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  • Donnell Flanagan-Tatum

Protecting your home against termites

Homeowners can reduce the risk of termite attack by following these suggestions:


1. Eliminate wood in contact with the ground. Termite problems often occur when wood components of the building are in direct contact with soil. Earth-to-wood contact affords termites’ easy access to food, moisture and shelter, and direct, hidden entry into the building. Eliminating wood-to-soil contact may require regrading or pulling soil or mulch back from the foundation, cutting the bottom off wood latticework, or supporting steps or posts on a concrete base. Contrary to popular belief, pressure-treated wood is still vulnerable to termite attack; termites often enter the wood through cracks and cut ends, or build tunnels over the surface. 2. Do not let moisture accumulate near the foundation. Termites are attracted to moisture and are more likely to infest if the soil next to the foundation is consistently moist. Water should be diverted away with properly functioning gutters, downspouts and splash blocks. Leaking faucets, pipes and air conditioning units should be repaired, and the ground next to the foundation should be graded (sloped) so that surface water drains away from the building. Lawn sprinklers and irrigation systems should be oriented to minimize water puddling near the foundation. 3. Reduce moisture and humidity in crawl spaces. Most building codes call for one square foot of vent opening per 150 square feet of crawlspace area. For crawlspaces equipped with a vapor barrier, the total vent area often can be reduced to one square foot per 300 to 500 square feet of crawlspace area. One vent should be within three feet of each exterior corner of the building. Vents should be kept free of leaves, dirt, and debris, and should not be obstructed by vegetation. Moisture and humidity in crawl spaces can further be reduced by installing 4-6 ml polyethylene sheeting over about 75 percent of the soil surface. The soil cover will act as a vapor barrier to reduce evaporation from the soil and condensation of moisture on joists and subflooring. 4. Never store firewood or wood debris against foundations or inside crawlspaces. Firewood, lumber, cardboard boxes, newspapers, and similar materials attract termites and provide a source of food. Stacked against foundations they also offer hidden entry into the structure and may allow termites to bypass surrounding soil treated with a termiticide. Vines, ivy, and other dense plantings touching the house should be avoided as well. Where practical, remove stumps and dead roots around and beneath buildings, and any form boards left in place after the building was constructed. 5. Use mulch sparingly, especially if you already have termites or other conducive conditions. Many people use landscape mulch for its aesthetic and plant health benefits. Improper usage, however, can contribute to termite problems. Termites are attracted to mulch primarily because of its moisture-retaining properties, and the insulation it affords against temperature extremes. The mulch itself is of poor nutritional quality to termites and a non-preferred source of food. Since the moisture retaining properties of mulch are more of an attractant than the wood itself, it makes little difference what type of mulch is used (cypress, pine bark, eucalyptus, etc.). Crushed stone or pea gravel are comparable to wood mulch in terms of attraction, since they also retain moisture in the underlying soil. Where mulch is used, it should be applied sparingly (a couple inches is usually adequate), and should never be allowed to contact wood siding or framing of doors or windows. 6. Consider having the home treated. Buildings have many natural openings through which termites can enter, most of which are hidden. While the above measures will help make the structure less attractive to termites, the best way to prevent infestation is to protect it with a termiticide. Preventively treating a home for termites is a prudent investment, especially if the structure has had no prior history of treatment. If a building was previously treated, it is a good idea to maintain the warranty by paying the annual renewal fee. Should termites re-infest -- which can happen even if the treatment was performed correctly, like us, most companies will return and retreat the affected area at no additional charge.

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