How to Get Rid of Termites – The Ultimate Guide to DIY Termite Treatment
Silent destroyers, that’s what they’re called.
These little insects cause more property damage yearly than giant typhoons. For a long time, a lot of pest control companies have been popping up to keep termites from destroying our homes.
Unfortunately, a lot of their services cost a fortune.
In fact, Americans spend about $2 billion per year on termite treatment and prevention, according to the University of West Virginia.
Eradicating termite colonies on your own and keeping them from your home is no small feat. But there are plenty of DIY termite treatments you can try though.
So we made this complete guide to using DIY termite treatments for you to finally get rid of those pesky insects! We’ve covered everything you need to know to keep your house termite-free.
How vulnerable is your house to termites?
Are there some houses more prone to termites compared to others? How can you tell if your home is in danger of a sudden invasion?
So before we show you everything you need to know about DIY termite treatments, you first have to find out why houses get attacked in the first place.
While termites are obviously attracted to wood, some environments are more susceptible to having them compared to others. While there are more detailed discussions on this topic, Terminix gives us a simplified list of the 4 most common causes of termite infestations in houses.
Termites just love moist environments.
These little insects depend on moisture for food and nest building. Houses that have issues like leaky pipes, uncleaned gutters and blocked drains are more at risk at having an infestation. Humidity and standing water in and around your home’s foundation also attract them.
Misplaced and Untreated Wood
Wood plays a vital part in infestations. After all, they’re the most common food source for termites.
Wood that has direct contact with the ground can bridge the soil and your house.
Termites, like other insects, search for food on the ground. They may be blind, but if untreated wood from your house is just within reach, they can use that wood for food as well as an entryway. Houses with wooden sidings and plants attached to walls and other openings also give out the same consequences.
3 Kinds of Termites
Termites have many similarities with ants.
One similarity is that they don’t belong to a single species. There are about 3,106 species that have been identified and hundreds more that are still being studied. With these many species, there are only three main types that are best known in pest control.
The name tells it all. The Incisitermes and Cryptotermes genera love dry wood. You can recognize them by their large mouthparts (mandibles). They also have teeth-like structures and wide “necks” (pronotum).
These termites feel right at home inside wood that doesn’t have to be connected to soil. Unlike other species, they can thrive in places with very little moisture, so you’ll mostly find them in attics. They appear in isolated wooden structures with trails that cut right through the wood grain.
Because droppings are so important in investigating infestations, you can check if you have drywood termites just by looking for the frass (droppings) that they left behind. Their frass are dry and come in a pile near their tunnels.
As their name suggests, these termites are seen in damp and decaying stumps and logs. They invade old rotting wood on the ground, but don’t typically build colonies into the soil, just inside the wood.
These insects also have large mandibles. They have a reddish-brown head. And their frass are used to seal their galleries (tunnels), so wood that’s been infested usually doesn’t look any different on the outside.
Finally, we have the subterraneans. The genera Heterotermes, Coptotermes, and Reticulitermes build large and very established nests underground. You’ll know if your house is infected by subterranean termites if the infested wood has soil or mud in them.
These insects love moisture like dampwood termites. But contrary to the two other types, these insects eat while following the natural flow of the wood grain. Subterranean termites’ damage to wood makes it look layered.
How to prevent termites from invading your house
Now that the basics have been cleared up, let’s talk about prevention. How do you keep those termites out? Are there things that you should do before you resort to drastic termite treatments?
Inspect Your Home
Go around your house. Take out the things termites need to survive. When you're looking for signs of termites, in some cases your ears can be a big asset. According to the experts at Standard Pest Management in New York, "One of the most telling symptoms of termite infestation in Westchester County, NY is the sound made by wood when it’s knocked. If you knock against wood and it sounds hollow there is good chance termites have been feeding on it."
In addition to the sound of the wood, there are numerous other things to look for when inspecting your home for possible termite damage or the threat of an infestation. Terminix and the University Nebraska-Lincoln’s Nebraska Extension in Lancaster County gives us these practical tips to termite-proof your home.
- Avoid the accumulation of water by fixing leaky pipes and blocked drains.
- Clean the gutters regularly, and buy functional downspouts and splash blocks to keep rain from forming puddles near the walls or wood sidings.
On Misplaced and Untreated Wood
- Only use treated lumber in building your house.
- Cedar wood is not only great for making homes and furniture. It kills termites too.
- Rip off vines that are growing on the walls or wood sidings.
- Cut tree branches and shrubs that are too close to windows, doors and vents.
