Termite filter: tenting vs spot treatment (California)
August 16, 2016 9:49 AM   Subscribe

Hello! We're buying a house from very nice sellers in San Diego County, California. A requirement of our agreement is that they provide Section 1 termite clearance. Their termite inspection recommended tenting, but the sellers want to go with spot treatment instead because of the risk to plants around the house. I don't think I care as long as Section 1 is cleared, but am I setting myself up to have to tent the house later? The seller indicated that he would be willing to tent if we feel strongly about doing it.

The landscaping is really awesome and beautiful with lots of mature plants. The next-door neighbor tented a few years back (according to the seller) and it killed a tree that was out of the zone of what the company said was in danger, so the seller is very wary of tenting. I don't really know anything about Section 1 termite clearance, but my realtor explained that Section 1 addresses prior damage and current/active termites. Tenting seems like an extreme thing to do to me, but that's coming from a place of near-total ignorance about both termites and plants.

The house was built in 1939 and does have old damage and current termites (I've seen some piles).

So, here are my questions:

1. Please share any insight regarding tenting vs spot treatment. How did you choose one or the other? Is spot treatment as effective? Am I going to need to tent later? (The company guarantees the work for 1 year, apparently, but if I end up having to tent in 6 months after we're living there, I'll regret not having done it now before we move in.)

2. A side question - their termite inspector found some damage that they recommended repairing. Are the repairs required to clear Section 1 or am I possibly getting stuck with those?

3. Any other termite considerations I need to take into account?

4. Side note, I hate all bugs and ants. If they don't tent, am I more likely to have problems with other bugs/ants? (We have ants in our place now and it's a huge inconvenience, plus it's gross.)

They're planning to do the spot treatment on Thursday, so I need to let them know ASAP if I want tenting instead. Thanks in advance for your insight, hive mind!
posted by atruesock to Home & Garden (6 answers total)
Tent it. This is your big chance, before you get all your household goods in there. There's no way spot treatment is going to get everything -- and ultimately termites eating your house is way worse than losing some landscaping. However, there's also stuff you're supposed to do to help the plants closest to the house. I forget if it's that you do water them beforehand, or you don't -- maybe you can help and make sure the termite company's instructions are followed precisely so you don't harm the landscaping. At any rate, the termites are the pressing issue.

Based on my own purchase, I'm pretty sure the repairs aren't legally mandated. So it's just something you have to negotiate with the seller.

For #4 -- well, you're living in SoCal during drought times. You're going to encouter ants. That's just the way it goes.
posted by BlahLaLa at 10:03 AM on August 16, 2016 [3 favorites]

Disclaimer: I am not AT ALL an expert on this. However, we have a really good pest control company who I trust a lot. Their (very experienced) technician has told me that he belives that tenting is very rarely needed, and is vastly oversold by most companies. He said that if it was his house, he wouldn't tent unless the infestation was extensive and in several locations throughout the house. YMMV.
posted by primethyme at 10:04 AM on August 16, 2016

I have a phobia of bugs. I think you should tent not because it's necessarily "needed," but because if you don't then you'll always wonder if you could have gotten rid of those ants/termites/etc. if you had. Also because seeing a few bugs is "normal," but for me, and possibly for you, I'd much much much rather see zero bugs than a few. Or a few bugs than several. You get the drill.
posted by serelliya at 10:18 AM on August 16, 2016

Response by poster: Thanks for the answers so far! I have kind of a follow-up question for those in this area who have experience with this.... can I manage termites bugs and everything with annual or monthly or whatever treatments? Because given my bug issues, I would probably be doing that anyway (since as I understand it, Section 1 is only about the past, and the future is up to me!).
posted by atruesock at 10:22 AM on August 16, 2016

Tent it. You can move plants or even fold them down temporarily so that they're out of the tent zone. My parents just had it done and there were no casualties. There was a specific company the tenting company recommended, which specialized in moving and adjusting plants around the house's perimeter and they did a great job of folding down large, established vines and younger trees.

Absolutely nothing outside the tent perimeter was damaged. And, they have lots of trees and plants that ended up being right outside of the tent zone.

If you have active termites, tenting is the way to go. And, tenting when there's nothing in the house is ideal. Tenting will also reduce insects and spiders for awhile. Usually, a year or two. Spot treatment is easier and less expensive, which may also be a reason why the sellers are steering you in that direction.
posted by quince at 2:20 PM on August 16, 2016

bear in mind..
Tenting is for drywood termites, you can't kill them any other way. They can move back in as soon as the house is cleared for habitation - unlikely, but they can.
We have drywoods and subterraneans here in the SE U.S., the subterraneans are controlled by poisoning the foundation, or the baits - Sentricon is one name. Tenting probably would not do much good. I've got a yard full of them, but my buildings are treated and left alone.
One other note, I've had to have historic houses tented. Get anything made of leather than you like out of there, it will destroy it
posted by rudd135 at 5:04 PM on August 16, 2016

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