Whether you’re new to the home-building world or simply wondering “Will my new house be treated for termites?”, you’ve come to the right place. Understanding the process that goes into new home construction can be complicated, especially if it’s not something you’ve been exposed to before. We’re here to break down the process of treating your home for termites during the construction phase and the options you and/or your builder have to choose from.
As we’ve stated in previous posts, it is imperative that you have some sort of strategy for protecting your home from Eastern Subterranean termites. Termites can gain access to your home through many entry points, so it’s important that when a new home is being built, a pre-construction termite treatment (hereafter referred to as a “pre-treat”) is performed.
Building Code Requirements:
As of today, 34 states in the U.S require that every new home receives a termite pre-treatment during the construction phase. Most other states require pre-treats in the individual counties or metro areas that they consider “high-risk”. In North Carolina and South Carolina, state building code (and both HUD and the FHA) require pre-treats, without exception. If you’re building a new home, or purchasing a new construction home in the Carolinas, you should know that your house will receive some sort of termite pre-treat.
Although pre-treats are non-negotiable, you and your builder have a choice when it comes to the method of treatment. Generally speaking, these treatment options fall into one of three approaches:
- Soil treatments
- Structural wood treatments
- Bait stations
Of these three options, historically the most popular type of pre-treat is a soil treatment (although the other two are gaining in popularity by the day). Soil treatments have been around for years and are known to be very effective in preventing termite infestations. Based on the type of foundation that your house will be built upon, the process for soil treatments can vary, and we’ll cover each scenario in detail below.
OK, so what is a soil treatment?
As the name suggests, a soil treatment is the application of liquid termiticide to the ground beneath the footprint of the home. This approach is effective because it kills termites on contact, and creates a very effective and relatively long-lasting barrier around and beneath your home. A soil treatment is performed by mixing the appropriate proportions of liquid termiticide and water. It takes gallons and gallons of each to treat the surface area adequately and penetrate the soil. The ultimate goal is to have the ground completely soaked with this mixture. As you might guess, the time that it takes to complete the treatment is directly proportional to the size of the house. The general idea of this method of application is to treat soil on both sides of the foundation and heavily cover the soil and/or gravel underneath where the concrete slab(s) will be poured (like garages and porches). For houses with a crawl space, the soil around the piers will also need to be treated.
The dilution rate of the termiticide will depend on both the type of liquid termiticide selected and the type of foundation used for the home. Once the mixture as been diluted according to the label, there are a few important application rules to follow:
- For a home being built on top of a slab, the soil beneath it must be treated at a rate of 1 gallon per 10 square feet. If gravel has been put down prior to the termiticide application, more volume is required and the application rate should be 1.5 gallons per 10 square feet.
- Soil that surrounds walls, piers, pipes, and expansion joints should be treated with 4 gallons per 10 linear feet.
- Any voids in the construction which are hollow masonry construction (like concrete blocks) must be treated with 2 gallons per 10 linear feet.
If you’re wondering what it looks like when this work is performed, you can think of soil treatments like watering a garden or lawn. The technician uses a long hose connected to a large tank containing the termiticide mixture, and applies it to the ground using a spray nozzle. A typical new home will require at least 100 gallons of termiticide, and for this reason (among others) it’s probably not a task you should attempt on your own!
When should these treatments be performed?
This is a really important question and can determine the amount of product that would be required to be effective. Applying the liquid before the gravel has been placed reduces the amount of termiticide required (therefore lowering costs). If you apply the treatment after the gravel is down, more solution will be needed to penetrate the gravel and the soil beneath it.
Important Note: If the slab has been poured, you can no longer perform a soil treatment for termites. Instead, you must either:
- Wait for the wooden structure to be built and apply treatment directly to the wood, or
- Install termite bait stations around the house once construction is complete.
Construction for a particular site is often completed in stages, which means that the pest control company might need to visit the site more than once to complete a pre-treat and ensure adequate protection. This is often the case. Because the ground is being treated directly, it is critical that treated soil around the foundation and piers isn’t displaced or disturbed after treatment. Because of this, the last phase of liquid soil treatment is performed after the final grading or even after the landscaping is complete.
Slab Construction Pre-Treats
Some homes are built entirely on a poured concrete slab instead of on a crawlspace foundation, and even those constructed on a crawlspace have some portion of their home (like the garage and/or porches) constructed on a slab. In any case, the treatment requirements for slabs differ slightly from those for crawlspaces. As we mentioned before, with a liquid treatment, the entire soil or gravel surface must be treated. Treating before the gravel is placed saves both time and product because less termiticide will be required. It’s also important to note that if your builder intends to place a vapor barrier beneath between the slab and the gravel (not all do), the soil treatment must take place before the vapor barrier has been laid.
How are slab pre-treats priced?
When it comes to pricing slab pre-treatments, we use the square footage of the space to be treated to determine the price. It’s a pretty straightforward calculation: Length x Width = Square Footage. Of course, not all homes are perfectly square; some adjustments may need to be made to account for angles, round edges, etc. The square footage allows us to determine how much concentrated product (and therefore diluted product) is required. If multiple trips and/or treatments are needed because of the construction timelines, that of course will have an impact on the cost of the treatment, to at least account for the increase in labor and fuel costs.