- Remove old form boards, grade stakes and other construction aids that were put up when your house was built. You don’t need them anymore anyway.
- Get rid of other wood pieces like stumps, mulch, trellises and stacks of firewood near the house.
- There should be an 18-inch gap between the soil and any wooden piece from your house.
On the Openings in the House’s Structure
- Check windows and doors regularly. Reapply caulk into holes and distressed wood.
- Redo old seals on walls, pipes, roofs and other house fixtures.
- Replace damaged wood immediately after detection.
- Poured concrete foundations are great as long as they’re rebar reinforced (to stop cracks from ever forming).
- Hollow block foundations are risky because mortars the hold them together eventually weaken. Subterranean termites can get inside them.
- Slab foundations are too close to the soil. Cracks from these foundations are prime targets for subterranean termites.
- Avoid “dirt-filled” porches because the soil in them is often made to be higher and too close to the structural wood used in the house.
- Brick houses are not resistant to termites. Termites can infest brick houses just like any other house.
- Reduce humidity inside crawl spaces with a dehumidifier.
On the Location
- Do your research before moving to a new house. Here is a complete guide of Local Termite Activity in the US from Termites.com.
- Look for addresses that get a healthy amount of sunlight anytime of the day. Sunlight is a natural way to get rid of termites.
Here’s a video that gives more details into some of the points in our prevention list.
Whether you’re building a new home or just caring for an existing one, your first line of defense against these insect invaders are barriers. Currently, there are two kinds, physical and chemical.
These barriers “physically” block termites from entering your home. They’re installed during the construction phase because they’re modified parts of a house. Some of the most common physical barriers are treated lumber and a chemically treated steel webbing between two sheets of plastic.
According to Termites Help, treated lumber is wood that’s been chemically treated to repel termites. There are different kinds for different purposes, depending on the level of chemicals used on them.
Meanwhile, steel webbing is used as a protective layer between the house and the soil it stands on. It’s usually layered with a concrete slab to serve as the base of the house.
Are they any good? Treated lumber can significantly reduce the chances of infestation. However, steel webbing, unlike treated lumber, is only designed for subterranean termites. They’re useful, but they can’t inhibit all termites from entering the house 100% of the time.
They don’t come cheap either. They’ll make the overall construction cost more expensive. But when you think of the damages and other costs that your insurance might not cover, it’ll be worth it in the long run.
This type of termite barrier is made by applying liquid chemicals to the soil around your property. It stops termites from nesting anywhere within the perimeter. Chemical barriers are also put into the soil where the floor of the house will go. It’s a cheaper alternative to steel webbing.
Are they any good? Chemical barriers have a good reputation in stopping infestations. And unlike other barriers that can only be applied during construction, they can also be put up any time.
The chemicals in the soil are made following a slow-acting formula that enables them to latch on to unsuspecting foraging termites. These termites then spread the poison into other termites in the next, effectively wiping out a colony. A chemical barrier is also reportedly safe for humans, pets and native animals. However, this doesn’t mean that we’re not going to wear safety gear anymore.
What's the average cost for a termite treatment?
According to Terminix, the average cost of termite treatment and damage repairs in the US is over $8,000.
Nobody wants to pay more than you have to. But at the same time, you don’t want to skimp on something important like a termite infestation. If you save $1,000 but get less than stellar service, did you really save anything?
The adage goes that “if you buy on price, you buy twice,” and that certainly could be true here. Don’t find a Groupon for the discount termite guy and pay $1,000 only to end up having paying $8,000 to a high quality company later on.
Again, this isn’t to say that you should go with the highest price. But you should check online reviews in your area and ask for personal referrals to help guide your decision.
Here’s more information on the average cost of treating termites.
How long does a termite treatment last?
There are many estimates and details about how long a termite treatment really lasts. But preferably, it should be active for at least 5 years.
Termite treatments also depend on a lot of factors. Termite protection can last in that 5-year timespan depending on environmental conditions, how thoroughly the treatment is applied and how dense the termite population is. That’s why it’s not too impossible that termites might come back just after a treatment has been applied. They might have found a gap in the barrier you put up.
So it’s a good idea to have your house inspected every year. You’ll never know when a colony might pop up somewhere.
DIY termite treatment options
So what if there are already signs that show termites nesting in the house? Is it possible to DIY? It’s possible to go “DIY” on your termite treatment, but you really need to do your homework first.
A complete termite treatment package should be thorough to make sure that your initial liquids and baits are getting the job done. For this reason, many people think of a DIY project as something you can spend a few hours on and be done with. But that simply isn’t the case with termites. Often, there are ongoing termite treatments needed, and this is why the University of Nebraska makes the case that do it yourself termite treatment isn’t a good idea.
