How Often Should a House be Treated for Termites?


Many homeowners have problems related to termites every year. Termites are insects that eat the wood in your home. They can cause damage that will cost you thousands of dollars, plus you will have to pay to get rid of them. So, how often should a house be treated for termites?

Termite treatments last about five years. A liquid termite treatment can last five years or more. Termite bait station treatments only last one year and require routine inspections, normally performed every 3-6 months. Annual inspections are essential with any termite treatment.

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How long you will remain termite-free also depends on the type of treatment you used, the infestation’s degree, and the type of termites you had. Look out for signs of termite infestation between your annual termite inspection because it is much easier to get rid of them if you find them on time. 

Termites can be a home inspection red flag that can hurt your chances of selling your home should you ever desire to. You can avoid this through preventative termite treatments and annual inspections.

Is Preventative Termite Treatment Necessary?

People often say that “an ounce of prevention is worth more than a pound of cure”.  Well this is especially true with termites. Depending on where you live, it’s often not a question of if you’ll have termites but rather when.

Preventative termite treatments are necessary to maintain the structural integrity of your home. Annually in the U.S., termites damage approximately 600,000 houses, and U.S. residents spend an estimated $5 billion to control and repair termite damage. 1

You will have the best chances of avoiding the infestation through preventative treatments and routine home inspections

Termites are a subterranean insect that builds colonies underground. You can have a colony and near your house and not even know it.

Initial termite treatments are performed when building a house. If you have a new home built today, the initial treatment is generally good for five years. The initial treatment is done by applying a liquid treatment to the soil before the construction phase.

The best way to make sure that your home will remain termite-free is by treating your lot before building a house on it which is done by putting a Basaltic Termite Barrier (BTB) under your home. Balsamic Termite Barrier is made of rock particles that are packed tightly.

You can also use termite mesh. Termite mesh is a stainless steel screen with holes so small that termites cannot pass through them. This type of protection is perfect for problem areas such as cold joints in concrete. 

The hardest foundations for termites to invade are poured concrete foundations, but this is only true if they don’t have any cracks. If you have a brick or block foundation, keep in mind that they crack as they age. Concrete block piers should have a 4-inch solid cap block to resist termites. Some older homes used metal plates, often referred to as termite shields, to cap the piers.

Another great way to prevent termites when building your house is by using steel frames, pressure-treated wood, or termite resistant heartwood. 

If you have an existing home there are a few ways that you can still prevent termites infestation. One way to do it is to reduce all soil-to-wood contact around your house. That means that you should remove all lumber, wood, plants, mulch, paper, cardboard, and so on from around the foundation and crawl space.

You should also create a 4-inch barrier between mulch and your home. Make sure you keep your plants at least a few feet away from your home. You should empty your storm drains a few feet from the foundation and make sure that your soil drains effectively minimizes overly moist soil. 

For concrete slab foundations, rock is preferred in landscape beds over straw and mulch because the wall framing is typically only 4 to 6 inches off the ground.

It is also advisable that you fix leaky faucets and eliminate other excess moisture sources because that creates a perfect environment for termite invasions. While it is swarming season, which is after the winter when temperatures rise, turn off outdoor lights at night. The light attracts the swarmers, so try to move your lights to recessed areas away from doors and windows. 

Should You Have an Annual Termite Inspection?

Regardless of how new or old your home is, all homeowners should invest in regular inspections. Brand-new homes are still susceptible to termites, and you certainly don’t want your new home to be destroyed by them.

All homeowners should get a termite inspection once a year. If you have an older house, your risk of termite infestation is greater, so you should always be on the lookout for them and get it checked by a professional every year.

Even though a termite inspector will come and inspect your home once a year, you should check your own home in the meantime. There are a few things to look out for in-between inspections to lessen your chance of an infestation.

If you notice mud trails in the soil near any kind of wood around your home, it may have a termite colony present.

After they establish a new colony, swarmers will discard their wings. If you find a pile of wings, it means that there are termites nearby. 

You can also tell that you have a termite infestation by their droppings. Termite droppings resemble sawdust and can often be found along baseboards.

