Contributed by: Doug Webb
Updated on: January 17, 2023
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 opportunity 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 States1. To further break it down, the average cost of termite treatments and damage repairs is more than $15,0002.
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.
Before construction: termite pretreatment
The adage “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, you should discuss with your pest control company that you would like to take care of your termite protection. They can pretreat the soil during construction and can provide an in-ground baiting system to control termites in the area around your structure.
Prevention before the build is a big step toward protecting your home. You can further protect your home and new construction by taking certain steps during the process, as well.
Termite treatment during construction
Any construction that opens your home up to the environment around it can also expose it to a number of pests. Experts recommend keeping your new construction protected from termites by using certain materials and following simple precautionary measures, as advised by Mississippi State University. You can consult with your contractor about which of these steps are most applicable to your new home construction.
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 treated zone 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 new construction process to help keep termites at bay and prevent the from gaining access through your home's wooden structure:
- Apply 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 construction area.
- 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 may take 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 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.
Incorporating termite-resistant materials and methods doesn't just help keep homes protected from termites. These preventive tactics can be less expensive in the long run and may 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.
Protect your crawl space
One of the more likely places for termite entry is the crawl space of your home. Unlike a basement, a crawl space is an unoccupied, unfinished, narrow space between the ground and the first 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.
Is termite treatment required for new construction?
The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) requires that a specific form called a Subterranean Termite Protection Builder's Guarantee is required for all new construction, regardless of state. If a new build is made with steel, concrete or masonry, no treatment is required. However, there are many other sources of cellulose in a home including furniture, cabinets, books and other personal items that can be attacked by termites, so it is best to have the new construction pretreatment performed. The property owner has multiple options for termite protection, including termite bait systems, among others.
When to treat for termites on new construction
If you have already laid a concrete foundation, you will probably need to implement a termite treatment plan similar to homes that have already been built. For example, you could add termite bait stations in strategic locations once construction has wrapped.
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 the necessary steps to treat your new home for termites. 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 address them 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.
1According 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.
2Average costs based on the resolution of nationwide Terminix termite damage claims closed from January 1, 2022 through May 31, 2022. Repair and treatment costs may vary. Not all homes qualify for a damage repair guarantee. See Plan for details and limitations.