Termites are a serious problem throughout much of the U.S. In the Southeast, Hawaii and California, termite issues are severe. It would make a lot of sense to either build or remodel our houses in ways that prevent termites rather than wait until we have a termite problem and then work hard to eliminate the problem. This article will consider a number of techniques and materials that will help prevent termites from becoming a problem.
The first thing to understand is that termites need food and water to survive. If we can build or remodel our homes in ways that deny termites access to food and water, the threat will be dramatically reduced. While that sounds simple, the devil is in the details. The 3 basic steps in preventative construction are:
1) a good preventative design that includes an array of techniques,
2) use of termite-resistant building materials, and
3) installation of barriers to prevent access by termites.
Preventative design involves keeping the structure dry, controlling moisture in and around the structure and providing for easy termite inspection. Research shows that the majority of infestations begin with wood-to-ground contact. Good design will avoid wood-to-ground contact. The next thing is to avoid moisture problems. Moist wood is a termite magnet. Make sure the ground slopes away form the home. Reduce the humidity in crawlspaces. Design in access panels for high-threat areas such as where plumbing penetrates the structure.
Termite-resistant building materials are an important part of the termite prevention puzzle. Options include using steel framing rather than wood, using treated lumber or naturally resistant woods such as heartwood of cypress. A newer option is plastic or composite woods. These are made from either 100% recycled plastic or plastic mixed with wood fiber waste such as sawdust. Several grades are available. One way to improve the termite-resistance of existing wood is to paint or spray with a preventative borate solution. This is a great option if you will be replacing or installing new drywall so the studs are totally exposed. Borates penetrate the wood, do not break down over time and will last a very long time.
In the U.S., chemical barriers are widely used and quite effective. Physical barriers for subterranean termites consist of stainless steel mesh and sand or crushed stone. Formosan termites can get through cracks as small as 1.4 mm or.055 in wide. One proven solution is stainless steel mesh. This mesh is a bit expensive and its usefulness depends completely on proper installation. Another solution that can work in certain locations is crushed stone or sand. The particle size is critical. Particle size must be adjusted for the specific termite in the area. If there is more than one subterranean termite in the area, this solution will not work.
Physical barriers for drywood termites mean that the structure must be sealed completely. After the remodel is complete, use caulk and expanding foam to seal every little crack and crevice. Leaving just one little opening means the termites have access to your home. Eventually one of them will get in and start a colony.
The safest approach to termite remodeling is to employ all possible techniques and technologies. Reality however, imposes limits in terms of time and money. Go with the most effective methods and materials first. You want the most bang for your buck. Eliminate wood-to-ground contact. Slope the ground away from the structure. Add access panels. Spray a borate solution on exposed wood. Use termite resistant building materials. Seal the remodel project completely. And get a termite inspection once a year. Different states have different codes and different laws. Always consult construction and pest control professionals before implementing the ideas above.