how do you get rid of termites? 11 things (2024) you ought to know

Ughh–please tell me that’s an ant and not a termite. 

Having insects inside the house can make your skin crawl.

But as creepy and crawly as spiders are, or as surprisingly large as moths get, there’s no insect more destructive than termites.

When termites get into a house’s walls, it’s a real problem.

Maybe you’ve driven by a home that’s been covered in a striped tarp, making it look like a carnival tent.

Well, that usually means the home is being treated for termites.

So, how do you get rid of termites if your home becomes infested?

The answer depends on how severe the infestation is.

But the good news is, as long as your reaction is prompt, your termite problem can be solved in just a few days.

So, let’s take a closer look at a few extermination processes and answer all your questions.

1. What Are Termites?

Termites are a type of insect that closely resembles ants.

The difference between the two bugs is that ants have segmented bodies (head, thorax, abdomen) and elbowed antennas, whereas termites’ bodies have a more singular shape, and their antennas are straight.

However, despite their differences, it can be hard to differentiate between the two at first glance–oh, and there are both flying termites and ants, which makes separating the two by eye even harder.

In the United States, termites are found in each state except for Alaska–lucky Alaska.

Usually, they form their nests in dead trees, in live trees, underground, and in wood structures–the type of species determines where the nest is located.

For nutrients, termites chow down on wood and plant materials.

Although termites get a bad rep, they’re an important part of the ecosystem by helping decompose dead plants.

Additionally, termites wouldn’t be an issue for homeowners if houses weren’t built in their habitat.

Besides humans, ants are termites’ biggest predators (beetles, flies, spiders, and wasps also hunt them).

2. What Attracts Termites to a House?

Termites eat wood, and houses have a lot of it.

Oftentimes, a home’s landscaping is what first draws them in.

Materials such as mulch, dead trees, and twigs in rain gutters can be the exact supply of food your local termites are looking for.

The insects also require a lot of water, so excess moisture in a yard is another big encouragement for termites to settle down near your home.

If there are any openings or cracks in the foundation or walls of your home, they will find their way in and set up shop.

Tree branches pressing up against a home are like an open invitation for termites to come on in at any time.

3. Can You Treat Termites at Home by Yourself?

Infestations need to be handled by a professional.

You may be able to treat certain parts of the problem, but it’s likely that the termites have spread to areas you can’t see or access.

A professional will be able to do a full assessment and make an appropriate game plan to stop the problem as soon as possible.

In order to officially get rid of the infestation, the queen has to be eliminated, which can be a tricky task, especially when you don’t know where to look.

If the job isn’t done properly, your termite problem could result in expensive repairs.

So, although you should leave extermination to the professionals, there are a number of things you can do as a homeowner to prevent the insects from ever coming.

4. How to Prevent Termites? (DIY)

You don’t need to worry about getting rid of termites if they’re never there in the first place, right?

Preventing the pesky insects is a straightforward process that just requires you to be mindful of your yard and the foundation of your home.

Let’s take a look at a few tips to prevent termites.

bulletAvoid Wood Storage Near Foundation

Firewood, lumber, newspapers, cardboard boxes, or any other similar materials are all on the menu for termites.

Keeping these items near the foundation of your home will draw in the insects, and they will eventually find ways to get into the wooden framework of the house. (You should also keep branches and ivy from touching the home).

bulletAvoid Mulching Excessively

Mulch is great for keeping plants healthy, but too much of it can cause termite problems.

The wood in mulch is actually not very nutritious for termites, but it provides protection and moisture.

Excess mulching creates excess moisture, and termites will make themselves right at home.

Also, mulch should not come into contact with wood siding or the wood framing of windows or doors.

bulletPrevent Excessive Moisture Near The Foundation

Termites like moisture, so preventing the build-up of water around the foundation of a home is crucial for preventing the insects.

Homes should have proper drainage systems that lead rain or sprinkler water away from the house.

This can be achieved with downspouts, splash blocks, and sloped grounds next to the foundation.

bulletAvoid Wood-to-Ground Contact

The less wood touching the ground, the less access to food termites will have.

When wood is placed directly in the ground, there’s nothing stopping termites from chowing down on it.

Any wooden features of a home should be at least six inches off the ground.

All homeowners should investigate their foundations for any wooden features, such as latticework, that could create problems and remove them.

5. How Do You Get Rid of Termites?

Termite extermination should always be done by a professional exterminator to ensure the problem is solved.

Termites are very sneaky and form colonies in hard-to-reach places.

So, although there are DIY solutions in stores and online, you should be very wary about going about the process by yourself.

Just know that if you do try your own solutions, the problem may not be fully taken care of, leading to serious damage to your home.

So, how do you get rid of termites?

There are four main processes: bait systems, liquid and foam sprays, fumigation, and heat treatment.

bulletBait systems are used to draw termites away from the house.

The bait, a control agent made of cellulose and insecticide, is placed around the property, and worker termites mistakenly bring it back to the colony, slowly killing all the termites off.

Once the bait is ingested, termites begin to die within a few weeks.

bulletExterminators will also spray the perimeter of a home with liquid and foam sprays that kill termites on contact.

These sprays are used to control current infestations and prevent them from happening again.

bulletWhen a termite infestation is serious enough, fumigation is the ultimate method to eliminate the insects.

