How to Prevent Termites When Building a New House
If you're building the home of your dreams or adding to your current home, you'll want to make sure that termites don't become long-term residents during the process. Because your home is exposed to the elements during construction, it's the time when termites have the greatest ability to invade your home.
Construction can be expensive, but termite damage and treatment can make your costs even higher. In fact, each year, termites cause over $5 billion worth of damage in the United States.1 To further break it down, the average cost of termite treatments and damage repairs is more than $9,000.2
However, with careful planning and a few small investments, you can take steps to help prevent termites from entering during new construction in the first place, helping you build a home that can be less susceptible to termites.
Preventing termites before construction
The adage of “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure" is especially true when it involves working to prevent termite infestations during new home construction. Before you (or your contractors) begin work, Mississippi State University Extension experts recommend:
- Pre-treating the soil in the area where your home is to be constructed.
- Using an in-ground bait system to control termites before they reach the location of your foundation or structure.
- Inspecting the area of construction for any signs of termite colonies or hiring a termite control professional.
- Prevention before the build is a big step to protecting your home, but it's not a guarantee. You can further protect your house and new construction by taking certain steps during the process, as well.
Preventing termites during construction
Any construction that opens your home up to the environment around it can also expose it to a number of pests. Experts have further recommendations for keeping your new construction protected, including using certain materials and following simple avoidance measures. You can consult with your contractor about which of these steps can be taken.
Limit soil-to-wood contact
Soil-to-wood contact affords termites easy access to food, moisture and entry into your home. The goal of pre-construction termite treatments is to form a chemical barrier between the ground and the wood that can help keep subterranean termites from coming up to feed. Dr. Michael F. Potter, an entomologist from the University of Kentucky, recommends taking these steps during the construction process to help keep termites at bay and from having access through your home's wooden structure:
- Apply a chemical barrier of termiticide on all points of contact where wood directly touches the ground (it's recommended that this be done by a termite control professional).
- Do not leave any wood, paper, cardboard or other cellulose-based debris underneath or in the area of the construction.
- Avoid allowing any direct contact between soil and wood, including treated wood, in the finished building.
Use termite-resistant materials
Creating a termite-resistant home isn't just about keeping termites away during construction — it's about taking proactive steps to help keep them away for the foreseeable future. “Instead of using the typical methods of controlling termites, builders can now help prevent pest problems before they start," explains Pierce Jones, a professor with the University of Florida's Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences. Some of the materials that Jones recommends using include:
- Concrete and rebar – These can be used in the foundation and wall structure to prevent termites from entering. While termites can still make their way through cracks in concrete foundations, it typically takes them much longer to penetrate than a wooden pier-and-beam foundation.
- Light-gauge steel framing and borate pressure-treated wood – Incorporating these structural elements makes your home less appetizing for termites and makes it harder for them to build a nest in your home.
- Termite-resistant metal mesh – This marine-grade material can be wrapped around the foundation perimeter and any at-grade and below-grade penetrations of the foundation and the slab. It's chew-proof and fine enough that even termites can't slip through.
- Physical barriers – Physical barriers might include adding a layer of sand or finely graded stone particles packed tightly beneath a house that termites can't penetrate.
Jones also points out that incorporating termite-resistant materials and methods doesn't just help keep homes safe. Those preventive tactics can be less expensive in the long run and make your home more attractive to future buyers.
Ensure proper ventilation and drainage
Because termites are attracted to moisture, it's important to ensure proper ventilation and drainage during the construction process. Dr. Blake Layton, Jr., professor of entomology at Mississippi State University, recommends that builders take the following steps during construction, especially before “dry-in," the point in construction when the building shell can fully keep out wind, rain or any other damaging weather factors:
- Grade the crawl space floor surface to one or more low spots and install a drain to remove water prior to dry-in.
- Be sure water runs away from the foundation, not under the crawl space or against the slab.
- Prevent plumbing leaks or other moisture sources in crawl spaces.
- Be sure outdoor window ledges, porches, patios, walkways and final landscape grade slope away from the building, so they do not funnel water against or into the building.
- Properly install roofing and flashing to avoid water leaks.
- Install gutters and downspouts to minimize water around the foundation wall.
Termite-proof your crawl space
One of the more likely places for termite nests is the crawl space of your home (if you have one). Unlike a basement, a crawl space is an unoccupied, unfinished, narrow space between the ground and the first (or ground) floor. Because this area is close to the ground, dark and seldom accessed, it can be a prime entry point for termites. To help keep termites out of your crawl space, consider discussing the following with your builder or contractor:
- Properly install vapor/moisture barriers under the slab/crawl space.
- Be sure the crawl space is well-drained and properly ventilated to minimize moisture problems.
- Allow at least 24 inches of ground clearance throughout the crawl space for proper ventilation, future termite inspections, termite treatments and other work.
- Include a three-inch termite inspection gap between the top of the vapor retarder wall and the top of the masonry wall to allow termite control professionals to make regular inspections.
- Avoid landscaping too close to the foundation of the house, where digging can disturb the treated soil barrier or where mature plants can interfere with proper inspection.
- Direct the condensation from air conditioners, dryers and other appliances to the outside of the house rather than under the crawl space.
Get a termite inspection in your new home
By the time all of this is finished, you'll have a new home that you can rest easy in, knowing you and your contractor took necessary steps to protect your new construction. Even still, getting a termite inspection once your new home is complete and regular annual inspections thereafter can be a valuable preventive measure.
A termite control professional can check your new home for any signs of termite infestation and help identify any points of entry, so you can block them off before termites can find their way into your new home.
Want to keep your new or current home safe from termites and other pests? Terminix® can help. Get started today with a free inspection.
1 According to the National Pest Management Association, termites alone cause over $5 billion in property damage annually, a cost not covered by most homeowners insurance plans. 2 Average repairs: $8,566 according to 2018 survey of independent contractors in the Terminix network. Estimated treatment: $1,419. Every home is different; repair and treatment costs may vary.