Problem: Wood materials in
home structure are threatened by termites.
Background: Termites are the most destructive
insects to wood in buildings. There are drywood termites,
which can live without moisture, and the subterranean, or
ground- nesting, termites which are a serious problem in
southern states. Subterranean termites live in colonies in
the ground and need moisture to survive. They may build
earthen tunnels from the ground up to the wood, and they
will sometimes completely eat away the inside of a piece
of wood while leaving the out side surface intact.
Chemicals for protecting against and controlling termites
are toxic and should be applied with extreme caution,
preferably by an experienced technician.
What to do: Check for termites at least twice a
year. Call an exterminator to identify any large numbers
of flying insects that you can’t identify during spring
and summer (termite mating season). Look for earthen
tunnelings along masonry foundation and basement walls,
around openings where pipes enter walls, and along the
surfaces of metal pipes. Check all cracks in slabs and
loose mortar in masonry walls. Also check all joints where
wood meets with concrete or masonry at walls, slabs, or
Inspect all wood and wood structures that are near the ground,
especially those that touch the house, such as fences,
wood trellises, and carports. Examine crawl spaces that
provide moist conditions, as well as windowsills, door
thresholds, porches, and the underside of stairs. (Be on
the lookout for peeling and blistering paint.) If you
suspect that wood has termite damage, probe with an
icepick or penknife. If the point penetrates to a depth of
½ inch with only hand pressure, it’s a good indication of
wood damage from termites.
Special advice: When chemical treatments are
necessary, the procedure is to dig a trench about 1-foot
wide and 3-feet deep next to the foundation wall and pour
insecticide against the exposed wall surface and into the
trench as it backfills. (Check with an exterminator or
your local county extension office for recommended
chemicals.) The chemical solution is also applied at
locations where wood and masonry meet at a joint, and to
areas that have earthen floors. Note: if chemicals are
used inside the home, the room or space must be well
ventilated and vacated for a period of time.
To help prevent termites from be coming established, direct all
surface water away from the home, allowing no water to
accumulate at the foundation. Cover the earth of unpaved
basements with plastic film, 4 mil or heavier. Crawl
spaces should be at least 2 feet high and kept well
ventilated. Keep untreated wood no closer than 6 inches to
the ground. Seal all openings where pipes pass through
foundations or walls of the house with caulking compound.
Seal any cracks or points of loose mortar in masonry
walls. If there is a termite shield around the foundation
it should be straightened and turned down at least 2
inches at about a 45° angle.
Helpful hint: To help
reduce termite problems, make sure all scraps of lumber or
stumps are removed when a building project is completed.
Also keep crawl spaces clear of wood scraps.