Most termites live in colonies in the soil. Worker termites eat through wood, building tunnels that they then pack with moist soil. They return to their colony often to groom and feed other termites. Knowledge of the predictable, highly social, and well-organized behavior of termites helps termite professionals recommend effective treatment plans for ridding your home of them.
Your Best Defense is a Strong Offense
Termites are everywhere. If you wait until you have damage, you may be in for a shocking surprise, since termites can do a great deal of hidden damage before it becomes noticed. What's more, most homeowners' policies do not cover termite damage to structural timbers, so you're the one who will be stuck with potentially serious structural damage and a large bill to repair it. Your best bet for avoiding termite problems is to hire a termite control company that can protect your home from termite damage and make recommendations for reducing the opportunities for an infestation.
Termite Control Methods
There are two general types of termite control protection.
- Chemical barrier. A certified termite control company will drill holes into the concrete basement slab and sometimes walls, fill it with a chemical application and seal the holes. This chemical application typically lasts for years before it needs to be re-applied. Even though this system is long-lasting, a technician will still check your home for evidence of termite activity at least once a year and will reapply chemicals and do repairs as needed or as stipulated in your contract.
- Baiting systems. This method of termite control involves the installation of plastic baiting stations around the outside of your home, in which a piece of timber is placed. A technician checks the station every month or so for termite activity. If there is evidence of activity, a slow-acting termiticide is put in the station for termites to eat and carry back to their colony to be shared throughout the nest.
A good termite control company will also make recommendations specific to your home about how to reduce the chances of termite damage. In general, these recommendations will include:
- Watch the wood. Make sure wood does not come into contact with the ground. This includes wooden fences and decks. If you use wood chips as part of your landscaping, make sure they are not near your house.
- Fix leaks. Fix leaky hoses and air conditioning units, as well as gutters or downspouts that don't work properly. Most termites need moisture-- don't provide it to them.
- Leave 'em alone! Don't disturb termites if you see them or evidence of their tunnels. Do not spray insecticides on them. Termites will simply find another way to enter your home and you will not be able to locate them again until new damage is visible. Let the pros take care of them.
- Clear the way. Try to remove any "barriers to access" that the service pro cites during inspection. These are things like bushes and other vegetation that are too close to your home to allow a thorough inspection or chemical treatment. Barriers to access can also include carpeting, built-in shelves and other more permanent things that are not reasonable to remove. If you have a number of barriers to access that you cannot remove, your home may be a better candidate for the baiting system.
Make sure you read your termite control company's contract carefully. Most contracts cover termite treatment, which includes measures to get rid of the termites, but not repairs of damage to your home. Many companies offer service warranties to cover repairs. These usually require an up-front fee and an annual renewal fee. Clarify what repairs are covered by the service warranty. Some contracts say they cover damage but then have a clause that indicates they can change this policy or reject claims for various reasons.
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