Termites: the mere mention of these tiny insects is enough to strike fear into the hearts of homeowners everywhere. Given that these hungry pests cause an estimated $1 billion in damages each year to American homeowners, this fear could be considered well-founded.
Over the years, termite treatment has improved drastically; however, as the old adage says, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. As a homeowner, there are lots of simple steps you can take to help safeguard your home against termites and other invasive insects.
1. Use only treated lumber in any new construction, particularly decks, patios, and other structures where wood will come into direct contact with the ground. Although treated wood will not totally repel termites, it will act as a deterrent. Where possible, raise wooden supports off the ground on concrete pilings.
2. Reduce or remove bushes and undergrowth which directly abut your home. Living organic material provides both food and moisture, giving termites a temporary base on their march to your home.
3. Remove organic mulch from flowerbeds and plantings. Replace with a non-organic mulch. Synthetic mulch, now available at most garden stores, offers the look of traditional mulch without the risk.
4. Store firewood, lumber, and other dry organic material as far as possible from your home. Elevate wood off the ground, using an inorganic buffer between the wood and the ground. Cinder blocks or patio pavers work particularly well for this.
5. Keep gutters and storm drains clean and clear of debris, particularly in the warm summer months. Blocked gutters and drains provide termites with both food and moisture necessary for survival.
6. Remove dead or decaying tree limbs, stumps, or roots from your yard. This is particularly important for tree stumps, which can have far-reaching root systems that act as “highways” for termite colonies on the move.
7. Quickly address areas of standing or stagnant water. Keep an eye out for easily overlooked areas where moisture can accrue, such as in old tires or plastic containers.
8. Periodically inspect for cracks in foundations and basements. Seal any cracks, even very small ones, immediately with a high-quality sealant.
9. Ensure that your house is properly ventilated. Because termites are partially dependent on ambient moisture for survival, preventing internal moisture buildup will help prevent termites from developing a foothold.
10. Have your home regularly inspected by a pest control expert. Trained exterminators will be able to catch any signs of termite invasion early, making any subsequent treatment far more effective.