Soil Treatments for a House with a Crawl Space
Soil treatments to homes built on crawlspaces are performed in a slightly different manner . Unlike a slab, the soil in the crawlspace does not need to be entirely covered in termiticide. Instead, pest control companies will focus on the soil adjacent to the foundation elements, such as piers, footings, and the foundation wall. The general treatment concept is to focus on surfaces that termites use to attach tunnels or “mud tubes” to for access. Since they require a substrate to build their tubes on, and can’t crawl through mid-air, open areas where the soil doesn’t make contact with the structure are of little concern.
How do you price a crawl space/basement pre-treat?
When it comes to pricing the treatment for homes with a crawl space or basement, we focus on the linear footage, as well as how many piers are present. Because we need to only treat the soil adjacent to the foundation walls and piers, less product is usually needed. Another factor that affects the price is the presence of the sub-floor. If the sub-floor has been installed before the foundation is treated, much more effort goes into the treatment, therefore increasing labor costs.
What are common termiticides used for pre-treats?
In the pest control world, there are a plethora of available termiticides. At Remedy, we typically use one of three types of termiticides. The primary differences between these products are residual effect and brand recognition, each of which has an impact on product price. Our go-to brands are:
- Dominion 2L
- Taurus SC
- Termidor SC
Of these three, Dominion 2L is the most cost-effective. It gets the job done and meets the minimum requirements of a pre-treat. However, Dominion 2L does not have a long residual effect for termite prevention. Because of this, most pest control companies won’t provide a guarantee beyond the first year, meaning another termite treatment, or a “booster”, would be required to continue the termite protection warranty on your house.
Taurus SC is a very popular termiticide, because it has the same active ingredient as Termidor (the godfather of modern liquid termite products) at a lower price point. The residual effect of this product allows homeowners to have an extended warranty beyond the first year and is very effective at preventing termites over a relatively long period of time.
Termidor SC has the longest residual effect of all three products, has the dominant product market share of liquid termite treatments (because of its excellent reputation), and is typically what we recommend to builders or homeowners who desire a long-term warranty. With Termidor SC, pest control companies are usually willing to extend the warranty for up to 5 years before a booster treatment is required. The drawback here is the price, as it is the most expensive termiticide on the market.
What do you mean by a “ termite warranty”?
With most new construction homes, the builder will transfer a one-year warranty for termite protection to the buyer. This means that if termites appear in the new home within the first year, they will pay for the pest control company to come out and treat the infested area. This usually isn’t an issue if the pre-treat was performed according to building code, but it’s always nice to know that you are covered.
After the first year, homeowners have the option to contact the pest control company that performed the pre-treat to extend the termite warranty. Extending the termite warranty will usually require that the homeowner pays an annual fee for this protection, but that fee also includes an annual termite inspection to stay ahead of any potential issues. If the pest control company is unable or unwilling to extend the first-year builder warranty (this may be due to the original product used, such as Dominion 2L), the pest control company will find a way to work with you to make sure your house is covered. This might include installing termite bait stations around the home or performing a termite liquid booster treatment. Either way, you will always have options, even if these options may be more expensive than a warranty extension.
What if I don’t want a liquid soil pre-treatment?
Not to worry, there are always alternatives to liquid soil treatments. If this is your preference, you should talk to your builder about alternatives. There are two other types of pre-treats a pest control company can perform: termite bait station installations or structural wood treatments. Both of these treatments use less termiticide and pose a lower environmental risk.
- Termite bait stations, which contain an effective termiticide, can be installed around the perimeter of your home and come with a renewable warranty provided by the pest control company. On an annual basis, the pest control provider would perform a termite inspection of the home, noting any termite activity, making sure that all the stations are still in their proper place, and replacing any bait that was consumed since the last inspection.
- Structural wood treatments (most commonly using a product called Bora-Care) are performed by treating the wooden framing of a house. The sprayed product deeply penetrates and protects the wood and therefore eliminates it as a food source for the termites. Structural wood treatments are performed much later in the construction process than soil treatments because the framing must be in place. The best part of a structural wood treatment via Bora-Care is that the pest control company can offer 30-year warranty as a result of this single treatment (as long as you agree to continue with annual termite inspections).
How can I choose my pre-treat or find out which one was performed on my home?
Our best advice is to reach out to your builder. They should have the documentation of what kind of pre-treat was performed, what type of product was used, and which company conducted the treatment. It’s not absolutely critical that you use the company who performed the pre-treat to continue your termite coverage. There are plenty of reputable companies that can devise a termite protection plan for you, after the fact, and many will inspect your property for a nominal fee.
If your house hasn’t been pre-treated yet, don’t be afraid to talk to your builder and ask for the specific type of pre-treat you prefer. After all, this is your home, and you should have a say in how it’s protected. If you’re still unsure about which pre-treat is the best fit for you, reach out to your local pest control company (of course, we’d be happy to help) and talk through the options.