If I evict termites from my fence, will they relocate to my house?
April 2, 2012 7:44 AM   Subscribe

I have a split rail fence in my back yard that is in very sorry shape, and I'm planning on replacing it soon. However, I recently noticed that parts of the fence are being eaten by termites. I don't see any sign of termites around the house (although I'm not an expert). If I replace the fence and take away the termites' home, what's the risk that they will decide to take up residence in my house (or deck or trees)?

Secondary question: Should I get a home termite inspection anyway? I'm worried that the termite inspector will automatically try to upsell me and tell me that I have a definite problem whether I do or not, but then, I am very distrustful of salesmen.
posted by RobotNinja to Home & Garden (6 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Yes. Get a home termite inspection ASAP. Just because you don't see evidence doesn't mean they aren't there. As for the fence, if you treat the house for termites you will likely also be treating the fence.
posted by terrapin at 8:17 AM on April 2, 2012

Termites will not invade your house just because you took away the fence they are eating. They'll eat your house if you let them, though, and the way to let them is to provide them with bridging from the soil to the timber in your house. So, if you build up soil around your foundation so that it touches wood, or if you allow shrubs to crowd in close to your foundation and against the wood, then you've provided them an avenue to invade your house. Even a broom handle left leaning against the house can do it. Or firewood stacked against your house. Or a crack in the foundation that gets filled with dirt and lets them climb up. So the thing to do is to make sure that soil levels around your house are at least 6-12 inches below any wood (including wood-framed basement windows), and that you cut back any foundations planting to about a foot from the house walls.

Burn what's left of the fence. And if you live in a termite-prone area, it's probably a good idea to get an inspection.
posted by beagle at 8:22 AM on April 2, 2012 [4 favorites]

Do everything beagle tells you. And when you cart away the remains the fence, spray the area with insecticide.

I don't see any sign of termites around the house (although I'm not an expert).

Look for frass, which a nice way of saying "termite shit."
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 8:56 AM on April 2, 2012

To be clear, I'm definitely removing the fence. Cool Papa Bell/Beagle, are you suggesting I *also* burn it? I'm having a fence company do the install so I highly doubt that'll be possible...presumably they will cart off the remains somewhere.
posted by RobotNinja at 11:20 AM on April 2, 2012

If you get them to take it away, you're fine.
The point is basically that the more you can sanitize the surroundings of your house of termite-friendly materials, the better. Dead trees, stumps, rotting fences, wet woodpiles, sheds with wood in close contact to the ground, etc. etc. will all increase the likelihood they'll find your house and invade it.
posted by beagle at 11:29 AM on April 2, 2012

Yes, get them to take it away, but treat the ground where it was, too. Taking away the fence won't kill them all, and you want to kill that colony just on general principle.

The other things (e.g. moving soil away from the house timber) are things you should just do no matter what.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 11:59 AM on April 2, 2012

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