question on termites

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lora wrote:

Some of the large termite companies have sub-contractors, so a brand name doesn't mean a whole lot. There might be a local, independent pest control contractor.
You should find a resource for your locality, like county extension service...ours in Florida have loads of expert personnel and information. Ours will ID insect pests, have entomologists on staff. I can't stress enough the advantage of being familiar with prevention, identification and treatment for termites and other problems. Sounds like your house needs to be secured against pests and weather.
The "mud pipes" sound like mud tubes that subterranean termites build to go from ground to wood. If you scrape away the tube, it is one means of determining whether termites are still active...they will rebuild the tube if still active THERE. If you tap wood surfaces around doors and windows especially, a sign of termite infestation is a hollow sound in comparison to more solid areas...if you find hollow sounding spots, dig at them and probably will reveal termite tunnels if that is the problem. Termites avoid daylight, so the reason for mud tubes and for tunnels remaining just beneath the surface of the wood. They create small, round openings in the surface to push out their poop. Another sign is wrinkling of drywall surface, not especially obvious, where they burrow through the paper covering of the wallboard. Look carefully around the areas of concern for shed wings or small holes (about size of pencil lead) and possibly fine, dark colored granules that is their excreta.
They will eat anything containing cellulose, including wood, paper and furniture. If there is paper stored in the areas, check it out. If there are areas of wood on exterior in need of paint or repair, check them as well. Uncaulked gaps around doors and windows, entries for electical and plumbing...open up plumbing access panels and inspect there. If there are trees or shrubs in contact with the structure, trim them. ALL wood should be at least 6-8" above grade...wood in contact with soil will just about guarantee termite problems. One especiall bad practice has been to extend stucco down below grade, giving termites a very comfy, cozy means to reach wood without being visible. If wood has an odd wrinkled texture, kind of like old parchment paper, poke around with a screw-driver to see if the wood is sound; if it isn't, dig around and you will be able to expose tunnels.
There are quite a variety of species of termites, and one of the worst is the Formosan (subterranean)...cause a lot of damage, New Orleans was the first area of southern US to have severe problems with them. Termites occur just about anywhere there is wood, and are part of nature's way of "recycling"...normal in the ground, in the woods, but not in the house :o)
If you do have termites, you need to address the issue but it is not an emergency...just take the time to learn and find reputable contractors.
Here are some links to termite info:
Georgia: http://www.caes.uga.edu/departments/ent/upmp/termites.html http://www.caes.uga.edu/extension/office.cfm Florida: http://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/ig098 http://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/ig097
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The classic method of finding out you have termites is opening the basement door to have it just fall to the ground. They are experts at eating away everything of structural substance yet leaving things looking quite intact.

Did you know that some archeologists believe that man's brain surpassed the animals once he learned that by following the marks other animals made, he could find himself a meal? The shed wings are the biggest giveway to their presence. I remember opening a basement closet door of a house that had belonged to mobster Joe Profaci that we were thinking of buying to see spider webs full of termite wings. Curiously, every door in the house locked from both the inside and the outside. We ended up not buying out of fear some old enemy might not have known he had moved. But I digress!

Very good advice. I can see you've earned several campaign medals in the never-ending war against The Termites.

Good advice.
-- Bobby G.
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Robert Green wrote:

