Fixing Termite Damage & Termite Treatments Options for Your Home
Termites are destructive, so it's important to assess warning signs, repair any structural termite damage and know when to call in professionals. But cost effective termite management is often confusing, and treatment options can get expensive with mixed results.
If you have termite or other ant concerns around your home, you might want to assess the risk factors and causes, before implementing a targeted termite treatment approach. Plus, potentially save thousands of dollars if managed holistically, rather than spraying chemicals arbitrarily.
Read on for a summary of what to look for, what to do about termite damage and scheduling reliable treatment options in a holistic way.
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How do you know you have termites?
There are several signs that you may have termites in your home. Some common signs include:
Swarming termites: If you see swarms of winged insects around your home, especially near windows and doors, it could be a sign that you have termites. These insects are usually attracted to light and will often fly towards windows and doors.
Mud tubes: Termites build mud tubes to travel between their nest and the wood they are feeding on. These tubes are usually about the width of a pencil and can be found on the foundation of your home, along walls, or in crawl spaces.
Hollow-sounding wood: If you tap on wood in your home and it sounds hollow, it could be a sign that termites have eaten away at the wood from the inside.
Discarded wings: If you find piles of insect wings in your home, it could be a sign that termites are present. Termites shed their wings after they have found a new nesting site.
Physical identification: If you strip a wall or ceiling lining, this is the most common way of finding live termites eating away or movement trails.
If you suspect that you have termites in your home, it is important to have a professional pest control company inspect your home and identify the type of termite and recommend a treatment plan.
Termite Treatment Options
There are several different types of termite treatments available, and each one has its own unique set of benefits and drawbacks. Some common options to treat termites include:
Good Building Design and Property Maintenance goes a long way to make your house less prone for termite, carpenter ant and wood borer attack. We'll explain the details further below, but examples include:
Maintaining the building's moisture levels.
Removing wood debris from the property, including cut stumps and roots.
Improving air flow and offsets around your house.
Sealing any leaks cracks or openings in the structure.
Chemical treatments: These involve applying a chemical insecticide to the soil around the foundation of a building or directly to the infested wood. Chemical treatment options can be effective, but they may require multiple applications and can be hazardous to humans and pets. Other pesticides can be applied directly to the wood around your home.
Baiting systems: These involve placing bait stations around the perimeter of a building . Termites are attracted to the bait and take it back to their nest, where it is distributed to the rest of the colony. Bating options are intended to eliminate the entire termite colony. Baiting systems can be effective, but they may take longer to work than chemical treatments, depending on the product specifications and placement effectiveness.
Physical barriers: These involve installing a physical barrier, such as a metal screen or a chemical foam, around the foundation of a building to prevent termites from entering. Barrier options can be effective at preventing termites from accessing the wood in structures, and physical barriers however may be more expensive or limited to install than other types of treatments.
Heat treatment (Structural Pasteurization): Heat treatment involves raising the temperature of the affected area to a level that is lethal to termites, being typically above 50°C for at least 35 minutes. This option can be effective at killing all stages of termites, including eggs and larvae, however limited to physical access to nests and activity areas.
Fumigation: Fumigation involves using a gas to kill termites and other pests. This method is typically reserved for severe infestations and requires the building to be sealed and evacuated while the gas is being applied.
It's important to note that termite treatment is rarely a one-time process. In most cases, ongoing inspections and maintenance will be required over several years to ensure that the infestation does not return, or until the core environmental issues are fully addressed. Termites can cause significant damage to a building over time, and the cost of treatment will only increase the longer the infestation is allowed to continue.
How to reduce the risk of termites?
Poor Building Design, Construction and Renovation Practices commonly creates long term building maintenance issues - including rot, ant, and termite infestation - which are often hand in hand - compounding maintenance costs over time.
The most simple and cost effective design practices with ensure:
Ensure Roof Overhangs: to cover all wall and external timbers, this will reduce building moisture.
Fix Leaks: Pluming leaks, roof and wall leaks not only encourage pests but also rot, dampness and mould. Around 90% of all building defects are water and plumbing related! Either a builder, plumber or engineer can help with leak repair practices, but finding the source can be trickier.
