Termites pose a moderate to high risk to homeowners in
Washington DC. Several species can cause extensive and costly damage to your home’s structure if they find a way in through damp or rotting wood.
If you call the District of Columbia or its surrounding suburbs home, you are living in a temperate climate where humidity and warmth can make it easy for termite colonies to thrive.
Termites are some of the most costly sources of home damage throughout the United States—and infestations aren’t covered by your
home insurance, either.
How to tell if you have a termite infestation
Termites and the extensive damage they cause can be tricky to catch. After all, they’re quite small and spend most of their time underground.
Look for the following warning signs to try to identify a termite infestation:
- Discarded wings: Reproductive termites will shed their wings after mating. If you find wings lying around, especially on window sills, you can be pretty sure that you’re dealing with a full-blown infestation.
- Mud tubes: Termites build thin tunnels around the foundation of your house as they colonize the area.
- Hollow-sounding walls: Since termites eat wood, they can weaken or destroy your home’s foundation. Try knocking on your walls and seeing if they sound hollow. If so, you may have an infestation.
- Droppings: You may find termite waste pellets, sometimes calledfrass, which are like small piles of sawdust or salt and pepper.
Other signs to watch out for include bubbling or peeling paint, swollen or dipping walls and floors, and tiny round holes in your drywall.
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Are termites a problem in DC?
According to the US Forest Service’s
termite infestation probability zone map, the District of Columbia sits in a moderate to heavy risk zone (which is one step below the heavy risk zone of the southern US).
Several species of termites live in the DC area, with the most common being the Eastern subterranean termite.
Each species of termite has different classes: workers, soldiers, reproductives (“alates”), and the queen. The workers are around ⅛” long and creamy white, while the soldiers are a little larger with dark pincers extending from their heads.
You’ll potentially see the alates during a swarm; they’re larger winged termites who shed their wings after mating. If you see a swarm of reproductive termites or shed wings, you’ll want to call a professional right away. You’re likely dealing with a mature infestation.
Termites and wood
Termites look for wood they can eat. This includes rotting or damp wood or even wood that hasn’t been pressure-treated (although pressure-treating your wood won’t completely prevent termites, it can help a lot).
Even if your wood is relatively hard, being in a damp and humid environment can make it easier for termites to get in. You’ll also want to watch out for rotting logs, piles of old wood, and the like on your property, like in your yard or below your deck.
What to do if you have termites in your home
If you notice the signs of a termite infestation, you likely won’t be able to tackle the problem alone. Here are three routes a professional can take to eliminate the pests:
- Bait stations: This is the least invasive approach and also the slowest. The exterminator can place small plastic containers that lure the termites inside. This treatment can take months to complete.
- Liquid pesticide barriers: This is useful for subterranean termites. The exterminator will dig a trench around your house and pour in pesticide that will kill any termites that try to cross it.
- Fumigation: This is the most intensive solution. The exterminator will cover your house with a tent and pump in toxic gas that kills all termites in the structure. You’ll need to remove all pets from the house and keep everyone out for at least 24 hours.
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How to save money on home insurance
Because termite infestation is a gradual process,
home insurancecompanies will deem any damage resulting from it as preventable—meaning they won’t cover termite damage. This is why it’s vital to know the warning signs and keep on the lookout for termites year-round.
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How often should you treat for termites in DC?
If you have termites in your house and are having them treated, the time interval between treatments depends on the extermination method.
For a liquid pesticide barrier method, you can wait five years, while plastic bait traps will have to be checked every couple of months.