If you live in Florida, you will someday have to deal with termites. My husband was a retiree-building manager in our condo for about 4 years. Prior to that, it had been badly neglected - no mgt. company, owners mostly paying for their worthless trust-fund babies who never learned to work or take responsibility. Bunch of losers let the place fall into horrid condition - I guess I instictively like challenges and got a real education in learning what to do and how to do it on the cheap. I had never lived in a neighborhood as expensive as this or with neighbors as totally worthless :o) What I learned along the way was valuable, and my kids are pretty much on top of the things they need to do to keep their homes in good shape....guess when you pay for it yourself, it is more valuable :o)
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If I live in Florida, it will be when senility is so bad, I don't even *know* I am living there. No offense, but the place is already under "smite" with bugs you can saddle and rife, swamps full of gators, the occasional superhurricane and more.
Plus, it's the US's drop off point for South America cocaine cartels and it's run by crooks who want to buy US Sugar's swamp in the biggest swamp scam since the first piece of underwater property was ever sold there. (My uncle, a reasonable smart man with advanced engineering degrees, bought 3 acres for a vacation home, not noticing (they worked hard to conceal it) that the land was under water, deep in a swamp.)
I've visited during the rainy season, when they turn the ocean upside down and hold it over DisneyWorld for a few hours. Did I mention the mold? I've never seen mold grow so fast and so thick.
The only good thing about Florida is that if you're lucky you can find things like 9 foot gold chains washed ashore from sunken galleons after a big enough storm. Did I mention the world class hurricanes? (-: When my dad sad he was going to retire to Florida because they had very favorable retiree tax laws, I told him: "Let's say our goodbyes now!" I remember my poor co-worker driving INTO hurricane Andrew because he wasn't sure his vacation home was secured well enough. He told me that the looters were far better armed than the National Guard sent to protect the civilians.
OK, it's not really that bad, but there are some serious reasons to consider living elsewhere. (-: Sorry all you Floridians, but I don't hold my own state in very high esteem either, since we were the ones that gave the US Spiro Agnew. It's nothing personal. I just hate bugs. And hurricanes. And alligators. And mold.

It's sad when a few minutes of maintenance might have averted a larger disaster. I have a friend who was driving around with her brakes making a horrible scraping noise. She really had no idea that letting that go meant she would have to pay for a new set of rotors, not just brake pads.

Ah, but if there were no losers, where would handy people get great bargains on fixer-uppers? It's all part of God's great plan.

I was surprised at how many young people think that getting your hands dirty makes you a member of the lower class. I've met many a carpenter and cabinetmaker that are true artists and take rightful pride in the quality of their work. It's almost like being proud of being stupid to say "that's beneath me" when it comes to snaking a drain or putting up weatherstripping.
What's funny is that three of those 'trust fund babies' actually liked learning how to use a power drill once someone showed them how. I think claiming it's beneath them is often a cover for "no one taught me" and "I am not motivated enough to teach myself."
-- Bobby G.
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wrote:

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Agreed. As I said, you don't know whether you're getting a true professional or a kid who was a fry cook at MickyD's last month. Best bet is to use some clear tape, pick up some carcasses with it and send it to your local Ag. extension office. They don't have a financial incentive to make you think flying ants are termites but PCO's do.

Are you a Big Sky guy? The first house I bought, I got screwed because I didn't realize that the words "no live termite infestation" on the inspection report wasn't the same as "No evidence of termites." The first phrase meant that there was previous termite damage and that they would likely be back.

That's just plain idiotic and why I feel confident I can do a better job simply because I have a bigger stake in the outcome. I make sure that the tubes are not just scraped cleaned, but washed off and treated with Home Depot's anemic termite spray. You have to do that to make sure that any mud tubes you see are new ones.

The guys I got at least knew their business. I wanted the inspection to confirm my own findings, and it did. They didn't give me any useful tips that Google hadn't already supplied. In fact, that's how I first heard about stakes.
The first PCO wanted to drill deep holes around the foundation of my basement from the inside and pump termicide into the holes. I didn't like the sound of that and I wondered how it was going to help if the entry was high up, like the termites that got into my neighbor's house via the cable TV entryway. I decided to try self-treatment instead and so far, so good.

I got the strong feeling that the price was dependent on their read of the client's smarts, lifestyle and how thick their wallet was. If you drive a Mercedes, park it somewhere else when you're getting a quote and at least do your basic research on line.

