A Guide to Termite Control for New Homeowners

If you’ve recently bought a house -- especially an older one, though any house may be affected -- then you need to know about termite control. If you’re going to protect your investment in your property, it’s important that you understand what termites are, the damage they cause, the signs of termite damage and how termites are controlled. Here are answers to the top five questions you may be (or should be) asking:

    1. Why Should I Care About Termites?
      There are a few types of pest infestation that are more of an annoyance than a serious problem; termite infestations are not among them. Termites eat nonstop -- seven days a week, 24 hours a day -- and your home is one big meal to them. Termites damage about 600,000 U.S. homes every year, and that damage is both dangerous (as it weakens homes structurally) and costly to repair. Termites cause more than $5 billion in property damage annually, and those costs typically aren’t covered by homeowners insurance.
    1. How Are Infestations Discovered?
      Infestations are often discovered in the spring, between March and May. This is when termites swarm, and homeowners may find winged termites in the main living areas of the home (be sure to educate yourself on the differences between winged termites and winged ants, which are often mistaken for one another). Finding winged termites almost always indicates a much larger colony somewhere in the home. You may also find mud tubes, which termites build to protect themselves, on foundation walls or floor joists.
    1. Can I Prevent Termite Infestations?
      Reducing moisture around your foundation is the most important step you should take to discourage termites from building a colony in or under your home. You should also remove old boards, tree stumps or firewood piles from around the foundation of the home, and maintain at least an 18-inch gap between any wood portions of your home and the soil.
    1. What Treatments Are Most Effective?
      There are two basic types of termite control: liquids and baits. The former repel or kill termites upon contact, while the latter use poisoned bait that termites carry back to their colonies. It’s difficult to generalize on which treatments are the most effective, because treatment should depend on the severity of the infestation, the type of house, the surrounding environment and many other factors.
  1. Should I Hire a Professional, or DIY?
    Because determining an effective treatment course is so difficult, it’s not a good idea to try treating termites on your own. You should look for an experienced and trusted termite exterminator (now more frequently called a pest control operator, or PCO) to create an individualized plan that protects your home.

What other questions do you have about termite control? Ask or share your own experiences with termite removal in the comments.

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