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Termites - Another Reason to Dehumidify

Termites - Another Reason to Dehumidify

For the last couple of months, the Allergy Consumer Report has been talking a lot about humidity, home dehumidifiers and why it is important for allergy and asthma sufferers to maintain proper humidity levels in their homes, basements and crawlspaces.

In Why Dehumidification is So Important for Allergy Sufferers, we outlined dehumidification's role in curbing mold problems and dust mite populations, and in improving overall air quality within the home. As discussed in The Effects of Humidity on the Human Body, high humidity has a marked effect on us whether or not we have allergies or asthma.

Too much moisture in indoor air also can cause problems for your home itself. Relative humidity indoors that is too high causes moisture to collect in your home's wood, insulation, siding, and drywall. And as if this is not enough, there is another major household problem that can arise when indoor humidity levels remain unchecked: termites.

Termites, An Overview

Termite Infestation map

Termites pose a sometimes disastrous threat to the homes they invade. One colony of termites can consume over two feet of wood per year. Consider this: where there is one colony, there are most likely others. Some estimates place the cost of termite damage at over a billion dollars nationally per year. Termite infestation is more likely in certain areas of the country, as this Termite Infestation Map shows.

Termites live in a social structure similar to that of ants and bees. Their colonies consist of a king and queen, soldiers who guard the nest, workers, and reproductives. Most species live underground in tunnels called galleries. They will eat anything that contains cellulose. Wood, which contains a large amount of cellulose, is their favorite meal.

All termites have very thin layers of skin, which is the reason humidity is very important for their comfort and survival. They would dry out very quickly and die if they were exposed to the elements. Hence, termites love humidity. In fact, they seal up their colonies in order to preserve humidity within the colony. This preservation of humidity helps worker termites avoid the loss of moisture from their bodies. Worker termites have the thinnest skin, and they will almost never venture out of their nests unless humidity levels are close to 100 percent.

Termites and Humidity

Termites often enter the home through cellars or basements, which tend to be the more humid areas of the home. If you notice that humidity is making any part of the wood in these areas of your home damp, this is a cause for serious concern.

Not only do termites like high levels of moisture and tend to gravitate toward those areas, but they also enjoy what the humidity does to the wood itself. Humidity causes wood decay making it easier for the termites to get in the home.

Control Humidity to Help Prevent Termites

Here are some ways to reduce the likelihood of a termite invasion, courtesy ofDoItYourself.com:

  1. Identify and fix all water leaks in your home, both internal and external. Leaks provide termites with readily available water source. Eliminating termites' water source eliminates one of their requirements for survival.
  2. Remove any brush or heavy growth from around your home. Vegetation can create areas of intense moisture.
  3. Eliminate any standing or pooling water from around your home. Water removal prevents any seepage into the wood of your home.
  4. Store all excess building materials and firewood away from the house. Remember that wood is termites' primary food source. Scrap wood touching the ground is an open invitation to hungry termites. If your property is not large enough for wood storage away from the house, create barriers beneath the wood to prevent direct contact with the soil where termites live. Thick concrete slabs or heavy-duty metal stands can be used to raise the wood off of the ground.
  5. Use treated lumber for any wooden structures that will have direct contact with the ground. The chemicals in treated lumber do not guarantee that termites will not invade the wood, but they can act as a deterrent for decks and patios. Home improvement centers now offer concrete supports that raise the wooden support beams for decks and patios off the ground. This is a great way to avoid wood-to-ground contact.
  6. Avoid using mulch near your home. Mulch provides hungry termites with both a food source and a water source. The qualities of mulch that make it attractive for use in the garden are the very qualities that attract termites. If mulch is placed near the exterior of your home, it is only a small step for a colony to move into your walls. As an alternative to wood mulch, try using one of the newer rubber mulches now available at your local home improvement center or pine straw. They have the look and benefits of mulch without the termite risk.
  7. Never bury waste lumber or wood scraps in your yard. It acts as a magnet to termites and directs them to your property.
  8. Remove any dead trees, old stumps, or roots in your yard. As these items decay, they attract termites to the area by providing a food source. When the food is gone, the termite colony will look for new sources of food - including your house.
  9. Seal any cracks or holes within the foundation of your home. This will help prevent easy access for wandering termites.
  10. Keep all gutters and waterlines clean of debris. Clogged gutters and waterlines leak creating pools of water close to the house.
  11. Make sure your home is properly ventilated, including your attic and internal crawl space areas. Adequate airflow prevents the buildup of moisture needed by termite colonies. Dehumidifiers help keep these areas within proper moisture level range.
  12. Periodically, get your home inspected for termite damage. A once-a-year inspection can save your home with early detection. If termites are not found in the home, the trained pest control specialist can at least offer recommendations to help you prevent an invasion. They may catch something you missed.

As you can see, taking care to prevent moisture-related allergies through the use of dehumidification has added advantages. Investing in a dehumidifier is not only an investment in your family's health, but in the safe-keeping of your house as well.