Mostly. If you're a new homeowner and you go into your basement on the first warm day of spring to find 100's of slow flying bugs shedding their wings and coupling like little subway cars, it's hard not to feel a little bit of panic. The bad PCO's thrive on that fear and charge for it. (-:

Anyone read "Leningen v. the Ants" by H.G. Wells? Made into at least one bad movie starring the perpetual scifi movie start, Charlton Heston.
-- Bobby G.
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clipped

You have lots of good advice. I haven't made my annual soapbox speech about the difference between "cheap" and "economical"....money's tight, so no more take-home supper in lieu of home maint. :o) I've lost track of what our condo assn. pays annually for the termite insurance, but when last aware it was not a huge cost for 8 homeowners....basically insurance to cover treatment and repair should treatment/inspection fail. I have never seen a termite inspection as thorough as what I do myself, including that done when I sold a home. Someone should start training classes for "Homeowner 101"...seems the majority don't know the basics that can save a lot of money and a lot of grief. When the day comes that banks WANT customers for mortgages, they should offer free classes so people know what they are buying and how to take care of it before it all goes to heck with unrecognized problems. Okay, I'm done :o)
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Yes - I am well acquainted with the old Spanish proverb, Lo barato sale caro - The cheap becomes the expensive.

You've got skin (and wood) in the game. (-: That makes your motivation a lot higher than some kid or parolee making minimum wage.

What I saw in the last housing bubble were a lot of people who had heard that owning your own home was the ticket to wealth building, but who really had no idea what that entailed, many of them having been renters all their lives. They had no idea that when the roof leaked, the toilet plugged or termites swarmed that it was all theirs to deal with.
A friend who lied profoundly about her income didn't have one thin dime to sink into repairs, had not budgeted for it and didn't understand the terms of her ARM. She's still in the house, but only because the banks have found that the property remains in better shape occupied than vacant. Also, the banks are trying to avoid saturating the market with foreclosures. My motto is: If you don't know how to use a power drill, don't buy a house.

I hear you! Hopefully the OP will get her termite problems solved with a minimum of cost and destruction. It could be well worth her time watching the professionals closely the first time around. When I do that, I invariably pick up some important tips. Sometimes, I decide that hiring someone is actually money well spent. I do don't my own plumbing anymore, although I did at one time but I still do my own wiring. I know I'm not a good solderer, so I leave that to the pros unless it involves compression fittings and not soldered joints.
I've saved thousands of dollars doing my own handywork (well, I've bought thousands of dollars of tools that I would have spent hiring someone!). It's a shame that because of liability issues many schools no longer have meaningful shop programs. Fewer and fewer of the youngsters I run into know a jig saw from a radial arm saw or even the basics like putting up a set of shelves that are plumb. /sermon over!
-- Bobby G.
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Buying a home is the only reason to learn for a lot of people...including my daughters. Neither one patient enough to wait til daddy gets home. Of course, they didn't want my help when they were 3 or 4 and haven't changed in that respect :o)

If you leave a widow, she can have a heck of a garage sale :o)
My mom had her own workshop and power tools when she passed away at age 82. For her 80th birthday, she decided to give herself a gift and hire someone to clean the eavestroughs. They didn't do it up to her standards, so she resumed doing it herself. Scared the neighbors when she got up on a ladder but she got the job done :o) She built her own kitchen cabinets many years before, having millwork done. Dad had no interest in any kind of home repair, and it was probably a wise choice :o)

People can learn anything they want to learn. My mom used to get irritated with people who remarked at how talented she was. She was kind of right, because she felt she didn't do anything that could not be done by everyone else. After she passed away, I found a little bundle of newspaper clippings on "how to" quite a few things she had saved, from the 1920's...and I used to get bored out of my mind when she watched "Walt's Workshop" in the early days of TV.

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The payoff comes slowly. Each job I buy a tool for makes the next similar job that much cheaper. I've got a pretty respectable set of "kits" for cable TV, electrical work, woodworking, auto repair and plumbing. One thing I learned on-line is that the right tool can cut the job time by more than half.
Not sure how I would rank order the tools I use the most:
Drills and cordless screwdrivers are high on the list, so is my radial arm saw, the many special purpose staplers, wrench sets, hammers, etc. I have a Roto-Zip tool I was hypnotized into buying by some late night infomercial that I haven't even used yet. Ditto for the cut-off saw. I bought it to cut holes for new boxes in old plaster and lathe, but it turned out an old jigsaw did a better job.

