Subterranean Termites – What is the Safest Way to deal With Them?

By
Managing Real Estate Broker with eXp Realty RB-19250

termiteHere in Hawaii as in many parts of the mainland termites are a big threat to homes.  A large colony of Formosa Termites also known in Hawaii as Ground Termites, left unchecked can cause enough damage to bring down a building in as short as two years.

In Hawaii every home falls under one of three categories.

  1. termiteThose with termites.
  2. Those that had termites.
  3. Those that will have termites.

Several years ago my brother Russ built what he called a termite proof house.  He used building materials that termites are known not to like.  He designed the foundation in such a way that there were no entry points in the home.  He used masonry and cedar.  Termites are known to not like cedar or redwood.  All of the cabinets were custom made from cedar.  It was a beautiful duplex house.  He lived upstairs and I rented the lower floor for a few months when I first moved back to the islands.  He was so proud of his home.  He designed and built it himself.

One day I was in one of the cabinets and saw the signs.  Termite droppings in the six month old termite proof house.  How was this possible?  He took every precaution.  He designed a foundation they could not penetrate.  Termites don't like cedar right?  Wrong!  If there is nothing better to eat they will eat event cedar.

termiteHow did they get in it? 

We began to walk the property and there it was.  They could not get in through the foundation so they made a mud dam up the side of the house in into the cabinets through window frame.  Creative little buggers aren't they?

In those days the answer was to pump Chlordane in the ground and hopefully poison the colony.  The problem is the poison, a carcinogen works its way to the water table and we wind up drinking it years down the road.

termiteSoon Chlordane was taken off the market and replaced with new chemicals that are breakdown and are less hazardous to people.  Chemicals were still being pumped in the ground in large quantities.  They were also not as effective, causing them to be used more often.  A better solution, definitely not the desirable one we are looking for.

Some forward thinking folks came up with the idea of a bait station.  Bait stations are placed in the ground surrounding a property with juicy pieces of wood that will make termite's mouth water.  They are checked on a regular basis.  If you get a hit you replace the harmless bait with treated bait.  It is designed not to kill the termites right away.  They will take it back to the colony and eliminate the colony or at least dramatically reduce it over a period of time.

The first advantage is that all of the chemical goes to the colony and not pumped in large quantity in the ground.  The second is that the technology used to kill the termites is greatly improved and not as harmful to the environment.

There is more than one type of bait station systems available.  The two most commonly used in Hawaii to replace liquid chemical termiticides for pre-treatments are:

  1. Sentricon® colony elimination system
  2. Exterra®

Two other products used in bait stations are Termitrol® and Fristline®.  These two products are not considered suitable to replace conventioanl termiticide pre-treatments.

One of the newest and best solutions for preventing subterranean termites is an ENVIRONMENTALLY ACCEPTED BARRIER.  

This new system is being used in Hawaii.  No chemicals are needed.  This is particularly effective in new home construction.  The barrier is made up of a 4 inch layer of a granular material that is placed under the home.  The secret is the size of the granules and hard and dense they are.  The following specs were taken from the University of Hawaii website:

"A minimum of 60% of the granules in the barrier must have at least one dimension measuring between 1.7 to 2.4 millimeters. The granules should be very hard and dense.  Granules with these characteristics form a barrier which the termites cannot move, cannot chew through and cannot penetrate. The granules, in Hawai'i, are currently being manufactured from basalt (BTB). Basalt has almost ideal characteristics for this type of use."

You can retrofit existing construction by digging trenches around the home and placing the termite barrier in the trenches.                                                           termite

There are many other construction techniques that have been developed to minimize entry points for termites.  By combining the barrier with known best construction practices we can build homes that are environmentally safe while addressing concerns of potential termite infestations.

Here is related article: The Termite House

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Randy L. Prothero, REALTOR®

Broker-in-Charge, ABR, AHWD, CRB, CRS, e-PRO, GRI, MRP, SFR

eXp Realty

Team Leader - "The Prothero Group"

Randy Prothero is well established as an expert in working with military / VA clients and first time home buyers.  His home seller's (listing) campaign is one of the most aggressive marketing programs in the area.  His luxury home listings sell faster and for more money.

Based out of Mililani, Hawaii. Randy services the island of Oahu (Honolulu County) Performs mediations and ombudsman services for the Board of Realtors.  To improve overall professionalism in his area Randy also offers classes for real estate agents. 

www.HawaiiRandy.comOahu (Honolulu County) Property Search  Hawaii Military Relocations

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Ambassador
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Margaret Rome, Baltimore Maryland
HomeRome Realty 410-530-2400 - Pikesville, MD
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Randy, do you have powder post beatles?
Mar 12, 2007 10:32 AM #21
Rainmaker
659,636
Randy Prothero
eXp Realty - Mililani, HI
Hawaii REALTOR, (808) 384-5645

Rick & Ines  - The new stuff is supposed to breakdown.  It is not as effective as the old treatments that would stay in the environment for years.

Ben - In Hawaii is it just something we are used to.

Margaret - I am not familiar with powder post beetles. We may have them and call them something else.

Mar 12, 2007 01:09 PM #22
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Margaret Rome, Baltimore Maryland
HomeRome Realty 410-530-2400 - Pikesville, MD
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 Randy, The damage is extremely fine, much like talcum powder falling from the surface holes.

