How to Get Rid of Termites (and Make Sure They Never Come Back)

Elisa Greenberg
Written by Elisa Greenberg
Updated August 26, 2022
scandanavian kitchen
Photo: magryt / Adobe Stock

Don’t let your cardboard boxes become vacation homes for termites

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If you’re enjoying a beautiful day tending to your garden and notice little mud tubes (or highways) leading into your home, you may have a termite problem. Although small, termites can cause mighty amounts of damage to your home if left untreated. Luckily, we’ll provide several methods to learn how to get rid of termites and keep them away for good.

Why Do I Have to Get Rid of Termites?

As stated above, termites can cause significant structural damage to your home. According to the EPA, homeowners spend over $2 billion annually on termite control and treatment. 

You’ll want to manage and treat your termite infestation immediately, or you’ll risk long-term damage to your home, such as:

  • Deterioration of support beams, floor joists, posts, and wall studs

  • Cracks and foundation damage

  • Hollow interior and exterior walls

  • Loss of insulation

  • Damage to attics, basements, and crawl spaces

  • Weakened hardwood floors

  • Water damage throughout your home

  • Health risks, including asthma and dust-mite allergens due to termites burrowing in wood

Types of Termites

You’ll need to know the difference between species before you try treating for termites. 

Subterranean Termites

These burrowers live underground in colonies within the soil, your foundational wood, and compost piles around your home. Their saw-toothed jaws create mud tubes, excavating tunnels until they voraciously feast on your home’s wood. You can find them all over the U.S. (except for Alaska), and they cause the most damage compared to other termite species.

Drywood Termites

Drywood termites only live in wood (they don’t burrow in soil or create mud tubes). They are found predominantly in warm, coastal regions such as Florida, California, Louisiana, Texas, and Georgia. 

How Much Does It Cost to Get Rid of Termites?

Professional termite treatment costs an average of $575—and you can expect to pay between $3 to $20 per linear foot, depending on the type of termite treatment you choose.

You should also budget between $500 to $6,000 for foundation repair costs if termites have been feasting away at your home’s structure for some time.

Signs of Termites Living in Your Home

If termites have made themselves cozy in your house, you’ll notice these signs: 

  • Loose or buckling tiles and drooping ceilings in bathrooms

  • Remnants of termite wings (they shed their wings in piles) or frass (termite droppings)

  • Peeling or bubbling paint

  • Holes in drywall

  • Banging noises: termites bang their heads against the wood when threatened

  • Hollow wood: try tapping on your wood with a screwdriver to see if it starts falling apart

  • Mud tubes: little mud highways made of soil and wood that travel from your exterior to your home’s interior

You may also notice the termites themselves, though they often get confused with flying ants. Termites have even-sized wings (flying ants have larger front wings), straight antennae (flying ants have bent antennae), and thick abdomens (flying ants have a small waistline). 

How to Get Rid of Termites

Pest control spraying perimeter of home

You can try the below DIY methods only if they don’t involve highly toxic insecticides—namely, termiticides and boric acid—or you can always call a local termite treatment company to ensure proper and safe treatment. 

Before you start treating for termites, wear a pair of goggles, a dust mask, and gloves. Only attempt to DIY treating for termites if you have experience and are confident in your abilities. Even after a DIY pest treatment, it’s a cool idea to call a pro to make sure you got everything.

Termite Bait

Termite bait includes wood (cellulose) and a slow-acting insecticide. Place the bait around your home’s foundation. Once a termite ingests the insecticide, they carry it around for weeks. They then die while attempting to molt, effectively spreading the insecticide throughout their entire colony. While homeowners can install bait themselves, we recommend calling in a pro to monitor and maintain the baits. 

Another bait trap is wet cardboard boxes—the cellulose in cardboard attracts termites. This solution is simpler but less effective. Here’s how to do it:

  1. Wet two pieces of cardboard and stack them on top of each other.

  2. Wait for a group of termites to get trapped between the cardboard.

  3. Take the cardboard outside and burn it.

  4. You can repeat this multiple times.

Exterior Barriers

A popular and highly effective treatment is creating a liquid termiticide (a toxic insecticide) exterior barrier outside your home. Termites cannot detect the chemical. They eat the termiticide and unknowingly spread it throughout their colony, effectively killing all the termites. As stated above, a local pest expert should handle termiticide treatments because it can be risky if you don’t handle it properly.

Another exterior barrier is diatomaceous earth (DE) powder. DE is composed of fossilized algae, which, when ground up, has sharp edges that are deadly to pests (but not harmful to humans). The sharp edges cut the termite’s exoskeleton, dehydrating them. 

