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How To Get Rid of Termites

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Author Icon By Brenda Woods Updated 02/07/2024

If you suspect you have termites in your home, it’s important to take action quickly. Telltale signs like hollow-sounding wood and mud tubes will let you know they’re taking over. It pays to be vigilant because termites can do a lot of damage before you even realize they’re there. According to the National Pest Management Association, termites do $5 billion worth of damage to buildings across the United States every year.

The best way to get rid of termites is to call in a professional pest control company. Even the savviest homeowner can’t compete with a trained technician’s experience, knowledge, and commercial-grade products and equipment. To help you, we’ll identify the signs of a termite infestation, discuss some ways to eradicate them, and recommend the best pest control providers for the job.


What Are the Different Types of Termites?

The two primary types of termites that infest American homes are subterranean termites and drywood termites. There are also dampwood termites, though they typically only infest damp, rotting trees, and logs. It’s important to identify which type you are dealing with because they may require different treatment methods. While you can create poisonous barriers against subterranean termites, you’ll need to spot-treat or get fumigation services for drywood termites.

Subterranean termites live in your foundational wood, soil, and any compost piles around your home. They create mud tubes out of wood and soil, to travel in your home. These termites generally do more damage than drywood termites because of their saw-toothed jaws. Given the time, subterranean termites can completely collapse a building. Subterranean termites can be found in every state except Alaska. 
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Subterranean termites are 1/8–3/8 inch long and are narrow in shape. Their color depends on their “caste.” Workers are a pale cream color, while soldiers share that body color but have brown heads. Reproductive termites come in two types and colors: Primary reproductives are black or brown, and supplementary reproductives are creamy white. Subterranean termite colonies can become huge, ranging from 100,000 to even 1 million termites.
While subterranean termites require contact with soil in order to live, drywood termites can live exclusively in wood. They do not create mud tubes to travel, and they are usually only found along the warm coastal regions. Drywood termites range in size from 1/8–1/2 inches and range in color. The termites that directly damage the woods are white, like subterranean termites. The winged drywood termites span the color spectrum from yellow-tan to light brown. Drywood termite colonies can hold up to 2,500 members.
drywood termite on a white background
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Steps to follow

How to Prevent Termites

The Environmental Protection Agency suggests a number of ways you can make your home less appealing to termites.
  1. Check for leaks: Subterranean termites can’t live without moisture. Keep your home dry to keep them at bay, especially your roof and air conditioner. Maintaining proper soil drainage will also make your yard less hospitable to termite colonies.
  2. Clean gutters and pipes: Termites love to hide in warm, dark, moist places. Clean out gutters and pipes often to prevent termites from settling in.
  3. Fill in cracks and crevices: Caulk and seal any unnecessary openings in your foundation where pipes meet the wall, and be sure to seal off windows and doors.
  4. Watch out for wood: Termites are attracted to the cellulose in wood, so it’s vital that you don’t stack firewood against your house or leave tree stumps in your yard.
  5. Protect your foundation: Choose a concrete foundation over wood. When building your house, always make sure to leave at least 6 inches between your porch, deck, or patio, and the ground, and use termite-resistant wood whenever possible.
  6. Use alternative mulch: Subterranean termites need soil, and certain types of mulch contain wood. Opt for mulch made up of materials like rubber or gravel instead.
  7. Get regular inspections: Of course, the best prevention method is regular termite inspections by a professional pest control company.

How to Identify a Termite Infestation

Unfortunately, spotting a termite infestation not as easy as seeing a termite skittering down your wood grain. You’ll likely see signs of damage before you see live insects. Start by checking your attic, all of your home’s cracks and joints, and fuse boxes for the following signs identified by the University of Kentucky.

