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Preventing Termites in Your New Home


While most common in Southern states, termites can actually occur in all fifty states. As long as there’s a warm, moist environment, there is a chance of termites. It can be hard to detect if termites have invaded your home as they don’t roam around in the open. Instead, termites use tunnels built from materials like soil and wood, which are known as mud tubes. Mud tubes are brown in color and are often hidden behind walls or in cracks. Furthermore, termites only eat the interior spring wood, not the visible exterior wood.

Because termites are hard to spot, they may cause extensive damage before you are even aware of their presence. This means that the best termite practice is prevention. Ideally, termite prevention should start while a home is being built. The first thing to consider is the building site. It should be cleared of any materials that could attract termites. For instance, any remaining roots and stumps should be removed from the property. Furthermore, any wood debris or lumber scraps from the building process should be moved off the site as soon as possible. Keep in mind, that simply burning or burying the wood is not effective. Burning will not destroy underground sections of roots or stumps while burying will only make the wood more enticing to termites.

In addition to disposing of wood, it is also important to pay attention to drainage of the building site. The soil around the home needs to be sloped away from the foundation to allow for proper water drainage. Additionally, the home needs to be outfitted with sufficient gutters and downspouts.

Another important factor in termite prevention is the foundation. This is where termites would most likely enter your home, so you want to make it as termite resistant as possible. Since dehumidifiers are most often used in crawl space foundations, that is what we are going to focus on. There are a couple different types of crawl space foundations, including wooden pier, hollow block, or poured concrete.

One option is a wooden pier foundation. Unfortunately, this type is the most susceptible to termite damage. Wood used in pier foundations should always be pressure treated for some protection. Because treatment doesn’t always extend to the center of the pier, there is still risk of termites. In some states, the building code will require the piers to be treated. Keep in mind that the cut ends of the piers should not come into direct contact with the ground.

Another crawl space foundation option is a brick or hollow block wall. Typically, this method is more termite resistant than a wooden piers foundation. In this type of foundation, there are different methods for capping the foundation, which will vary the level of termite resistance. One method is to cap with poured concrete, that is at least 4 inches thick. This would be the most termite resistant option. Solid concrete blocks, with all the joints filled is another option for capping. A third option is hollow blocks with the joints filled. This would be the most susceptible to termites, however.

The best crawl space foundation for termite resistance is a poured concrete foundation. For this option, it’s important to reinforce the concrete to prevent cracks or shrinkage. If not reinforced, the concrete may develop cracks, which would allow termites easy access.

Ensuring that your building site, and home are built properly is a good start for preventing termites. In addition to good building practices, chemical treatment of the soil is another option. For instance, before construction of a home, the soil can be treated with an insecticide. In addition, it’s a good idea to treat under and around the foundation with a chemical treatment.

The exact termite prevention that is required in the building code will vary state by state. The level of prevention will also be affected by the location, landscaping, and type of structure. For instance, in North Carolina, if a home is built in an area prone to termite damage, at least one of five prevention methods must be completed. As described in section R318.1 of the NC residential code, termite prevention methods include a chemical treatment, a termite baiting system, pressure treated wood, naturally termite resistant wood, or steel framing.

If you don’t want to deal with a termite infestation and all of the accompanying damage, it’s important to follow some of these prevention techniques. From removing lumber scraps to chemically treating the foundation, there are several options to choose from. Preventing termites during construction could save you a lot of money and time in the future.

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Peterson, Chris, et al. “Subterranean Termites- Their Prevention and Control in Buildings.” United States Department of Agriculture Forest Service Home and Garden Bulletin 64, Oct. 2006, www.srs.fs.usda.gov/pubs/misc/misc_hg064.pdf.
United States, Congress, “North Carolina State Building Code: Residential Code .” North Carolina State Building Code: Residential Code , International Code Council, 2012, pp. 51–51.