Termite Prevention Tips

several termites on a wooden surface

Whether you’ve ever had the extreme displeasure of dealing with termites or only heard the tragic tales of woe from a termite victim, you’ll want to avoid these costly pests. With over 600,000 homes affected each year, it can feel like infestation is looming around the corner. But you don’t have to worry too much — not if you follow these termite prevention tips.

Ways to Prevent Termites

“It usually costs less to avoid getting into trouble than to pay for getting out of trouble” – Lewis Brown.

That’s certainly true for many things in life, but especially for termites. Let’s jump into how to prevent termites so you don’t find yourself in trouble.

Regular Inspections

While termites are more common in Southern and coastal states, they’re found in every state except Alaska. So, follow our guide to inspecting your home for termites. It’s important to stop an infestation before it starts.

Keep an eye out for these signs of termites:

termite droppings on a floor
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  • Pellets and droppings: Like most organisms, termites don’t like living in their own waste, so they remove their excrement from their tunnels. Their droppings look like coffee grounds or sawdust.
wings fallen off termites
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  • Discarded wings: Termites swarm in the spring and can find their home in your home. Once their colony is founded, they shed their wings, usually near window sills or doors.
soldier termites exhibiting acoustic waves
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  • Hearing them: While you may see a termite, it’s not likely since they don’t like the light. However, if you hear strange clicking or crunching sounds, investigate further.
different types of termite tubes
Photo Credit: Juan Rodriguez
  • Mud tubes: The most common termites are subterranean termites, and they take care to keep moist and out of the sun. They use mud tubes to travel to their food source. If you see ¼ to 1-inch thick dirt tubes, especially near your foundation, you may have a termite problem.

Regularly checking for termites is a responsible homeownership practice, but you’re likely not a trained expert. That’s why it’s smart to have an annual professional inspection, especially if you live in a high-risk area.

Avoid Moisture

Termites love wet, rotting wood like I love pizza, pasta, and chocolate. So, to prevent termites, avoid moisture.

Common ways you can avoid moisture that attracts termites:

  • Fix leaky taps, shower heads, and toilets.
  • Install a drain to AC and heating systems to prevent the drains from dripping on or very near the home’s foundation.
  • Repair or replace roof or gutters in disrepair
  • Level ground near the home’s foundation to prevent improper drainage and standing water.
  • Get a dehumidifier for your basement to prevent moisture.

Lay Your Mulch Carefully

red cedar wood chip mulch
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Mulch doesn’t necessarily attract termites, but it does provide a warm, moist, and favorable environment whether you use organic or inorganic mulch, treated or not.

To mitigate termites making their way from your mulch to your home, follow these tips:

  • Termite-Resistant Mulch: Treated, tea tree, cypress, and cedar all have compounds that termites don’t like. While it won’t prevent termites, it’s less likely that they’ll stick around.
  • Foot Rule: Lay your mulch at least 1 foot from your house.
  • Thin Layer: Lay your mulch 2 inches thick or less.

Prevent Wood-to-Soil Contact

Wood that touches the ground is an easy buffet for termites. Once the termites infest the wood, it’s easier for them to move to your home next. Despite what you may have heard, pressure-treated wood is not safe from termites.

Potential wood-to-soil contact includes:

  • Firewood: Put a plastic tarp under your firewood pile. Cover it with a plastic tarp, too, to prevent flying termites from getting in.
  • Lattice: Lattice is lovely, but the bottom should be 6 inches off the ground.
  • Siding: Wood siding should be at least 6 inches off the ground.
  • Frames: Window and door frames should be no lower than 6 inches off the ground.
  • Posts: Posts wooden structures like trellises or Pergolas need to be completely encased in cement.
  • Stairs: The bottom of the stairs need to sit on top of or be encased in cement.

Try a Natural Termite Repellent

Using a natural repellent will keep termites and other insects out of your home without using harsh chemicals. Spray or sprinkle around the perimeter of your foundation, both inside and outside your house. Keep in mind that you’ll need to reapply every few weeks and after it rains.