One of the most prominent signs that you have a termite infestation is hearing a hollow sound after knocking on wood you think might be infested.

Professionals will inspect all these signs during their annual visit, but they are also trained to find the smaller, less noticeable signs of termites. They can find the earliest signs of termite infestations thanks to their experience.

There are some things you can do to prepare for the inspector’s visit. Move anything that you have stored under your sinks because the inspector will have to check your water sources for termite activity. 

You will also have to move anything that you have stored against a wall in your garage. Remove any wood you have stored against the exterior walls.

Clear away anything that blocks the entrance to your attic. 

In case your home has been built on a raised foundation, you should keep your crawl space access clear. Move anything that blocks the entrance to it and anything stored there that will disrupt the inspector’s work.

How Many Years Does a Termite Treatment Last?

How long your termite treatment will last depends on the type of treatment that was used.

Liquid termite treatment lasts five years or more. Termite station treatments are generally good for one year and are performed under a service contract.

For a liquid treatment, a professional will trench around the house’s perimeter to apply the liquid chemical treatment. If there are any gaps in the liquid chemical treatment, termites can return and still manage to get into your home. You will also need to drill holes in patios, driveways, and concrete block piers to apply the treatment.

Termite bait stations are another way you can treat a termite infestation. They have to be monitored and maintained all year to be effective. A professional will place the baits strategically around your property. While foraging, termites will take the bait and bring it back to their colony, then poisoning them. It could take a few months for termites to find the station, so it could take a while before you are termite-free.

Another thing that influences how long your termite treatment will last is the type of termites you had. The most common termites are subterranean and drywood termites. Subterranean termites live in the soil around houses and build tunnel networks to access your home. Drywood termites tunnel inside your wood and eat right through it. 

A significant factor in how long your termite treatment will last is the degree of infestation. If you had a large termite colony, it would take longer to eradicate it. 

To minimize your risk of termites returning, make sure you take care of your lawn. You will have to remove any dead trees that you have and try not to store your firewood against your home’s foundation. 

How Much Does It Cost To Treat For Termites?

Termite treatment is often quite expensive. The price will depend on the degree of the infestation. Once you have a large infestation, it will take more time, and it will be harder to get rid of it. 

Termite treatment costs about $575 on average. Treatment prices can range from $275 to $2000 or more for larger homes. Spot termite treatments average about $3 to $16 per linear foot. 2

The average homeowner will spend about $3000 on structural repairs related to termites. However, in severe cases, damages can cost tens of thousands of dollars to correct. If structural damage is present, you should have a structural inspection performed by an engineer. 3

When we consider that an annual termite control costs $50 – $350, it makes more sense to have a check-up every year than to risk it and pay much more.

Types of Termite Treatments

There are three main types of termite treatments. Let’s look at each below.

Liquid Termite Treatments

Liquid termite treatments are the most common form of termite treatment. It involves digging trenches or drilling holes around the exterior of the house and into the foundation. In crawl spaces, interior piers also have to be drilled. The liquid is poured directly into the holes where it is absorbed into the soil.

Heat Extermination Treatment

Heat treatments are non-toxic and often used when termites have entered the interior of the house. Since heat treatment is chemical-free, it’s safer for the occupants and pets. Heat treatments are best for smaller spaces like bedrooms and attics but can be used for the entire house if needed.

Heat treatments involve enclosing the house in a tent and pumping hot air into the home. The wood structure needs to reach 120 degrees to eliminate the colony. This process takes about 8 hours to complete. Upon completion, the tent is removed, and the occupants can return to the home.

Fumigation

Fumigation is used in very severe cases where termites have infested the entire house. The house is enclosed in a large tent, and lethal gas is pumped in for several hours to eradicate the termites. It takes several hours to complete the process. This type of treatment is rare and requires that the occupants, pets, and houseplants vacant the house for 3 to 5 days. 

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Hubert Miles

I've been conducting home inspections for 17 years. I'm a licensed Home Inspector, Certified Master Inspector (CMI), and FHA 203k Consultant. I started HomeInspectionInsider.com to help people better understand the home inspection process and answer questions about homeownership and home maintenance.

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