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Termites are light-colored, ant-like insects that feed on paper, cardboard and wood. Because these materials are readily available in many homes, termites cause major damage across the country. Learning more about termites helps homeowners determine if an inspection is in order. This guide provides information about signs of termite infestation, treatment options, termite prevention and costs for inspection and termite extermination.
If you needtermite inspection or treatment services, ImproveNet can connect you with local pros for free.
To get the best termite treatment services available, a home inspection is necessary. The cost for an inspection depends on the size and location of the area that requires treatment. Some professionals conduct termite inspections for free, while other professionals may charge up to $350 for the service. After the inspection is complete, professionals provide you with a written estimate for the recommended termite treatment. Items addressed on a written estimate should include:
The cost of termite treatment depends on a number of factors. These include the degree of infestation, the location of the treatment area, the knowledge and skills of the hired professional and the termite treatment method used. The table below specifies averages costs for various treatment methods for a home measuring 2,500sf.
Type of Termite Treatment
Average Cost for 2,500sf
Chemical termite extermination
$1,800 to $3,100
DIY termite control during home construction
DIY chemical termite extermination
DIY termite baiting
When determining the type of treatment used, professionals also look at the type of termite present in or around the home.
Two types of termites that invade homes include drywood termites and subterranean termites. Drywood termites thrive only in dry wood, and they destroy it by creating large chambers connected by small tunnels. Drywood termites are found mostly in southern and coastal areas, particularly California, Texas, Florida and Louisiana.
Subterranean termites are found in moist environments like basements, cellars or soil. They thrive in earth or in decayed wood, and they create a grid of tubes and tunnels visible on exposed surfaces. While they are found throughout the U.S., subterranean termites are less common in colder states. Typically, this type of termite causes more extensive damage to homes.
Termite populations have different jobs, including workers, soldiers and reproductive termites. Measuring roughly 1/8 long, workers are light in color and have no wings. Soldiers look similar to workers, but they have large brown heads with jaws used for defense. Reproductive termites are dark in color with large wings. While drywood reproductive termites tend to swarm at night, subterranean reproductive termites swarm during the daytime.
Finding winged termites indoors almost always points to a termite problem. This often happens in the spring when warmer temperatures and more frequent rainfall trigger termites to swarm in an attempt to procreate. After the swarming period, winged termites fall to the ground, shed their wings and find mates to start new colonies. While swarming termites rarely survive, they do indicate a termite presence in or around a home. The existence of termites also manifests in many other ways. Additional signs of termite infestation include:
Certain types of termites need only 1/32 of an inch (a space narrower than a sheet of paper) to enter a home or other type of building. Local professionals typically offer a number of different options for termite extermination, including termite tenting and chemical treatments. Each type offers various advantages and disadvantages.
Termite tenting involves covering the home in a sealed nylon tent for a period of about 48 hours and injecting a poisonous sulfuryl fluoride gas. Fans are installed throughout the home to circulate the gas and kill the termites. By sealing the home, the insects are unable to escape, which ensures complete elimination. This type of treatment is only effective for drywood termites, and it does not necessarily prevent the re- infestation of termites in the future.
Chemical treatments are a popular method for termite treatments. They are applied to various areas along the foundation, on siding or sheetrock and in the surrounding soil. Chemical treatments come in two types.
Repellants are used in the soil around the home and at entry points inside the home. They are intended to produce a barrier that deters these pests from entry and kills them if they pass through. Problems with repellants include difficulty in locating all termite entry points and an inability to affect termites that have already infested the home.
Non-repellants are chemical treatments that do not deter termites, so when they burrow into treated areas, many more are eradicated. In addition, the chemicals can pass from termite to termite, which provides a very effective method of extermination.
Injecting boric acid into untreated wood or infested wood is an effective method of termite prevention or treatment. One advantage to this method is that, with proper use, it is safe for people, animals and plants. Therefore, it works effectively inside or outside a home. The variety of boric acid treatments includes gels, foams, soaps, sprays and powders. These types of treatments are available through professional and for DIY use.
If you wish to attempt DIY termite extermination, you have a couple of safe options in addition to boric acid products. These include termite motels (or stations), cardboard bating and beneficial nematodes.
Many homeowners prefer methods that do not fill their homes with poisonous chemicals. Termite baiting makes a good DIY option. Installed above or below ground, termite motels are small containers that contain cardboard or paper and a slow-acting poison. When the termite shares the food from the station, it also shares the lethal substance with the other termites in the colony. Baits are an effective means of termite treatment, but it can be difficult to know where to install them below ground.
When it comes to termite control cost, cardboard baiting makes a very inexpensive option. To use them, you merely soak cardboard in water and leave it around the perimeter of your home. When the cardboard becomes infested with termites, you can toss it into a flaming fire pit or burn pile. Although simple to do and easy on the bank account, its hard to estimate the efficiency of this method, and it may take some time to eliminate the entire pest population.
Another inexpensive and natural option for DIY termite control is the introduction of beneficial nematodes. These are very small worms that burrow into termites and kill them within 48 hours of contact. Because they are not harmful to plants, pets or people, you can spray nematodes into your yard or along the floorboards of your home. Nematodes are available from garden supply stores or hardware stores, and you can store them in the refrigerator when not in use. Due to destruction by UV light, you should only apply them early in the morning or after sunset.
Natural oils make a safe termite deterrent for homes with children or animals when applied to surfaces like floorboards and baseboards. Effective oils include orange oil, neem oil, vetiver oil and clove bud oil. Vetiver oil keeps termites away, while orange oil, neem oil and clove bud oil work well for killing termites, particularly those of the drywood variety.
Orange oil products are commonly available at home improvement stores in the form of liquids and sprays. Orange oil termite treatment cost runs between $8 and $35 depending on the type, brand and quantity of the product. People with pets should not use clove bud oil, as it can cause liver and kidney toxicity through contact with an animal’s skin.
Termite prevention or treatment helps ensure the structural integrity and safety of a home. An inspection helps confirm the presence of termites if you suspect you may have a problem. ImproveNet can help you locate experienced termite treatment professionals in your area.
Last updated on Feb 24, 2017
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