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
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:
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.
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
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."
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
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.
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)
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!
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.
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
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.
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.
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? (-:
Unless you watched them do it, you don't know that. Termites do not
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,
Bait to repel is a contradiction in terms.
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 $1200.
Any PCO who would give you a bid by email should be avoided, and
arguably have their license revoked.
I'd suggest alt.consumers.pest-control but it seems to have been
Most of the responses here are a waste of time to read unless you are
a dedicated fan of near absolute ignorance.
OOPS! Takes several years of established colony before you see a swarm.
Don't panic though. You may have minimal damage as of yet. You definately
need a *professional* though to come out.
The big names are Orkin and Terminex. Of the 2, Terminex uses a chemical
that lasts at best 2 years. Same as the little companies that cost 600$ 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
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.
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