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AVOID WOOD-SOIL CONTACT TO AVOID TERMITES

By Chris Williams on March 13, 2019.

We just moved into a new house and my wife is starting to plan her garden. She wants me to install 3-sided flower boxes all along the front to cover up the ugly concrete foundation. I don’t think that’s a good idea. Isn’t that the kind of thing that draws termites?

V. O., Saugus, MA

It certainly could attract termites for more than one reason, and you’re right, it’s not a good idea. Subterranean termites live in and move through soil, searching for a wood food source. Installing those flower boxes can let termites bypass any soil termite treatment and instead gives  them a direct route into your home.

THAT’S A “NO” ON FOUNDATION FLOWER BOXES

We always preach that you never want to have wood (or access to wood) in direct contact with soil…unless you want termites to attack the wood. Wooden porches or decks should not directly touch the soil or the house itself. Siding on a house should never touch the ground because termites can tunnel up underneath the siding. And soil-filled flower boxes should not touch the foundation wall (see Termites Are Attracted by Certain Conditions).

Termites discovered feeding on wood resting on the soil at a customer’s home. Z. Ciras

It would be an even worse decision if you used wood or railroad ties to border the flower boxes. That wood will eventually rot, making it especially attractive to termites. Termites could first find the wood in the flower boxes, eventually working their way through the soil in the boxes where they could enter the foundation directly, without even being seen.

PROTECT YOUR FOUNDATION TERMITE TREATMENT

Another issue with installing flower boxes along the foundation is that you may disturb the protective termite barrier that has been placed in the soil. The soil around the foundation of new homes may be pretreated with a pesticide to protect the home from termites. Any time you dig directly along the foundation or disturb that treated soil, you risk breaking the protective barrier, allowing termites access to your home.

Having flower boxes against your house lets the termites move up into and through the untreated soil in the box, bypassing the foundation soil beneath that has been treated with pesticide. You may think that the concrete foundation will keep termites out anyway, but not so. Termites can find and use any little crack in the foundation to enter. If they can’t enter the foundation directly from the flower box, they will build mud shelter tubes from the box up underneath the siding or over brick, looking for openings (see How Did Termites Get Into My House?).

You should forget about installing flower boxes directly against your house. Convince your wife that any soil disturbance should be at least 3 feet away from the foundation. Small shrubs can hide the concrete just as well and she can plant flowers in front of the shrubs. As you get acquainted with your new home, do a walk-around inspection and look for other conditions that send out an invitation to termites (see Hey Massachusetts! – Here’s a Termite Checklist for Your Home).

TERMITE IN-GROUND BAIT MONITORS ON SENTRY DUTY

Termites enjoying a delicious last meal with the Sentricon System from Colonial Pest. Z. Ciras

At Colonial Pest, we offer Sentricon termite bait monitors that are installed unobtrusively in the ground around your home to intercept foraging termites (see Termite Baiting Systems Provide Permanent Peace of Mind). It’s a way to know that your home is still being monitored for termites even if you’re not sure if your chemical barrier at the foundation is still intact.

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