Try one of these natural termite repellents:

cinnamon oil in glass bottle on table
Cinnamon oil
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  • Essential oils: Some oils are great for deterring termites from entering your space, including vetiver oil, cinnamon oil, clove bud oil, and tea tree oil. The smell is repugnant to them, and the termites steer clear.
Photo Credit: SprocketRocket / Wikimedia Commons / CC0 1.0
  • Diatomaceous Earth: Diatomaceous earth is made of tiny organism skeletons that are very sharp and slice through their exoskeleton. This creates an unforgiving landscape, causing bodily injury and death for termites. Quite the deterrent!
closeup of a hand holding sand
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  • Sand: Termites can’t build mud tunnels with sand. So, if you dig a small trench around your house at the foundation and fill it with sand, they won’t be able to get into your house.
gray colored stainless steel mesh
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  • Steel Mesh: Termites won’t tube over steel mesh, so it makes it difficult for them to get inside your home. Steel mesh is best installed when the home is built, but it can be installed after. It requires professional installation.

Consider Chemical Treatments

pest worker installing termite bait station
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Like most chemicals, there is a risk to using termiticides. However, they’re very effective at eliminating and preventing termite infestations. But due to the dangers they present, wear PPE (personal protective equipment.) Chemicals last a long time, so frequent reapplication isn’t necessary.

The main types of products that can be purchased include:

  • Liquid barrier: It kills the termites that pass through the barrier. Modern formulas go undetected, so worker termites bring the treatment back to the colony. It’s cost-effective, works quickly, and is especially effective against subterranean termites. However, it’s a little labor-intensive as a ditch has to be dug around the foundation for application.
  • Baits: Similar to ant baits, the foraging termite brings the treatment back to the colony. Bait stations are easy to set up, minimal product is required, and they’re more eco-friendly. However, this method relies on the termites finding the bait.
  • Termite foam: The foam is injected into the wood and hard-to-reach areas. The treatment is brought back to the colony, killing them by affecting their central nervous system. It’s an easy application but is usually used for elimination rather than prevention.
  • Ground treatments: Ground treatments come in powders or granules and are sprinkled around your home and then watered. They’re easy to apply and work on contact. But because they work immediately, the treatment isn’t brought back to the colony. They’re also only effective against subterranean termites.

How Does Termite Prevention Work?

The way termite prevention works depends on the method you use.

  • Termite Repellents: Methods that use repellents deter termites from your home. Repellents include termite-resistant mulch and essential oils, especially vetiver and clove bud.
  • Termite Killers: Prevention methods that are toxic to termites normally allow the termites to forage and bring the toxin back to the colony. These include chemical treatments.
  • Termite Prevention: Termite prevention prevents the termites from entering your house. Prevention includes Diatomaceous Earth, sand, and steel mesh.
  • Termite Avoidance: Termite avoidance methods keep the termites from reaching their food source. This includes avoiding moisture and preventing wood-to-soil contact.

When to Put Down Termite Prevention

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Winter is the best time to put down termite prevention because their activity is the most predictable and, therefore, easier to locate. As the temperatures rise, they can forage further out from their nests to locate food.

It’s important to note, though, that termites are active year-round. In fact, they’re most visible in swarms from March to November. This means it’s important to use termite avoidance methods and regular inspections all year round.

Exceptions:

  • If you’re using ground treatments, wait until the ground is unfrozen to apply.
  • If you’re using essential oils, reapply every few weeks.

What is the Best Termite Treatment?

If you decide to purchase chemical treatment for termites but don’t know where to start, don’t worry. We’ve got the nine best termite treatments on the market.

Our top picks:

Spectracide Terminate Termite & Carpenter Ant Killer

Spectracide Terminate Termite & Carpenter Ant Killer has a power sprayer that makes it easy to target affected areas. It doesn’t leave residue or odor. Apply it indoors, including closets, baseboards, and cracks in walls, and outdoors, including around your home’s foundation, wood fences, and porches. 

BASF Termidor SC Termiticide

BASF Termidor SC Termiticide penetrates outdoor wooden structures and eliminates the entire termite colony. It’s also effective as a preventative liquid barrier and for pre-construction termite treatment. 

Bifen XTS Insecticide

Bifen XTS Insecticide is an oil-based termiticide that’s ideal for eliminating termites around the perimeter of your home. Since this termiticide is oil-based, it emits a strong odor and can harm plants if you don’t apply it correctly. While the manufacturer claims you can use this product for pre-construction termite treatment, it’s largely ineffective after three months. 

Ortho Home Defense Termite & Destructive Bug Killer

Ortho Home Defense Termite & Destructive Bug Killer eliminates the entire termite colony. It’s recommended for the home’s perimeter, fences, wooden structures, wood piles, tree stumps, and pre-construction.

