Termite infestations are normally difficult to detect, exterminate and may cause lot of damage to houses especially ones that are made of wood. Just like many other problems and diseases, the best method to combat termites is to prevent them from infecting the house in the first place. House structural termite damage left unchecked can mean thousands of dollars in repairs. Unfortunately, most homeowner insurance coverage does not include termite damage repair.
Although termites are sometimes referred to as a white ant, they are more closely related to cockroaches and the praying mantis. Their primary food source is wood. In order to know how to prevent a termite infestation, it is good to know about the way termites operate and live. The types of termites found in the US are usually subterranean termites. There are also other kinds of termites such as drywood termites but those other types are not as common and do not cause as much damage as subterranean termites.
Subterranean termites, as indicated by their name live underground in nests. These nests are usually situated five to six feet under the ground though sometimes they also nest above ground as well. The individual worker termites, about one eight of an inch long in length, travel or tunnel hundreds of feet in search of food usually on the surface of the soil to carry back to the nest. Some of their favorite foods include wood, paper and other substances, used by humans in building construction and in variety of household items. Damage caused by the termites by eating into these substances may take a long time to appear as they only consume tiny amounts of food. But through the gradual accumulation of damages, it can be quite substantial. Wood for instance will gradually hollow out even though no external sign is detected. Damage can be extensive if the nest is situated inside the house.
Termites require lots of water to survive and one of the methods of detecting them is through the observation of tiny mud tubes on the soil that transfer water to their nests. Other sign of detection is when the swarming occurs. In spring or summer thousands of winged termites will emerge and try to fly way to establish new nests. This will only last few hours and most of them will die and will not do any physical harm.
If you suspect that a termite infestation of your house is a possibility, the best method of prevention is to create an impassable barrier between the nest and your house for worker termites. This is usually done by chemically treating the soil around and below the house. Two broad types of liquid chemicals known as termiticides can be used for this purpose. Repellents prevent the foraging termites from entering the treated soil, while non repellent chemicals kill the termites entering the treated soil. Once the barrier is established the foragers will not be able access food in the house and if a few of them have already reached the house before the treatment, they will not be able to return and will die.
However in order to be effective, the preventive treatment method has to be comprehensive and cover all the soil in contact with the house. The house owner aiming for an effective prevention should not stop at spot treating a patch of soil that may show signs of termites. Foraging termites will find ways around the treated spots easily.
Another factor to keep in mind is that most chemicals used today are effective only for up to about three to seven years. Older chemicals known to be effective in preventing termites up to twenty years were banned to protect the ground water from contamination. While chemically treating soil comprehensively every few years can be expensive, it will also be an effective preventive method and will save money on the long run by safeguarding the investment in the house.
These preventive treatments are best carried out by professionals. They will not only be able to advice and carry out the treatment more competently and use the required specialized equipment and experience but will also carry out periodic inspections. Most such professional termite control firms will also give a guarantee as well.