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How to Get Rid of Termites in Your Home

by Point2 Editorial Staff
6 min. read

Known for chewing through wood and wreaking havoc, termites may be tiny but can cause vast amounts of damage if left unchecked. Fortunately, it’s not all bad news. In this guide, we’ll talk about recognizing signs of termites in your home before looking at numerous preventative measures. Finally, for those already suffering a termite invasion, we’ll show you how to get rid of them for good.

How Do You Know If You Have Termites?

Termite colonies can grow to have more than a million members, all chewing through the woodwork in your home. Despite boasting huge numbers, knowing if you have termites at home can be tricky until it’s too late. Fortunately, there are some clues, but if you’re in doubt, be sure to book a professional termite inspection. Here are some common signs to look out for:

1. Wood Damage

Termites prefer to eat softer, moist wood, such as that found in subfloors and within the walls, rather than polished floors or furniture. This can make it tricky to discover their presence until it’s too late, as they essentially eat from the inside out.

However, you may see such damage in visible wooden beams and trims. Look for long grooves within the wood, often in a maze-like honeycomb pattern. Such wood may crumble when touched or sound hollow when knocked.

Meanwhile, wood flooring can become blistered and discolored as termites chew the subfloor below. Squeaky and sagging floorboards are another indicator.

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2. Flying Termites

At certain times of the year, flying termites branch off from the colony to mate. The resulting swarms are difficult to miss, so if you see them in or around your home, there’s a good chance that an established termite colony is located there.

Also, look out for discarded wings, particularly around windows. Termites tend to shed their wings when they land, but they’re still alive and ready to start a new colony.

3. Mud Tubes

Around the width of a pencil, mud tubes can be found around the foundations of your home. These tunnels enable subterranean termites to travel from their underground colony to their food source, i.e., your home. Be sure to also check around the tree stumps, firewood, and mulch piles in your yard, which can also become dinner for a colony of termites.

4. Termite Droppings

Small mounds of tiny wooden pellets, similar to black pepper, can indicate the presence of termites, particularly if found around your window sills. Termite dust can also be found at the bottom of your walls, often on the baseboards.

5. Drywall Damage

Certain termites thrive on the paper found on drywall. Look out for pinholes and crevices along any drywall walls, as well as wallpaper. Painted walls may start to bubble and flake as air and moisture get behind the layer via the termite entry and exit holes.

6. Structural Damage

Dipping ceilings, buckled floors and sagging support beams can all hint at a termite infestation. As they tunnel through these supports, the wood slowly begins to fail and, if left too long, can collapse altogether. In severe cases, termites have been known to cause the foundations to shift, resulting in stiff doors and windows and cracks in the drywall.

termite damaged wood

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How to Prevent Termites

The best form of termite control is termite prevention. Most modern houses are fairly well equipped to deter termites, but if you own an older home or want to be extra cautious, there are plenty of things you can do to keep these wood-devouring pests at bay.

Understanding their needs is key:

  • Cellulose: Found in wood, cardboard, paper and other products derived from wood, cellulose is the primary food source for termites
  • Moisture: To help break down wood
  • Damp soil: Only for subterranean termites — dry termites live in the wood itself

If you can control these conditions in and around your home, you’ll be well on your way to keeping termites at bay.

1. Fix Any Leaks and Drainage Issues

Removing a termite’s access to water will almost always deter them. So, stay on top of any leaky plumbing, particularly around wooden elements and drywall.

Cleaning out your gutters and ensuring proper drainage is also essential. Blocked gutters can cause water to gush down the side of your home and dampen the soil around your foundations. If you notice water pooling around your home, take steps to improve your drainage.

2. Prevent Damp with Good Extraction

Good air circulation prevents damp spots in your home, so ensure all vents and extractors work correctly. If the air flows freely in your home, you won’t have issues with dampness, and as a result, it will remove ideal conditions for termites. As a bonus, you’ll also prevent mold and mildew from growing.

3. Don’t Keep Wood Near Your Home

Termites are generally attracted to an easy food source before they move into your home. This could be mulch, wood chips or even firewood. If these things are kept too close to your home, they essentially act as an entry point for termites.

4. Block Entry to Your Home

If termites can’t enter your home in the first place, they won’t be able to access the woodwork. So, fill any holes, cracks or crevices in the exterior of your home with relevant filler and ensure all door and window frames are properly sealed. Also, mosquito netting should be used on ventilation shafts, especially those going to the basement.

5 Ways to Get Rid of Termites

If it’s too late for prevention, all hope is not yet lost. There are several termite treatments that you can employ before they cause too much damage. Indeed, various DIY termite treatments will put a small infestation to a halt in no time. For larger infestations, it’s often best to consult a professional.

1. Wet Cardboard Traps

Comprising a plastic container filled with damp paper or cardboard laced with a slow-acting termite poison, termite workers will eat the food before returning to the colony. Here, they share it with the queen and all other colony members. The poison slowly spreads through the colony, devastating it. For best results, place the trap near the colony or bury it underground for subterranean termites.

2. Boric Acid

Boric acid, or Boron, is highly effective against termites and can simply be sprayed in the areas they inhabit to kill them off quickly. While boric acid is far less toxic than other chemical alternatives, it is banned in several parts of the world, and its use is advised against in Canada.

3. Orange Oil

Orange oil is an excellent choice for an eco-friendly, DIY termite treatment. It’s deadly to termites when injected into areas they inhabit.

4. Nematodes

These parasitic roundworms won’t harm humans, plants or animals, but they’re deadly to termites. Simply introduce them to any soil home to subterranean termites, and they’ll slowly work through the colony. Just bear in mind that nematodes only work for subterranean termites.

5. Termiticides

Several chemical treatments and pesticides fall under the umbrella term termiticides. Modern products are relatively safe to use and are the choice for professional pest controllers. You can also find child and pet-friendly sprays and foams for home use, though it’s always safest to isolate any areas you’re treating.

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