas where wood contacts the ground.
This combination provides the food, shelter, and moisture termites need to survive and makes it easy for them to access a wood structure. Once inside, termites can be difficult to detect. With this in mind, all exterior wood should be at least 6” above the ground.
There’s no one-size-fits-all for termite treatment costs. Your final cost will be determined by factors like the extent of the infestation, the types of termites present, the types of treatment used, and the areas where treatment was required.