enter a home, it may seem like they’re getting in everywhere, including through the house’s foundation. This has led many homeowners to believe that the hordes of tiny, wriggling insects have the ability to tunnel through and digest concrete, a material that’s supposed to be pest-proof. Although there’s almost
no truth to this fact, your house’s foundation can actually be an entryway for termites.
Termites Don’t Eat Concrete, but They Can Infiltrate It Easily
The termite species we have in Canada
thrive on cellulose, the organic fibrous material naturally found in wood and plants. In their natural habitat, termites take their nutrients from dead or fallen trees, decaying stumps, and even grass, but in urban areas, where we clean up our landscapes, they must make do with whatever they find – and that’s often our homes and offices.
Most buildings today are built with concrete, and concrete holds no particular appeal to the termites in our country. It has no nutritional value, and their digestive systems
aren’t equipped to break it down, so they do not seek it out as a potential source of food. However, concrete often stands in the way of termites finding and chomping on their favorite meal – wood - and they will stop at nothing to get at it and start eating.
As hard and stable as concrete may be, it’s not flexible and also tends to crack, sometimes as soon as the newly-poured foundation starts drying. To get inside a structure, termites can squeeze through cracks as small as 1/32 of an inch – barely wider than a human hair. If the foundation is weak, partially damaged, or made from a softer type of material, termites will even excavate individual bits of sand and other materials to gain access inside.
Some foundations are better at resisting termite infestation than others:
- Poured concrete foundations are most resistant to termite attacks, but only if walls have no visible cracks.
- Hollow block foundations are at risk for two reasons: first, cracks often result as the foundation ages, permitting termites easy access to the inside of the structure, and second, it allows termites to travel vertically into the house almost undetected.
- Slab foundations run the highest risk of infestations because they are close to the soil, which enables termite entry into the structural part of the house. In this type of construction, lumber is often nailed to the slab, which weakens the slab and creates cracks that permit termites’ easy access to wood structures.
Especially vulnerable are also brick homes on concrete foundations, a fact that most owners are unaware of. Because the structure of a brick home is made of wood (baseboards, furring strips behind drywall, interior stud walls, etc.) termites can damage the framing timbers just as easily as other houses’, and they often do it undetected by traveling behind the brick veneer and up inside the structure.
Vulnerable to termites’ attacks are also structures that have expansion joints and untreated hollow spaces between bricks. Larger commercial buildings such as warehouses or residential buildings such as multi-unit apartment complexes often have expansion joints at regular intervals, letting termites in even if the joints are filled with felt or other construction materials. Slabs wrapped in Styrofoam are also an invitation for termites, not only hiding the insects from view but also insulating them from local pesticide applications.
Dealing with Termites Should Be Left to Professionals
The greatest problem with termites is that you can never really know the exact extent of the infestation. Called “the silent destroyers” for good reason, termites have the ability to create a great deal of damage
long before you realize you have a problem. If your concrete foundation has cracks or hollow spaces where the floor meets the wall, termites can use them to travel up into the house without any apparent signs of mud tubes
and build a network of tunnels that can compromise your house’s substructure.
Getting rid of termites on a property requires several skills. Extensive knowledge of building construction is often needed to locate potential entry points for termites, many of which are hidden or hard to access. Effective termite control also utilizes specialized tools such as drills, pumps, soil treatment rods, and other equipment. In severe infestations, a typical treatment may require hundreds of gallons of termiticide to be injected alongside the foundation, inside walls, and in other critical areas.
An effective termite control strategy conducted by a specialized company
begins with a careful inspection of the house to detect signs of termite presence and structural damage. Upon identifying signs of termite activity, your pest control professional may have to drill holes in the foundation wall to reach and treat all potential entry points. Monitoring stations are often installed to provide an early warning of termites making their appearance on your property.
While termites are not at all interested in munching on your concrete foundation, they will certainly take advantage of your house’s vulnerabilities and cause thousands of dollars’ worth of damage. Having a pest specialist
by your side to detect termites’ hiding places and seal potential entry points will help you prevent these highly destructive pests from causing substantial damage to your house and property.
About the Author
Daniel Mackie, co-owner of Greenleaf Pest Control, is a Toronto pest control expert well-known as an industry go-to guy, an innovator of safe, effective pest control solutions, and is a regular guest on HGTV. Mackie, along with business partner Sandy Costa, were the first pest control professionals in Canada to use detection dogs and thermal remediation for the successful eradication of bed bugs. In his free time, he is an avid gardener.