  • Hollow wood: Termites often damage the interior of a piece of wood along the grain while leaving the surface intact. If you knock or tap on wood and hear a soft thud or hollow sound, this is often a sign of termite damage. If you press a flathead screwdriver into your wood and it gives easily, the wood has been hollowed out.
  • Mud tubes: Subterranean termites create their own “highways” out of tubes of mud to connect their food sources to their colonies. These mud tubes, made up of wood and soil, are about as wide as a pencil. Spotting them means you have termites, but their absence doesn’t mean you’re home-free. The subterranean termites may not have made them yet, and drywood termites don’t make mud tubes.
  • Rattling or rustling sounds: When soldier termites detect a threat, they signal danger to other termites by banging their heads against the wood and shaking their bodies. This creates a dry rattling or papery rustling sound.
  • Discarded wings: When subterranean termites set off to create a new colony in the spring, they shed their wings, often in piles. Although termites aren’t the only insects that do this, seeing large numbers of discarded wings indoors could mean an infestation.
  • Peeling paint: When termites damage drywall, they let moisture enter the space between the surface and the paint, causing paint to bubble or peel. There are other reasons your paint may buckle, but if you note this in tandem with other signs, you may have a termite infestation.
  • Frass: Small, granular, oval pellets on your door frames, baseboards, and windowsills may be frass, or termite droppings.
  • Seeing live termites: It is possible that you may come across some live termites. It’s important to distinguish them from flying ants so that you know what you’re dealing with. Termites’ rear wings are even in size, their abdomens are thick, and their antennae are straight. On the flip side, flying ants have wings of different size, are thinner through the middle, and have bent antennae.

How Do You Get Rid of Termites?

We recommend calling a professional pest control company to get rid of termites quickly and efficiently. However, there are some DIY remedies you can try on your own. If you purchase commercially-available products, always use them as directed by the instructions on the label. Never use products intended for outdoor use indoors.

The best method will depend on the type of termites you have, though some methods work for both subterranean and drywood termites.

Getting Rid of Subterranean Termites

Explore solutions for subterranean termites in the dropdown tabs below.

Depending on which state you live in, you may be able to purchase some professional-level termite-killing products like liquid Taurus SC and Termidor SC. You apply these conventional termite treatments to your home’s exterior perimeter to create a barrier. Termites are unable to detect the termiticide, so they don’t try to avoid it. When a termite eats materials treated with termiticide, it will die. Termiticide also works by spreading like a virus. When one termite comes into contact with the termiticide, it will unknowingly carry it around, infecting other termites and ultimately killing the colony.

Direct chemicals, unlike barrier termiticides, can actually be used inside of your home itself. If you spot a termite and want to dispatch it immediately, this is the technique for you. Foaming insecticides like Termidor Foam should be applied directly into cracks, voids, and crevices that make for great termite hiding places. The odorless foam will expand then evaporate, leaving behind a residue that poisons termites as soon as they touch it. This method lasts for a month or slightly longer.

Termite baits, installed around the perimeter of your home’s foundation, attract foraging termites to a slow-acting poison. One popular type of termiticide bait interrupts termites’ natural growth, killing them as they try to molt. Because of the toxin’s delayed action, the infected termites will bring the insecticide back to the colony and transmit it to other termites.

These microscopic, segmented roundworms are natural parasites to many garden pests—including termites. Beneficial nematodes burrow into their host and release a symbiotic gut bacteria that poisons the termite’s blood, killing them within a matter of days. You can find beneficial nematodes online or in stores. Apply a mixture of nematodes, potting soil, and cold water to the infested areas of your lawn and garden.

Getting Rid of Drywood Termites

Now check out some tools for eliminating drywood termites.

If you’re dealing with painted or finished wood, you can drill and fill holes to combat drywood termites. First, you need to drill holes about every 10 inches into the termite-infested wood. You will feel resistance once you hit the nest. Then, fill the holes with termiticide. To finish up, use a putty or wood patch to close up the holes.

According to the Journal of Economic Entomology, there is evidence that combining essential oils like methyl salicylate (wintergreen oil) with whole-home heat treatments is more effective at killing termites than heat treatments alone. However, this doesn’t mean applying essential oils around your home with a spray bottle will be effective. If you’re concerned about the toxicity of termite treatments, speak with a pest control professional familiar with less-toxic treatments.

Getting Rid of Subterranean and Drywood Termites

Some methods can be applied directly to infested areas no matter what type of termites you have. However, these methods are typically limited in effectiveness.

  • Boric acid: Boric acid, sold as Borax powder, works by dehydrating the termite and shutting down its nervous system. You can apply Borax to cracks and crevices in floors, walls, and ceilings. However, this is unlikely to affect the entire colony. Liquid borate solutions are more commonly used to treat lumber during the construction process.
  • Diatomaceous earth: This method kills termites by penetrating their exoskeleton and dehydrating them. Diatomaceous earth is made up of fossilized aquatic organisms whose exoskeletons are made up of silica. Just sprinkle the powder around areas where you suspect termites, and wait for them to crawl over it. Similar to Borax, however, this will only affect the termites who encounter it, not the whole colony.
  • Cardboard trap: Once you’ve identified the source of your termite infestation, wet two pieces of cardboard and stack them on top of each other to make a kind of DIY bait. The cellulose in the cardboard will attract the termites, and the pests will get caught between the two pieces. Then, you can take the cardboard outside and burn it. This is not a very effective method, since there’s no guarantee it will trap all of the termites, which can reproduce very quickly. Also, maintenance is key—if too many dead termite bodies stack up, that will deter future termites from crawling to the cardboard.