Order Quality Durability Class for External Hardwood Timbers: where Class 1 or 2 hardwoods as per AS 5604 (heartwood of spotted gum, tallowwood, ironbark, turpentine, red bloodwood or similar) are most resistant to Rot and Termite Attack.
Appy Timber Protection to Exposed Timber Decks, Carports and Patios: such as CN emulsion on top surfaces, laps, ends, joints and recesses, followed by DPC protection capping over all joists, such as malthoid, polypropylene or PVC (eg Protectadeck).
Use Preservative Treatment Sapwoods: To meet AS 1604.1 Class 3 and 4 timbers clear of the ground and external to weather must be preservative treated to Min. Level H3, where these timbers are in contact with the ground or damp conditions preservative treatment shall be increased Min. Level H5. It is also recommended to Seal Coat 600mm from the length of end of timber with wax emulsion or Denso primer end sealing compound within 12 hours after timbers are cut.
Protect Timber Products: from the weather during construction, those products to be used in a permanent external environment shall be end and top capped. All members shall be primed and painted in accordance with the manufacturers specifications to ensure continued performance of the timber.
Keep All Materials and Rooms Dry including during and after rainfall and flood events. The most common issues and fixes are:
Protect exposed external timbers, with timber capping or suitable flashings as needed.
If in doubt, get a Malthoid, Aluminum Flashing, PVC, DPM, or FC sheeting cut to better clad the tops and sides of external timber elements.
Avoid painting external timbers which entraps moisture for extended periods, making it unable to naturally dry after rain events. It's far better to use oil based stains to let timber breath naturally and making visual termite inspection easier, plus oiled and stained timber looks better- right?
Avoid keeping building rooms sealed for extended periods (lack of open doors and windows), especially rooms behind retaining walls. Instead:
Improve natural air flow across buildings, especially undercrofts and stumped areas.
Humidity and Temperature Gauges are cheap and available on Amazon for $20 worth it's weight in gold - and trying to keep your rooms under 70% RH and under 25°Celsius (77°F) is ideal for the majority of the year, or especially during the wet season to prevent pest infestation plus rot and other decay.
Dehumidifiers are a worthwhile if you're struggling to naturally keep your house dry, especially managing the indoor humidity during the wet season in coastal and hinterland areas. Dehumidifiers from Ausclimate (Australian) start from $359 for Medium 20L/day to $749 for Supreme 50L/day dehumidifiers, alternatively cheaper 10L/day dehumidifiers from Shinco are as low as $215. We recommend to avoid cheap 1-2L dehumidifiers as they aren't often big or reliable enough to dry a small laundry yet alone a house
Improving Stormwater Diversion around Buildings is highly effective to reduce surface and ground moisture around your building. In fact AS2870 and the broader construction industry encourages it, however earthworks around houses could often be better.
Remove timber around your House is often easy to do, that means:
Removing or pruning trees around houses to increase airflow and reduce moisture around and under buildings.
Removing dead branches, leaves, thick mulch and the like adjacent buildings (gardens 3m offset are better than none).
Removing dead stumps with a suitably sized excavator with root picker attachment is better than leaving stumps to rot, or grinding stumps.
Understories are recommended to breath, meaning avoid hedges and impermeable cladding around sub-floors near ground level.
Simple post caps, concrete or steel stumps are ideal.
Otherwise is failing to effectively manage the above design and construction risks, then termite damage and other issues often compound with increased risks of:
Leading to increased risks of Water Ingress inside building elements.
Causing increased chances of Rot to Building Materials.
Making a Perfect Environment for Pests, including Termite Attack (they Eat Cellulose materials) or other Carpenter Ant/Borer Damage (they find homes and enlarge nests inside timber).
What do termites look like?
There are around 360 species of termites in Australia, but only a few cause economic damage and most in the subterranean category.