That said, you may want to try it anyway for various personal reasons…
Here's a video that explains Do-It-Yourself Termite Treatment in very simple terms.
The first DIY termite treatment is baiting. It is what it sounds like. You lure the pesky termites, mostly subterranean termites, with something that they eat. And you kill them. It’s that simple.
Baits are very popular DIY termite treatments because they’re easy to use and cheap. They can also be combined with other termite treatment options to get rid of pesky termites.
They come in different shapes, but there are really just two kinds, below ground and above ground baits.
Below Ground Installation
Baits used underground are stations with untreated wood. They’re inserted into the ground, and checked regularly if there’s any termites in an area. Once there’s termite activity in the wood, it’s replaced with the bait, a material that’s been treated with toxicant, a toxic substance that sticks to foraging termites and spreads into other termites.
Is it any good? Like barriers, baits protect your property from infestations. They’re used to control termite populations, and are easy to use.
However, they can only be used outside of your house, so any chances of getting rid colonies inside rests on the shoulders of another kind of termite treatment. You’ll also need a lot of baits to surround your house and protect it. Just one bait won’t do.
Above Ground Installation
Baits installed on the ground work the same way as the first one, but they’re much easier to place. They’re directly positioned on active termite tunnels and infested wood. There’s no shooting in the dark for this one.
Right now, there are plenty of above ground bait products that are flourishing in the market. Some of them are Sentricon, Firstline, Exterra, Subterfuge, Advance Termite Bait System and Spectracide Terminate.
Is it any good? The greatest advantage to this baiting system is that you won’t have to do any guess work because it can be installed in locations where termites are really present. You’ll also find the results manifest faster with this type of bait.
Downside? Just like underground baits, most above ground baits are also only used outside of the house (except for Cardboard box baiting).
Remember that successful baiting needs correct installation, monitoring and replenishment with ongoing surveillance. Often times, additional or supplemental treatments are necessary to really protect your home. With that in mind, you can use both above ground and below ground baits. There’s really no rule that tell us to use only one type anyway.
Liquid Termite Treatment
Liquid treatments are also considered as chemical barriers. They’ve have been around longer than baits, and the idea behind them is pretty simple. A long-lasting liquid termicide is sprayed around your building in order to prevent termites from getting past that “liquid barrier”. This liquid termicide can target all kinds of termites, but are typically used against the subterranean species.
Now, most modern liquid treatments will actually kill the termites. Historically, liquids were sprayed to simply deter the insects and keep them away. Now, the liquid is designed to be undetected, so it will have a lethal effect making it more reliable in stopping infestations from ever happening.
Is it any good? According to Termite Web, using the liquid termite treatment gives you more immediate results. It lasts for several years. For complains about “gaps” in the barrier during treatments, non-repellent liquid like Termidor can get rid of them.
One of the major downside to this termite treatment though is the labor-intensive drilling. With proper safety gear, you’ll have to drill holes into the ground or concrete to get the liquid to reach the termites. And with all that drilling, there’s also a possibility of contaminating waterways with the liquid treatment you’re using.
Liquid vs. Bait
There’s an ongoing debate about these two. The two systems are undoubtedly different, but many times, liquid and bait methods are used together. So don’t think you’re always just choosing one or the other.
Watch this video from Do My Own Pest Control to help understand each choice.
Boric Acid Termite Treatment
According to WikiHow, boric acid dehydrates termites, destroys their stomachs and shuts down their nervous systems. This humble household agent is actually an active ingredient in bait stations because it can be spread to other termites like what other slow-acting chemicals do.
Is it any good? Boric acid is effective for all types of termites. It’s a cheaper countermeasure even though it’s one of the main ingredients used in many commercial termicides today.
It does, however, have a false reputation for being “non-toxic”. Boric acid is toxic. It’s toxic to plants and to humans. It irritates the skin and the eyes. So like other pesticides, safety gear is necessary when using it. Find out more about it here. You can also watch a demo here.
Spot/ Partial Termite Treatment
A spot or partial treatment may be a viable option for drywood termites. It’s a treatment where only the infested part of the house is applied with termicide. This option attracts people because it’s a cheaper alternative than blasting the entire house with fumes.
Is it any good? According to Angie’s List, there are a lot of factors involved with this treatment. These include your future plans for your home, your willingness to take risky choices and your budget.