Professional Pest Control Services

If you suspect you have termites of either variety, call a professional pest control company to investigate. These tenacious pests can destroy the foundation of your home quickly. DIY methods may help slightly in the short term, but they’re no match for professional equipment, products, and expertise.

The technicians from an experienced, reputable pest control company know exactly how to find entry points, identify colonies, and create a treatment plan. Most pest control companies use a multi-pronged approach, depending on your home’s specific needs. The good news is that termite damage happens slowly, so both the University of Kentucky and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recommend taking your time and speaking to multiple top pest control companies to find the best one for your needs.

When it comes to nationwide pest control providers, we recommend Terminix and Orkin. Both companies have specific termite control protocols.

Terminix

Terminix has been battling termites for 95 years and offers advanced solutions. After a thorough inspection of your home, paying special attention to access points, Terminix will create a custom-tailored plan based on the findings to both eradicate existing termites and prevent future invasions.

After implementing the plan with liquid termiticides and proprietary Terminix OnGuard Protection, a trained specialist digs a trench in your soil and drills through your home’s slab areas and applies the liquid treatment to create a protective barrier. Your technician will also strategically install termite bait stations around the perimeter of your home.

To monitor progress, Terminix will perform an annual inspection to make sure there are no signs of termite activity. If there are, Terminix will re-treat your home for no additional charge. Qualifying homes are protected under the Ultimate Protection Guarantee. This guarantee states customers will never have to pay for treatments or repairs from new termite damage if they keep their plan.

To get a free quote from Terminix, call 866-569-4035 or fill out this form.

Orkin

Orkin has 90 years of termite experience and follows a six-step approach: Investigate, Protect, Fortify, Keep Watch, Report, and Follow Up. After a thorough inspection of your home, including an evaluation of your basement, crawl space, and wood debris, your technician will write up a recommendation, featuring customized digital diagrams.

To implement the plan, Orkin will use three primary types of treatments. The Termidor liquid treatment eradicates existing termites and prevents future infestations, the dry foam and Orkinfoam expand to fill hard-to-reach areas, and the Sentricon bait and monitoring targets at-risk locations like roofs, tree stumps, and moist soil.

For monitoring, Orkin creates a Continuous Termite Inspection Plan and Re-treatment Program to ensure that if termites return, Orkin will return to combat them at no extra cost. Orkin offers a 30-day money back guarantee.

If you’d like a free quote from Orkin, call 877-868-1416, or fill out a simple form.


FAQs for Getting Rid of Termites

What is the fastest way to get rid of termites?

The fastest way to get rid of termites is to call a professional pest control company like Orkin or Terminix. These companies have access to high-quality products that can eradicate termites more quickly and completely than conventional DIY methods.

What are the signs of termites in your home?

Telltale signs include subterranean termites’ mud tubes, hollow-sounding wood, termite frass, and discarded wings. Rattling or rustling noises might mean there are termites within your walls.

What chemical kills termites?

There are two main chemicals used to kill termites—fipronil and hexaflumuron. Fipronil is the specially designed chemical used as an active ingredient in many different liquid termiticides.

Hexaflumuron is the termiticide specifically designed to work in termite bait, like the popular Sentricon baiting system. Termites find the bait station, pick up the poison, and leave a trail indicating the food source’s location to the other termites. The termites then carry the chemical back to the colony, where all of the pests are slowly infected and killed.

How much does it cost to get rid of termites?

The average cost of termite treatment is between $237 and $992. However, a pest control company cannot give you a specific quote without performing an inspection, so that they can see the type of termite, the degree of infestation, and what kind of treatment you’ll need.


Our Rating Methodology

The This Old House Reviews Team backs up our pest control recommendations with a detailed rating methodology that we use to objectively score each provider. We review pest control plans, navigate the provider website, speak with customer service representatives by phone and online chat (if available), request quotes, and analyze customer reviews for each provider. We then score the provider against our review standards for plans and services, reputation and customer responses, customer service offerings, workmanship guarantees, financing, and availability to arrive at a final score on a 5-point rating scale.

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