 

Mar 12, 2007 01:16 PM #23
Rainmaker
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Randy Prothero
eXp Realty - Mililani, HI
Hawaii REALTOR, (808) 384-5645
Margaret - Having seen or heard of them here.
Mar 12, 2007 01:22 PM #24
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Congratulations...

YOU won a GREEN STAR in the Green  is Red Hot Contest!

Mar 17, 2007 01:10 AM #25
Rainmaker
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Randy Prothero
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Hawaii REALTOR, (808) 384-5645
janeAnne - Very cool, my first ever green star.  I will display it proudly.
Mar 17, 2007 08:50 AM #26
Rainer
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Bryce Mohan
Bryce Mohan Photography - Bellevue, WA

I'll tell you one thing after reading this, I've got a lot more admiration for termites. Termite proof house = hubris. ;)

Cheers, -B

P.S. Does this really belong in the ethics section?

Mar 17, 2007 06:24 PM #27
Rainer
109,383
John McKenna
InfraredClass.com - Dallas, TX

Note:  the natural predator of termites is the fire ant.  Keep a few ants around and it  cuts down on the termites. OUCH...

Mar 17, 2007 06:40 PM #28
Rainmaker
659,636
Randy Prothero
eXp Realty - Mililani, HI
Hawaii REALTOR, (808) 384-5645

Bryce - Good point I will drop it from the ethics section.

John - Termites and ants do not mix.  I am not sure many folks would want the ants either, especially fire ants.

Mar 17, 2007 08:28 PM #29
Rainer
140,633
Ben Kakimoto
Keller Williams Greater Seattle - Seattle, WA
Seattle Condo Specialist
One thing I remember are the swarms of flying termites around the street lights on humid nights in Hawaii.  I don't miss it much.
Mar 17, 2007 08:36 PM #30
Rainmaker
659,636
Randy Prothero
eXp Realty - Mililani, HI
Hawaii REALTOR, (808) 384-5645
Ben - Those termites land everywhere.
Mar 17, 2007 08:50 PM #31
Rainer
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Terry Haugen STAGE it RIGHT! 321-956-2495
Stage it Right! - Melbourne, FL

Hi Randy, those termites are a big problem here in Florida too.  One way they enter a house is through a crack in the slab, trailing under the flooring until they hit wood, usually baseboard.  One eco-friendly solution for an already built house is to trench around the foundation and dump in boric acid.  If the house is under construction boric acid can be poured into the holes in the concrete block, creating a prepetual termite barrier.

 

Terry Haugen - STAGE it RIGHT!

Mar 21, 2007 09:58 AM #32
Rainmaker
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Randy Prothero
eXp Realty - Mililani, HI
Hawaii REALTOR, (808) 384-5645
Terry - Is the boric acid safe for the environment?  We are always concerned with things getting into the water table.
Mar 21, 2007 10:44 AM #33
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Margaret Rome, Baltimore Maryland
HomeRome Realty 410-530-2400 - Pikesville, MD
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  • Randy, This past Sunday I was on the radio show , All About Real Estate, and we had a termite company on as guest speaker. Just wanted you to know I talked about Active Rain and referred to this blog and even mentioned your name.
Mar 21, 2007 12:52 PM #34
Rainmaker
659,636
Randy Prothero
eXp Realty - Mililani, HI
Hawaii REALTOR, (808) 384-5645
Margaret - Wow that is the first time I was mentioned on the radio on the mainland.  Thank you for letting me know.
Mar 21, 2007 01:32 PM #35
Ambassador
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Margaret Rome, Baltimore Maryland
HomeRome Realty 410-530-2400 - Pikesville, MD
Sell Your Home With Margaret Rome
It would be pretty terrific if you got business from talking about termites...but I think it is possible here on the Rain. Maybe you could call in one Sunday. The show is on at 12 noon here...I think that is 6:00am your time.
Mar 21, 2007 02:47 PM #36
Rainmaker
659,636
Randy Prothero
eXp Realty - Mililani, HI
Hawaii REALTOR, (808) 384-5645
Margaret - Termites are not my specialty, although they are something we have to deal with on a regular basis.  I mostly try to sell houses.  I would probably be better qualified to discuss real estate on Oahu.
Mar 21, 2007 11:00 PM #37
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Margaret Rome, Baltimore Maryland
HomeRome Realty 410-530-2400 - Pikesville, MD
Sell Your Home With Margaret Rome

Randy, You just brought a smile to my face. We,as agents, have to have a lot of specialties!

 I think you could discuss anything, related to real estate, and make it sound like  your specialty! Maybe the next time I host the show we can get you up early enough to call in.

Mar 22, 2007 12:46 AM #38
Rainmaker
659,636
Randy Prothero
eXp Realty - Mililani, HI
Hawaii REALTOR, (808) 384-5645
margaret - Sounds like fun.  Thank you
Mar 22, 2007 06:12 AM #39
Rainmaker
659,636
Randy Prothero
eXp Realty - Mililani, HI
Hawaii REALTOR, (808) 384-5645
Eloise - Thank you.  We hget people from other states who freak out.  It is important from them to realize that termites are a way of life here.  You find themn and deal with them.  No big deal unless you do not deal with them.
Mar 24, 2007 08:05 AM #41
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