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Protecting New Construction From Termites

By Chris Williams on December 24, 2015.

I work in construction and want to build a small home for my daughter and family. I’m worried though about the requirements for termite prevention, that’s an area I don’t know anything about. Can you provide a brief guideline on what I need to do to make sure termites won’t be a problem in the new house?

J. B., Barrington, NH

It is a big topic but maybe I can get you started. We keep termites away from a new home by (1) using good construction practices, and by (2) applying a pesticide barrier as an early step in the construction process. This is called a preconstruction termite treatment or a pretreat.

Don’t Let Wood Touch Soil

I assume you know all about good construction practices, so just a brief note. There’s one main rule: do not allow any wood to directly contact soil. If you do, you are providing a highway for termites from the ground directly into the house. Termites live in the soil and move from there to infest wood. They usually get to the wood in a home by moving through the soil and entering through a crevice or by building mud tubes to reach the wood.

Eliminating wood to soil contact includes removing wooden form boards and cleaning up any wood scraps under or near the finished home. The wood will also absorb moisture if it contacts soil and termites love damp wood. Proper drainage and ventilation is important to keep the house dry and termite-free.

What’s Involved in a Termite Pretreatment?

A new construction pretreatment is usually applied to the soil under and around the foundation after the footings have been poured and the foundation walls and/or pillars have been built. There are various treatment techniques involving trenching of the soil and injecting pesticide (called termiticide), or removal of soil which is treated and replaced. Timing of the treatment in the construction process is important, and different types of foundations will be treated in different ways.

Other ways to protect new construction are to use termite bait stations, or to install steel mesh, or to directly treat the wood with borate chemicals. The initial preconstruction treatment of the house is usually followed by a postconstruction perimeter treatment around the foundation.

Not Always Required, But Always a Good Idea

A termite pretreatment is usually a requirement of the mortgage lender, not your state. Although pretreatment might not be required in your case, since the home is remaining in your family, seems like it would be a good idea and would certainly provide peace of mind. A termite pre-treatment is not usually a DIY job though since it often requires large pesticide tanks, pumps, hoses, as well as a knowledge of termiticide label requirements and treatment techniques. The pesticide label and federal and state regulations govern the methods and the amount of termiticide that must be applied. Best to call an exterminator for this job.

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