Taurus SC Termiticide

Taurus SC Termiticide is the best choice for pre-construction termite treatment. You can also use this termiticide to eliminate existing termite infestations indoors and outdoors. It works slowly but eradicates the entire colony.

BASF Termidor Foam Termiticide

BASF Termidor Foam Termiticide is the best choice for indoor spot treatment. It comes with a narrow spray hose, which makes applying termiticide to the infested area a breeze. The foam expands in five seconds, seamlessly filling the gaps and eliminating the entire termite colony. It’s also effective outdoors to treat infestations on wooden decks, fences, and porches. 

Terro Carpenter Ant & Termite Killer

If you’re dealing with a small termite infestation and want to get rid of it yourself, Terro Carpenter Ant & Termite Killer is an excellent choice. It comes with a two-way spray nozzle, making it easy to target and kill the pesky creatures indoors and outdoors. It leaves behind no residue or odor. 

Nisus Bora-Care Termiticide, Insecticide, and Fungicide

Nisus Bora-Care Termiticide, Insecticide, and Fungicide can help you get rid of existing termite infestations and protect the wood from future attacks. You can use it on both interior and exterior wooden surfaces. Bonus, it also protects your wood from rot.

Spectracide Terminate Detection & Killing Stakes 

Spectracide Terminate Detection & Killing Stakes should be your go-to treatment to prevent termites. Termites feed on the bait and carry it to the colony, eliminating their colony members. Bait treatment is more eco-friendly than liquid termiticide and foam treatments. 

How Much Does Termite Prevention Cost?

Professional termite treatment typically costs between $275 and $863, depending on the type of treatment used and the size of the infestation. 

On average, expect to pay $558 for termite treatment. Low-end costs are around $135 for a small infestation that requires a simple remedy. If the infestation is significant, you may pay as much as $1,390 for a complex treatment. 

Check out our guide to termite treatment costs for more information.

If you suspect you have a minor termite problem or are just looking for a product annoying enough to keep them away, here are the costs of essential oils that are effective against termites:

How Long Does Termite Prevention Last?

Termite prevention longevity depends on the method used.

  • Home remedies: Home remedies, like essential oils, salt, or boric acid, will only last a few weeks and will need to be reapplied regularly.
  • Natural methods: Diatomaceous Earth and sand barriers last a very long time. They stay in place until Mother Nature, animals, or humans intervene.
  • Termiticides: It’s critical to read the manufacturer’s directions to know how long it will last. Their longevity can range from a few months to 20 years.

Check out our article, How Long Termite Treatment Lasts for more information.

How Often Should You Spray a House for Termite Prevention?

The frequency of spraying your house for termites depends on the method you use.

  • Home remedies: Respray every few weeks.
  • Liquid treatments: These should be applied about every five years, but check the manufacturer’s directions to be sure.
  • Baits: Bait needs to be switched out about once a year. Check the manufacturer’s directions to be sure.
  • Termiticide: Follow manufacturer instructions.

FAQ About Termite Prevention

What smell do termites hate the most?

Termites strongly dislike citrus, cinnamon, garlic, mint, neem oil, orange oil, and vinegar.

Do termites have predators?

Yes, common predators of termites include:

  • Birds like woodpeckers, chickens, geese, and doves
  • Spiders, flies, beetles, and wasps
  • Lizards like frogs, geckos, and snakes.
  • Mammals like bats, aardvarks, anteaters, and armadillos 
  • Ants, like black ants and carpenter ants, are big predators of termites. Because of their similarities, ants and termites often engage in epic battles.

Can termites eat vinyl plank flooring?

No, termites can’t eat vinyl plank flooring. Because vinyl plank flooring isn’t actually made of wood, termites are not attracted to it.

Should I Hire a Termite Professional?

While DIYing your termite prevention is possible, it’s not easy. Even the most diligent homeowner can miss an opening, and termites will take advantage, especially if you live in an area prone to termites. That’s why homeowners nationwide are reaching out to professionals to protect their homes from termites.

Once you’ve decided to hire a termite professional, finding a company that’s efficient, affordable, and fits your needs can seem daunting. That’s where Pest Gnome can help. We’ve done the research and the vetting to make sure we connect you with the right local termite professional. Soon, your home will be protected, and you can relax, knowing your home is covered.

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Nicki DeStasi

Nicki DeStasi is a writer, author, and teacher who grew up in western Massachusetts and currently resides in the Austin area. She enjoys flower and vegetable gardening, reading, cooking, listening to true-crime podcasts, and spending time with her husband, three children, dog, and cat.