There are several types of termites, including:
Subterranean termites: These termites live underground and build elaborate tunnel systems to reach above ground food sources. They are the most common type of termite and can be found in most parts of the world including Australia. Typically they have pear-shaped head that is narrow at the front. In houses, nests can be found in walls and ceiling cavities and near a water source, like a sink.
Drywood termites: These termites live and nest inside wood, and do not require contact with the ground or soil to survive, with low moisture requirements. They are often found in warm, dry regions and can be difficult to control once they establish a nest in a structure. The West Indian drywood termite (Cryptotermes brevis) is established in Maryborough and some Brisbane suburbs. It is also present in Bundaberg, Townsville and Rockhampton. The drywood termite has a white body and dark head, which is plug-like and deeply wrinkled.
Dampwood termites: These termites are found in wood with high moisture content, such as logs or tree stumps. They are less common than subterranean and drywood termites, and are typically found in cooler, wetter regions. But have high prevalence in coastal regions of Queensland from Brisbane to FNQ. They are much larger than subterranean termites with larger heads and mandibles at the front.
Formosan termites: These termites are also subterranean are a particularly aggressive and destructive type of subterranean termite. They are native to Southeast Asia, but have been introduced to other parts of the world and are now found in many tropical and subtropical regions. Fortunately, Australia is free of Formosan termite and we want to keep it that way.
Exotic drywood termites
How to fix termite damage to structures?
In addition to the financial costs of repairing termite damage, if left unchecked termite damage can weaken the structure of the building and increase the risk of collapse or other serious damage. There are several methods for repairing termite damage in buildings, including the following:
Replace damaged wood: If the termite damage is severe, it may be necessary to remove and replace the affected timbers. This can include framing members, flooring, and other structural elements. Plus removing anything untreated will reduce risks of future termite damage.
Reinforce buildings: This can include adding additional framing members, such as steel beams or columns, to support the weight of the structure.
Repair wood with wood filler: For smaller areas of damage, wood filler can be used to fill in the holes and smooth out the surface.
Repair with wood epoxy: Wood epoxy can be used to repair larger areas of damage and can be sanded and painted to match the surrounding wood.
Install ant caps: Termites are attracted to wood and can easily tunnel through it. To prevent further damage, termite shields can be installed around the base of a building, or along areas where termites are likely to enter such as stumps.
Apply borate preservatives: Borate treatments can be applied to wood to kill termites and prevent further infestations. These treatments are applied directly to the wood and can provide long-lasting protection.
Depending on your type of building, there are advantages and disadvantages with the listed repair methods and limitations to consider. So it is important to have a professional structural engineer inspect and assess the extent of the termite damage and determine the best course of action for repair and strengthening. Plus, it is important to address the source of the termite infestation and take steps to prevent future infestations.
How much does termite treatment cost?
The cost of termite treatment can vary widely depending on the size of the affected area, the extent of the infestation, and the type of treatment being used. On average, termite treatment can cost anywhere from $500 to $4,000 or more. However, in some cases, the cost can be much higher if the infestation is extensive or if the damage is severe.
Recommended Termite Bait System | Budget $500 to $5000
There are several suppliers of termite bait systems on the market. However one of the most reliable and cost effective Termite Bait package is by the reliable BASF brand, which typically includes:
Advance Termite Bait Stations, or abbreviated to "TBS," and start retailing on Amazon from $35 each station (in CASES of 10) and up to $100 each, however can last decades if maintained as no active ingredients (just a feeding shell).
Inserted cartridges which come in two different types:
a) Termite Inspection Cartridges (TIC's) for monitoring purposes only to determine whether termites are active or not. These retail on Ebay from $6 each Termite Timber Insert (in PACKS of 10), or from $12 for each insert from Amazon (in PACKS of 2) and up to $35 each elsewhere.
b) Trelona Bait Cartridge (TBC's), which include the active ingredients intended to eliminate the nest and eventually the queen. These retail on Amazon from $15 each bait cartridge (in PACKS of 6) and up to $35 each elsewhere, and can last from 3 months up to 5 years depending on termite activity, other ant presence and environmental conditions - such as frequency of stormwater saturation, mould and rot.
