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A Serious Termite Problem

It's never as serious as you think....

I'm in Northern Va & just discovered that my 75 yr old home is heavily infested with termites--I experienced a "swarm" the likes of an Old testament plague--you'd have thought I was harboring Pharoah in my basement!.  I admit that I haven't taken care of my gutters, which I plan to do shortly.  However, I've been in my home for 10yrs & it has a very leaky basement & high water table (I suspect I'm sitting on top of a reservoir).  Anyway, I've had two competent, certified, reputable, BBB approved exterminators provide estimates--one wants to bore holes in the interior/exterior of my basement & fill it with Dragnet or Premise; the other wants me to leave the termites undisturbed long enough to deploy Sentricon around the exterior & plant stations directly on the affected areas, monitor monthly, & provides$100K guarantee against damage once there's no sign of activity, plus a $240 annual fee.  Each exterminator's initial treatment is about the same, $800-1000..

Until I read your article about french drains becoming a vacation spa for termites, I was considering trying to kill 2 birds with 1 stone, i.e., put in french drains to cure my very leaky basement & nuke the termites with a chemical barrier @ the same time rather than go with the holes (I envisioned my entire basement flooding due to the high water table & existing water problems once I had 101 new entry ways for the water--I say this because after I installed a new BR in the basement, after a heavy rain, the water seeps in at the path of least resistance, i.e, around the walls of my new BR!).  On the other hand, I could postpone the leaky basement problem & just go with the Sentricon.  In my view, my problems probably dictate some combo platter if there is one.

What do you suggest given my circumstances?  Hurry before my house looks like the Leaning Tower of Pisa!   Thanks, a retired USAF veteran, working single mom, homeowner all in one!


So I wrote back....

Hello Deborah:

Termites, eh?  You and about a hundred thousand other people!  Well, don't let anyone scare you.  If you get an inspector/exterminator that tries to scare you, get rid of him.  

You say "heavily infested" which I am taking to mean (by your words) that it is swarming profusely.   No big deal, if this is the case.  The AMOUNT of swarmers is not a measure of how "bad" your infestation is.  That is to say, that if it just swarms "a little" it doesn't mean you have a little problem.  And if it swarms a lot it doesn't mean you have a big problem.  It just means you have a problem.  Like being big or little if you're pregnant - it just means you're pregnant!

And yes, you can do both the french drain AND the termites, but I would have the french drain done first, then do the termite job.  Sentricon?  Forget the stuff.  Expensive and it is very slow control - sometimes not at all.  Stay with the old soil poisoning.  My definite recommendation, especially for "wet" areas would be Premise.  Premise actually works better in soils that are moist.  And it works better in moist soils than other insecticides.  Contact Bayer, ask them to send you full details on their product.  They are a very good company.  They have an 800 number, I'll list it below.  The other good one is Dow Chemical.  Both back up their products better than all of the others that I can think of.  Myself, I like Premise.  Has absolutely no smell, is VERY safe, and we have found it to be very effective.  I have been using Premise, almost exclusively since it came out, about five years ago.  Excellent product.

As far as drilling holes in the block walls, that's okay too.  The exterminator should do this ABOVE GRADE - and it can be done on the inside OR the outside, whichever is easier or more available.  Done above grade, it should have no effect on whether water comes in or not.  All the holes should, of course, be plugged with concrete after treatment.  Have the gutters fixed.  Sometimes the reason you have a wet basement is only because of the gutters!  In fact, have the gutters fixed FIRST, then wait to see if you still get a wet basement.  Better than spending $1000-$2000 on a french drain!

If you home is in a "wet" area, have the termite job done when it is in the DRY season.  Don't let anyone hustle into doing it NOW!  You can wait until it's dry - usually, this is in the fall.  Try to have it done before November, because if you wait too long it may swarm the next year anyway.  At least wait until the swarming season is well over, June or July, so your guarantee will extend through the next swarming season, and you can call the guy back for a retreatment.

Don't be surprised if the termites come back next year even after treatment.  This is also common, and your exterminator knows it.  Sometimes a couple of "adjustments" are necessary in the years following.  Ask your exterminator if he has a yearly renewal plan and how much it costs.  Don't forget to ask him what the increases will be on his yearly renewals.  A yearly renewal plan is not very helpful if he's going to hit you up every year with $10 or $20 increases.  

The price you mention doesn't sound TOO bad - a bit high, they sure aren't giving you any breaks.  As far as picking the exterminator, BBB is good.  Stay away from the "big" guys, use an exterminator that is local, been around awhile, and doesn't have "salesmen" - you'll pay extra for the salesmen, and they will only pump up the price.  The price quoted to you for Sentricon is low - usually it is higher than that, at least around here.  We just did a house that was done by (BIG COMPANY) a couple of years ago with the Sentricon, and then we were called in to certify the house for sale.  We found active termites in the house and continuing damage.  The homeowner was (understandably) very upset as he had paid BIG-COMPANY some $1800 for the job and $30 per month for monitoring.  He called them to try and get some resolution in the matter, now they won't even answer his phone calls.  We did the job (with Premise) for $750 (I think) and ripped out all the stations.  They had planted almost 40 (too many) around his medium-to-large house.  We stopped looking at each one after awhile, but I don't think we found more than 4 or 5 that showed any kind of activity.  He also claimed that he never saw them "monitor" them, that they just left tickets in his door, even when he (or his wife) were home.  BTW, his wife was pregnant at the time of his purchase and he says the salesman "sort of" scared his wife, talking about insecticides, and that this was the only reason he went with the Sentricon system.  He is now considering a lawsuit against the company, but will probably get nowhere.  They never seem to put the scare tactics in writing!

Anyway, I hope this helps you out.  Get your estimates based on this.  Pay attention to BBB and forget anyone that tries to scare you.  Measure the exterminator by how he talks, what his experience is, and don't worry about exactly HOW he does it - this is an expertise, not an exact science, so every exterminator will have a slightly different technique.  And they can all be right and they can all be wrong!  None of them will know if they have REALLY eliminated the termite problem until the problem doesn't return the next year!  If they were SURE, you wouldn't need a guarantee!  So if they say they're SURE, then cross him off your list too!

Please get back to me if anything is unclear or you need any more information.  Take your time picking the right one, you have PLENTY of time!


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