Every year in the US termites cause $5 billion in property damage. In a natural ecosystem, termites perform the very important task of breaking down fallen trees. With their natural habitats largely removed, termites seek alternative sources of wood to call home. Subterranean and drywood termites are among the most voracious insect species in the world and they would like to make your home, their home. Luckily, there are many ways to build that prevent termites from accessing your home.
Building techniques to prevent termite infestations
Basements: Subterranean termites usually enter the home through the basement. Poured concrete basements are the most difficult for termites to breach, but only if there are no cracks. Use rebar to reinforce concrete and prevent cracking. If you have a block and brick foundation, termites are able to crawl between the cracks, so ensure that you cap it with at least four inches of poured concrete.
Adequately vent crawl spaces and ensure that there is at least an 18-inch gap between the soil and structural wood.
Support basement walls on a concrete slab rather than nailing lumber directly onto the slab. When you nail concrete onto the basement slab, you create cracks for termites to crawl up and the lumber may be too close to the soil.
Use pressure treated wood in basement installations.
Use a concrete base under porches and steps so that there is no lumber touching the soil.
Keep downspouts and foundations clear of mulch and vegetation debris. Keep wood stacks away from the house to reduce the amount of cellulose available to termites.
Use woods treated with borate or pressure-treated woods to improve termite resilience.
Termite shields on new builds don’t prevent termite infestations, but force termites to burrow around them which help homeowners to identify termite infestations earlier on. Wire mesh screens are a way to help prevent termites from burrowing into wood.
Termites are actually very delicate and one of their greatest needs is a source of water. Reducing the moisture in your home and water sources near your foundations will help to keep termites at bay.
One of the best solutions is to avoid using lumber at all and building with ICFs. ICFs provide a greener, more energy-efficient solution which totally eliminates any threat from termites and other insects.
Identifying a termite infestation
There are a number of telltale signs that can alert you to a termite infestation in your home. There are two main kinds of termites: Subterranean termites which live underground and drywood termites which live in wood. You can identify potential infestations with the following signs:
Hollow sounding wood: Termites like living in the dark, so it’s unlikely that the exterior of your lumber will show signs of damaged, but when tapped, termite-damaged wood will sound hollow.
Frass: Termites produce wood-colored droppings called frass that look like small tubes.
Mud Tunnels: Subterranean termites dry out very easily and so they build mud tunnels over the surface of wood so that they can remain moist while foraging.
Wings: Winged termites or discarded wings are a sure sign of a termite infestation. The worst part is that these flying termites have set off to find new places to form new colonies which may mean more infestations for you.
Small holes or paint damage can be a sign of a termite infestation.
Borate is a naturally occurring substance originally discovered in dry lake beds in Tibet and popularized for use in North America in the 19th century by the Pacific Coast Borax Company. Zinc and calcium powders are effective in reducing the risk of insect infestations including termites. Borate powders are a salt form or boric acid. Its ability to diffuse into wood makes borate an effective long term deterrent to wood-eating insects.
Borate powders have low toxicity, last for the duration of your wood products and provide effective deterrents to termites and other insects. Borate powder is considerably less toxic than synthetic pesticides and is considered non-toxic to humans and animals.
When it comes to termites, prevention is a lot better than cure so make sure you build to prevent termite infestations.