Trelor "Spider" Opening Tool is also useful to secure the Advance TBS (Termite Bait Station), starting from $35 and upwards.
That's generally all you need to install baiting stations, except for disposable gloves, a digging tool, and pliers to pull the old termite cartridges out for inspection. It is also recommended to watch the free Technical Training Course for installation below, and feel free to print off a self-certificate!
There are several other termite bait system competitors, such as Sentricon and Superway, but just consider these systems may be slower to react or less effective compared to BASF's product, at least accordingly to a University of Delaware study - as noted in the Trelona Technical Manual and Installation Guide.
These bait systems may cost as cheap as $500 if buying and installing yourself, or upwards of $5000 depending on the building size and quantity used, and whether professionally installed.
Termite Foam Spray | Budget $69 to $2,000
Reliable Termiticide and Insecticide comes in Termite Foam products, which tend to last longer than surface spray chemicals in a more targeted and cost effective way.
These are most effectively applied directly to termite nests (including bivouacs) in trees, stumps, posts, power poles, mounds and wall cavities. However termite foam can also be applied to termite activity when the nest cannot be located, such as active workings in timber and wall cavities, ant trails, cracks, building joints and bait stations.
If you find active termite trails - that includes Subterranean Termites, Drywood Termites, and other Carpenter Ants! - then a reliable product such as Termidor® Foam from Amazon start from $69 from Amazon, 567g tubes that expand in wall and ceiling cavities, and is effective and easy to install and also owned by BASF. These foams and other sprays obviously cost a lot more depending on the application extents and whether professionally installed.
A complimentary foam like this can be effective for 4 – 6 weeks and given a "non-repellant" this means termites cannot detect Termidor so simply pass over the product area unknowingly, allowing hundreds or thousands of termites to travel back throughout the colony. As termites begin to be infected by Termidor, other termites "groom" the infected termites, then also become infected which further increases the grooming process and cannibalization or burying their dead. So you can rest assure it will eliminate both termites nests in the area and help prevent damage over extended periods. Termidor is also effective against other ant colonies also, like:
Black house ant
Coastal brown ant
The video below shows how quick and easy Termidor Foam can fill up wall cavities, cracks, suspended floors and other building joints where termites and ants may be seen entering and travelling back and forth. And best yet, as soon as you see ants again you can reapply, whenever concerned about new ant attacks.
Chemical Termite Barriers | Budget $2,900 to $5,000
Chemical Termite Barriers - soaked/injected into perimeter of building - may also be considered and often cost $2,900 to $3,600 for most houses, or $5,000 or more with complicated or higher risk buildings. These are much different systems to baits and unlikely to guarantee effective elimination, especially high risk or older buildings with existing termite activity already inside.
An example product is Termidor® HE. Many years ago, barrier treatments would only repel termites away from the home. Termites would then go away from the treated area, or circumnavigate, and enter under or around the treated zone. Termidor however changed the termite protection industry, as it’s a non-repellent chemical that is undetectable to termites in the ground. Meaning termites cannot detect Termidor and simply pass through the treated zone unknowingly and starts to affect termites 5-18 days after contact, allowing thousands of termites to travel back throughout the colony. As termites begin to be infected by Termidor, other termites "groom" the infected termites, and also become infected further increasing the grooming process and cannibalization process, before burying their dead.
For chemical barrier systems you're strongly recommended to arrange a licensed pest inspection with a management report, as these systems are more advanced and higher risk (and harder for end users to source), and likely to give mixed results depending how the broader property management risks are diagnosed and implemented.
Termite Fumigation | Budget $10,000
Termite Fumigation Techniques are more suitable when termites inside, and also not a preventative treatment with longer term or guaranteed results - so may not be a feasible termite treatment system for most households.
For termite fumigation systems you're also strongly recommended to arrange a licensed pest inspection with a management report, as both chemical and fumigation termite treatment techniques are more specialised and higher risk (and harder for end users to source), and likely to give mixed results depending how broader property management risks are diagnosed and implemented.