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Good for her! I know some women that have impressive toolkits, but I also remember one girlfriend using a finely honed wood chisel as a screwdriver and pry bar. The HORROR!!!!

My dad was a fair handyman, but the real prize went to my uncle who doubled the size of his house with additions he designed and built himself. It was all inspector approved, too!
I was a very avid woodworker, building my own bookcases, stereo cabinets and even desks out of white and red oak that are still kicking when I was in my early twenties. I lost interest in it after a lung spot scare that my doc said could be from oak dust. Even with masks, vacuum systems, etc. you know that oak is getting into your bloodstream because you can taste that very strange taste on your tongue.

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That's just it. The kids who've worked for me not only don't want to learn how to repair typical household breakdowns, they feel it's beneath them. I did have one young man work for me whose father, an AF Colonel, gave him nothing but tools for his birthdays and Christmas. He was extremely good at fixing things and doing his own (and my!) car maintenance. I can't understand why people wouldn't want to be self-reliant or at least understand enough about plumbing, electricity and so on to be able to know what they are paying for when they hire someone.
I remind the kids that feel being "handy" is beneath them that the one of the world's smartest dudes, Leonardo Da Vinci, clearly didn't mind get his hands dirty. Who are they to cop an attitude? (-:
-- Bobby G.
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Unless you watched them do it, you don't know that. Termites do not carve "cracks".

Dozens.
Try water, maybe you can drown them.
The vast majority of modern "interior" insecticides are harmless to mammals and are typically applied in 00000000000.20% concentrations, or less.

Bait to repel is a contradiction in terms.

Move?
In the vast majority of cases there should be only one application. Subsequent applications should be free.

Compared to what...?
I've done hundreds of termite jobs, few of which were less than $1200.
Any PCO who would give you a bid by email should be avoided, and arguably have their license revoked.

I'd suggest alt.consumers.pest-control but it seems to have been abandoned.
Most of the responses here are a waste of time to read unless you are a dedicated fan of near absolute ignorance.
Try Google. -----
- gpsman
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First we need to know where the OP lives. If it is far enough north, then termites may not be the problem.
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wrote:

A "swarm of winged insects" isn't much of a description, either. -----
- gpsman
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$600 is not unreasonable, a lot depends on the size of the house, basement or crawl space or slab, etc.
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"lora" wrote

OOPS! Takes several years of established colony before you see a swarm. Don't panic though. You may have minimal damage as of yet. You definately need a *professional* though to come out.
The big names are Orkin and Terminex. Of the 2, Terminex uses a chemical that lasts at best 2 years. Same as the little companies that cost 600$ to treat an active infestatiuon. It will come *back* if you are in a high termite area. Trust me. Been there.
Orkin uses one good for 15 YEARS. I wasted alot of money on the '600$ stuff' until it hit almost needing to tent the house to save it.

THere are but the ones that handle the swarm level are not available over the counter.

There is no such thing. It's a chemical that KILLS termites.

They only will show you that you have them. They do not actually 'repel' although they may 'divert' them from another structure for a short time.

You have a swarm. I gather that means in general 7 YEARS of termite colony. No one will give you a policy to protect against any further damage and warantee killing the colony for 600$. Aint gonna happen.
I pay 74$ a month. Next year, it drops down but i had to pay for initial major treatment to kill the colony. Knocking a few mud tubes out wasnt gonna fix what was already in the walls. The payment covers in a pro-rated way by installments for the initial fix.
I hope i dont piss anyone off, but you've gotten some really good and some really bad advice and I havent even read most of it.
In fact, i dont really care if I 'pissed anyone off'. What matters is you describe an actual swarm and that means several years of infestation so you have to work from that angle. I'd like to help with some actual experience in one who hit that level after several '600$ fixes' wasted my money.

So was I until I painfully learned. Carol
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