Depending on the severity level, the entire house may need to be tented to perform the fumigation.

The house has to be tented for one to three days, but it’s highly effective.

However, it won’t stop new infestations from happening again.

bulletExterminators may suggest heat treatment, which also involves tenting the house.

The professionals will heat the house until the wood reaches 120°.

At that temperature, the termites will die off.

Heat treatment is a great alternative to fumigation.

6. How Much Does It Cost to Get Treatment?

Finding termites in your walls and knowing you have to pay for an exterminator can feel like a kick to the gut.

So how much does treatment cost?

The total price depends on the severity of the infestation and where the colony is located.

In general, treatment costs between $200 and $1,000 dollars.

The price is also affected by the size of the house, how many treatments are needed, and the overall difficulty of the task.

Taking action as soon as possible will keep the cost of extermination down and prevent costly damages.

Getting bids from multiple exterminators will help you find the best possible price, but the most important thing is to find a reputable company.

Just because the price is right doesn’t mean the service is.

So, do your research, check reviews, and get recommendations from your neighbors before choosing a company.

7. Do Termites Come Back After Treatment?

Unfortunately, they sometimes come back after treatment.

But why oh why does this happen?

Well, different termites require different treatments–some treatments are designed to last multiple years.

If the wrong treatment is given, it might not nip the problem in the bud.

Additionally, termites have wings; these are known as reproductive termites or swarmers.

Swarmers fly around looking for new places to set up colonies.

So, while your house is being treated, there could be a new colony starting underground or in a tree in the backyard.

If a home was recently fumigated but still has weak spots, eventually, termites will let themselves right back in.

That’s why handing the extermination process over to a reputable company is the best way to ensure a problem is totally solved.

But as the homeowner, you can take preventative measures to reduce the chances of them coming back (see the earlier section for ways to prevent termites).

8. Do They Ever Just Go Away?

In theory, termites could just go away.

But…

The chances of that happening are low–very low.

By the time they did leave, they would have already done a significant amount of damage.

So, when you see signs of termites, it’s not the time to try your luck and wait them out.

Just remember that your home is a goldmine of delicious food for these insects.

The good news is that when you get your house treated, it only takes a couple of days or weeks for termites to start dying off.

Don’t wait, and save yourself time, money, and headaches.

9. What Are Signs of Termites?

The earlier you become aware of an infestation, the easier and less expensive it’s going to be to deal with it.

Before we go over the signs of an infestation, remember that some colonies, especially underground colonies, can go undetected for a long time.

If you live in an area where termites are common, extermination companies offer annual and biannual checkups to ensure your house is safe.

Here are the common signs of termites.

bulletVisible termites

Seeing swarmers is a tell-tale sign that a home has an infestation.

bulletSmall holes in drywall

Termites will make pin-sized holes in drywall or sheetrock. These holes are exit points for swarmers.

bulletSpots of dried mud

Termites prefer their environment to be well-insulated.

If they cut through a wall, they will promptly cover it with mud/dirt.

If you wipe the mud spots away and find small holes, it’s a clear sign of termites.

bulletStuck windows and doors

Termites target windows and doors, damaging their structural components and causing them to get stuck or become more difficult to open.

bulletBubbling walls or paint

Bubbling walls or paint that appears to be water damage could also be an infestation.

If you notice signs of bubbling, look for other signs and have your home inspected.

10. How Fast Do Termites Spread?

Termites spread fast–very fast.

In just a few days, they can multiply and become a full-fledged infestation.

However, it takes about six years for a colony to become fully mature, but by that point, the infestation would be a serious problem.

Obvious signs of termites may not appear for years after they first show up.

You should always have your eyes peeled for early warning signs and do everything possible to prevent them from entering your house.

11. What Happens if Termites Go Untreated?

So, what kind of damage can termites do?

Warning: the answer isn’t pretty.

If an infestation is left untreated, it can cause such severe structural damage that a home could become unsafe to live in.

Termites could lead to thousands and thousands of dollars in repair, which makes a treatment that costs a few hundred dollars look very cheap in comparison.

Typically, it takes around two years for termites to do severe damage to a home.

As long as the problem is detected and dealt with on time, repairs may be unnecessary.

12. What Time of Year Is The Worst?

In warmer, moderate climates, termites are active year-round.

But, in general, spring and summer are when they are the most active.

If your home has been infested, you can’t rely on cold weather conditions to kill off a colony; however, termites will begin to die at freezing temperatures of around 25°F.

Whether it’s winter, spring, summer, or fall, you need to immediately deal with an infestation to avoid future complications.

Final Thoughts

Do you feel confident in answering the question of how you get rid of termites?

Well, you should because the answer is easy: Call a professional!

Colonies can deeply embed themselves into a home and spread into nearby trees and piles of mulch.

A professional exterminator will know where to look, identify the type of termite, and use the appropriate treatment.

Termites aren’t fun to deal with, but it’s always better to meet the problem head-on than pretend it’s not happening.

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Erika Gokce Capital

Disclaimer: we are not lawyers, accountants or financial advisors and the information in this article is for informational purposes only. This article is based on our own research and experience and we do our best to keep it accurate and up-to-date, but it may contain errors. Please be sure to consult a legal or financial professional before making any investment decisions.

Erika

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