You’ll want to take the DE powder with a sifting scoop and apply a barrier to exposed wood around your home’s attic, crawl space, basement, and insulation. DE powder is most effective for eliminating above-ground termites; treatment takes a few hours to a few days.

Indoor Chemical Treatments

Unlike its outdoor counterpart, indoor termiticide treatment comes in a foam. Again, if you go for this treatment, be sure to wear safety gear like goggles and a mask. 

Once you locate your termite infestation, spray the foam treatment into cracks and crevices—the foam then expands and poisons the termites behind your walls. If you handle this treatment according to the label, it’s highly effective. However, because termiticide is a toxic chemical, we recommend that a trained pro come to your home (while keeping pets and children out of the house) to perform this treatment.

Another indoor chemical treatment is a boric acid spray (wood preservative and natural pesticide), which dehydrates the termite’s nutrients, effectively starving them. 

  1. Boric acid comes in powder form, so you’ll want to mix 1 cup of warm water with 1 teaspoon of boric acid in a spray bottle. 

  2. Shake until all powder dissolves. 

  3. Begin spraying for termites by applying the treatment liberally on floors, walls, ceilings, and any areas you suspect termites might be present. 

  4. Repeat this process for three to five days. 

Note: Boric acid is toxic to humans. You’ll need to read the label before use or call a pro to handle this treatment. Take particular care when using this chemical if you have kids or pets in your home.

Beneficial Nematodes

Beneficial nematodes are microscopic organisms located in garden soil. They act as parasites to many garden pests—they burrow into their host, releasing bacteria that poison termite blood within days. You can purchase beneficial nematodes in stores (for around $35). Add them to water and apply the nematode mixture to termite nests around your garden. 

Wood Treatments

For drywood termites living within wood beams and panels, you can try less invasive approaches:

  • Grab a drill and make holes every 10 inches in the termite-infiltrated wood until you reach the nest. Apply termiticide treatment and patch the holes with a putty knife.

  • For a gentler approach, create a mixture of water (2 cups), dish soap (a few drops), and around 10 drops of essential oil, such as orange or neem. Shake the mixture and spray it directly on infested wood. The oil mixture slowly kills termites over time by inhibiting their shedding and egg-laying process. Just a note, this should only be used for prevention. Any infestations require stronger treatments and the help of a pro.

  • If a piece of wood furniture is infested with termites, take the furniture outside and let it sit in the sunlight for 2–3 days. Light and heat are known to kill termites. You’ll want to inspect your house for signs of termite damage here, though, as they could have spread.

How to Prevent Future Termite Infestations

To get rid of termites and keep them away for good, you’ll want to take these preventative measures:

  • Check for leaks, especially around your roof and air conditioner. Subterranean termites thrive in moist environments.

  • Clear your pipes and gutters (termites also love warm and dark environments).

  • Make sure downspouts face away from your home.

  • Caulk windows, doors, and any openings in or around your home’s foundation.

  • Opt for rubber tubs or plastic bins instead of cardboard boxes for attic, garage, and basement storage.

  • Apply proper ventilation to crawl spaces and moisture-rich areas (steel mesh is a great choice).

  • Remove tree stumps and decaying tree roots. 

  • Replace wood-based mulch with a rubber or gravel base.

  • Don’t stack firewood up against your home. 

  • Keep wood at least 6 inches above the ground when building a deck. Choose pressure-treated wood to keep termites away.

  • Add metal barriers over exposed wood surfaces.

  • Get annual termite inspections from a trusted pest control company.

DIY vs. Hire a Pro

DIYers with pest control knowledge can take a crack at tackling a termite issue themselves, as long as they handle any chemicals with safety and care. 

You can find over-the-counter treatments at your local hardware store and expect to pay:

  • $50–$250 for baits.

  • $50–$100 for liquid termiticide.

  • $10–$15 for DE powder.

  • Around $35 for termiticide foam.

  • Around $15 for boric acid.

However, we strongly recommend calling a licensed professional termite control company to treat termites, especially any major infestations. Pros have the right large-capacity equipment, products, knowledge, and experience to ensure you get rid of termites for good. In addition, many pros offer multiple mitigation methods and follow-up, so you won’t have to worry about recurring infestations. 

You can expect to pay between $200 and $600 for an average pest control service fee, but termite fumigation can run as high as $8,000.

Frequently Asked Questions

There is one main benefit of having termites in nature. They aid in the decomposition process (dead trees and organic matter) and return nutrients to the surrounding soil, inviting new trees and plants to bloom. There is, however, no benefit to having termites in your home.

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