When you decide on going for a spot treatment, you need to be sure that you’ve isolated the problem areas. Termites can come from multiple entry points in your house. They can also be in a place that’s totally far away from the problem areas that’s already been identified or be in places where you wouldn’t be able to reach them. This is why spot termite treatments are especially less effective to subterranean termites.
Microwave Spot Treatment (Heat Treatment)
Heat kills termites. Heat that’s concentrated on and directed to the areas where drywood termites are located can be very effective in getting rid of them. This can be done small scale by using a microwave or with a professional who can treat the entire house.
Is it any good? DIY heat treatments are very dangerous. Using a microwave other than what it’s intended for risks burning the entire house down. It’s best that you leave this work to the professionals.
Natural Termite Treatment Options
With all the talk of chemicals, you may be curious if there are any natural termite treatment options available for you. Fortunately there are a couple.
Orange Oil Termite Treatment
This essential oil is collected from orange rinds. It’s made as a by-product of orange juice. The solvent properties of this oil is popular for removing drywood termites.
Is it any good? Overall, orange oil effectively controls drywood termite populations. It destroys their exoskeletons and cell membranes making them succumb to water and protein loss.
But when you think of orange oil and “natural”, you’d think that they wouldn’t be toxic or something close to that. But, orange oil is dangerous when not handled carefully. It irritates the skin because it dissolves protective skin oils. It also irritates the eyes, and it causes stomach problems.
One of the great champions of this method is Chet’s Pest Control.
Here is their page about termites where they provide some more information on orange oil’s effects on fighting drywood termites. In fact, take a look at this video where he walks through many examples of where they’ve used orange oil to fight termites over the years:
Side Effects of Termite Treatment
This is the last section of our complete guide to DIY termite treatments. In this part, we’re going to talk about the consequences you’ll have to face after you use the treatments. We’ll answer the three most common questions readers ask: Do termites kill other bugs? Do termite treatments kill pets? And do termite treatments kill plants?
Do termite treatments kill other bugs?
Termites are insects. Then it stands to reason that you if get rid of them, you get rid of other insects too.
Nematodes, liquid termite treatments, orange oil, boric acid and other chemicals we’ve mentioned can eradicate other bugs, even if they’re the friendlier kind.
In particular, if you are dealing with drywood termites and use Vikane fumigation as part of the extermination. Under this treatment option, your house is often “tented” – meaning totally covered and enclosed with a tarp before the Vikane is used. This will kill all termites in the house, but it will also kill other bugs like cockroaches, silverfish, and perhaps even bed bugs (which can also be treated with Vikane).
Do termite treatments kill pets?
Insecticides CAN kill pets. According to the Toxics Information Project, the chemicals in most insecticides are fat soluble. So they’re stored in the liver, the nervous system and other fatty tissues. These slowly poison our animal companions over time. Your pets won’t die immediately after exposure, but you’ll find problems with their hormones and immune system as the problem gets worse.
In lethal cases, strychnine from some pesticides kill dogs and cats just right after ingestion. They’ll immediately burst into convulsions, suffer respiratory arrest and lastly, die.
Birds are also vulnerable to insecticides. They’re mostly hurt by ones that have chlorinated hydrocarbons. After being exposed, you’ll see the effects after 48 hours.
Natural termite treatments are also included in the list. Orange oil can reach your pets’ eyes and irritate them while nematodes can’t tell the difference between cats and termites. They can enter their bodies and wreak havoc inside.
You’ll never really know what will happen to your pets when they’re around during termite treatments. So always keep your pets out of the house when this time of the year comes. Let them stay in a relative’s home for safe keeping.
Do termite treatments kill plants?
How about plants? Can insecticides kill them too? Yes, they can.
Some termite control products contain sulfuryl fluoride. These are deadly to plants. Boric acid, on the other hand, are usually left out of soil treatments. They can get diluted by the rain water and be absorbed by plants, drying them out and damaging their ability to photosynthesize.
This doesn't mean that there are no plant-safe treatments though. When it comes to plants, you can always go natural on them. You can also keep indoor plants in safe places before starting your termite treatments.
Termites can be such a pain to deal with. They invade homes, and unlike mice, they number by the thousands for every household. They destroy homes and furniture with little to no warning signs. And they can cost you a fortune.
But, we shouldn’t fret. After all, there’s really no reason to be intimidated by these pesky insects when we have a lot of treatment options to choose from. These DIY termite treatments come in all sorts of methods, natural or chemical. You can consult professionals for them or just do them yourself. You can try cheaper alternatives like baiting and orange oil or go all out with a full liquid protection for your house. It’s really up to you.
We’re just glad we can help you decide.