How to Prevent Termites from Ruining your Cabin

Termites can be a problem in any house.  Once it gets started, an infestation can be very damaging and tough to stop.  When all is said and done, the cost can be overwhelming.

What’s worse is that for a cabin in the woods, the threat of termites is far worse than in the city.  With all that wood around, the population of termites right by your cabin is likely much larger than the population of termites in town. 

The good news is that you can prevent a termite infestation, and even if you don’t, you can catch it early and deal with it without too much cost or trouble.  Here is the best information I’ve been able to come across so far to help you prevent, detect, and treat a termite infestation at your cabin.

Use a termite barrier when you’re building your cabin

If you haven’t built your cabin, you can take some steps to prevent termites from being a problem.

If you’re building a cabin in a wooded area, I highly recommend that you use a termite barrier.  There are some options for barriers such as Termite Mesh or Basaltic Termite Barrier (BTB) that basically make it so the termites can’t get through the ground and into your home via that route.  Also, poured concrete foundations are harder for termites to penetrate than block foundations.

Reduce wood to ground contact

When wood touches the ground, it tends to get moist at and near the point of contact.  And moist wood is far more attractive to termites than dry wood.  Also, the closer the wood is to the ground, the easier it is for the termites to get into.

A good rule of thumb is to keep wood a full six inches away from the soil.  The footer for your cabin should rise up at least that high.  You should have a similar block or concrete footer for any wood posts that you may have.  That also includes wood siding or wood lattice that you may have around your cabin.

Don’t keep wood materials on the ground right by your cabin

We talked about not having wood siding, posts, anything really, in direct contact with the ground by your cabin.  But the same goes for the ground right beside your cabin.

I know it’s nice to keep the wood pile close by.  But having a stack of firewood right next to the cabin is only going to attract termites.  Keep your woodpile a good 20 feet away from the walls of the cabin if you can to eliminate that termite attraction.

Also remember that when you bring in firewood from outside, there’s a decent chance that there are termites or ants inside.  So don’t bring in any logs that you’re not going to be using soon.  I like to keep my woodpile covered so that the wood stays pretty dry.  That way it’s ready to use when I need it without having to bring lots of logs inside to dry before burning them.

Eliminate or at least inspect high-moisture areas

Termites like the moisture, so wet or damp wood can attract them like crazy.

Eliminate issues that lead to high-moisture in certain areas.  These can be things like leaky faucets, bad caulking around windows, even window sills that get damp from condensation on the inside of the window.  Also inspect your roofing.  A cracked tile or missing shingle will lead to moisture buildup on the roof which can attract termites.

You should also inspect around your air conditioning unit if you have one, as they tend to get a buildup of condensation.  Anywhere you can think of where wood gets moist regularly should be added to your inspection list.

Use pesticide treatments in the soil around the cabin

I like to use preventative treatments as needed to protect my cabin from termites.  So in addition to the recommendations above, I suggest you use termiticide products to keep your cabin safe from termites.

For around the cabin, I suggest you use Termidor.  It’s actually the go-to product for professional exterminators.  How it works is you dig a 6-inch deep trench around the foundation of your cabin.  Following the instructions, you mix the termidor with water and then pour it in the trench all around the foundation of your cabin.

The manufacturer states that Termidor will protect your home and actually get rid of most termite problems within 90 days.  And it targets other pests too, such as carpenter ants that can be equally damaging to a cabin.

You can check current pricing for Termidor on Amazon.

If you do suspect termites, here’s what to do

Of course prevention is the best option, but sometimes you find those pesky little termites already in your cabin.  What can you do then?

Here are some steps you can take to figure out how big your problem is and take care of it now, before it gets worse.

Find where they are and how they’re getting in

If your cabin is log-style, finding termites is actually fairly easy.  But if you have traditional framing that’s covered with drywall, a termite infestation can go unnoticed for years.  Either way, there are some tell-tale signs of termites in and around your cabin.  If you see any of these signs, it’s time to start investigating.

Small bore holes in wood.  Again, if you have exposed wood in your cabin these will be easier to notice.  Small holes in wood are a clear indication of termite activity.  Sometimes the boreholes have been there for years because of previous termite activity either in the cabin or in the log before it was made into a cabin.  So if you see little holes in your logs, it’s not a guarantee that you need to call the exterminator, but it does mean you should watch for some of the other signs and begin some investigating.

If you want to know if those little holes mean termite activity, try knocking on the wood around the are of the borehole.  If you get a hollow sound, it means more activity inside the log.  Again, it’s no guarantee that there are termites in the log right now, but it does mean that they’ve been there.

Termite dropping.  When termites are active, it’s common to see termite dropping on the floor near the boreholes.  Termite droppings look a lot like small wood filings.  So if you see a small pile of wood filings on the ground inside or outside your cabin, it’s a tell-tale sign of current termite activity, and it’s time to take action.

Mud tubes.  Termites make little tunnels out of mud to get from place to place while staying covered and protected.  It’s not common to see termites walking around outside like ants do.  They build these tunnels to walk through.  You might see small tubes made of mud that climb up the side of your cabin, especially over the top of your concrete or block foundation.  These are important to watch out for because they are one of the first and easiest to spot signs of termite activity.  There are a few different types of mud tubes and this article from Orkin does a good job of explaining them.  You might want to do a Google image search for “termite mud tubes” too so you can see what exactly to watch out for.

Attics.  This is not really a sign, but a place to inspect.  Attic spaces often go years without anyone looking around, so they’re great places for termites to infest and go undetected.  When you check out your cabin for termites, make sure you don’t skip the attic.  If you see mud tubes or boreholes you know that it’s time to take action.

Fill cracks they may be using for an entrance

When you find mud tubes leading up the side of your cabin or on a wall somewhere, or you see bore holes somewhere in your cabin, you need to take action.  The first thing to do is block off their entrance.

Termites get in through cracks.  As you investigate your termite activity in your cabin, look for where they’re coming from.  If you find a likely entry point, fill it with some expanding insulation or caulk.  You may have some termites inside already, but keeping others from getting in is important.

Use termite bait/poison to stop them before they get inside and kill the ones that got in

There are some great termite bait/poison products that you can use to attract the termites and quickly kill them.

Termidor foam is really effective for spot treatments in locations where you’ve found termites

This foam spray from Termidor is available on Amazon and can be sprayed into holes and mud tubes to take care of the termites in those locations.

Spectricide makes termite stakes that you stick in the ground that attract termites with bait and poisons them.  It’s great for keeping termites around your home from getting inside.  It also detects termite activity and has an indicator that pops up to alert you that termites are in the vicinity of that stake.  You can see current pricing on Amazon bby clicking here.

It costs a bit more and takes more work, but again I would recommend using Termidor treatment all around your cabin by digging a small trench and pouring it in if you’ve detected current termite activity in your cabin.

These Termidor products are also very effective for carpenter ants and other insect pests.

If all else fails, call an exterminator

I don’t like having to call the professionals for help.  It’s like it’s an admission of defeat.  And there’s the cost involved.  But that cost will be minimal compared to the cost of having to rebuild parts of your cabin because of a termite infestation.

If you’re fortunate there may be an exterminator local to the area where your cabin is.  If there isn’t, maybe you should open an extermination business there.  I’ll bet you could make a fortune as an exterminator in a good vacation town in the woods!

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