NC State Extension Publications

The Importance of Home Maintenance

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Home maintenance and improvements add to the appearance and value of your home. Maintenance is paticularly critical for eliminating and preventing conditions that are conducive to termite activity in or around homes. Even the best maintained homes can have termite problem at some point, but an inspection by a pest management professional is the best way to head off these problems before they can lead to serious and expense damage. Even if these inspections are not done annually, you should do your own "mini-inspections" during routine maintenance chores. A good inspection includes looking not only for termites, but also for conditions conducive to their activity.

This publication offers some tips on how to look for and to avoid termite problems.

Mulches and Landscaping

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All mulches, even inorganic ground covers such as gravel or black plastic, help to maintain moist soil conditions and to reduce weeds. Moisture in the soil makes conditions favorable to termites and they may feed on cellulose-containing mulches. This doesn't mean you should avoid using mulch around your home and in your gardens. Never spread mulch so that it touches the foundation or lowest level of siding on your home. While it may make for a nicer appearance, it can allow termites to use the cover of mulch to invade your house undetected

Figure 1. Pine mulch covering the bottom of house stucco siding

Figure 1. Thick layers of mulch covering the foundation can allow termites to move unseen.

Michael Waldvogel - NCSU - Entomology & Plant Pathology

Protect Your Siding

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Siding should always be at least 6 inches (preferably higher) above "grade" (the soil line); otherwise, you could have decay problems as well as providing a way for termite tubes to go unnoticed (Figure 2, Figure 3). Never allow flower beds and other gardening to cover the siding. Never dig up the soil up within 12 inches of the house. This is the area that was (or will be) treated for termites. Digging up the soil or putting new topsoil over this area allows termites to bridge the treated soil and access your foundation. Plus, if you need a termite treatment in the future, those plant beds will need to be dug up (Figure 4). You need to be able to have a clear view of your foundation in order to look for signs of termite activity.

Figure 2. Plants covering the foundation wall make inspections

Figure 2. Plants covering the foundation wall make inspections difficult.

Michael Waldvogel - NCSU - Entomology & Plant Pathology

Figure 3. Termite mud tubes on the exterior of a house.

Figure 3. Termite mud tubes on the exterior of a house may go unnoticed if mulch or vegetation is too high.

Michael Waldvogel - NCSU - Entomology & Plant Pathology

Figure 4. Trench for a termite treatment dug in a flower bed.

Figure 4. Keep shrubs and flower beds away from the foundation so they don't end up being damaged/destroyed if a treatment is needed later.

Michael Waldvogel - NCSU - Entomology & Plant Pathology

Plan Your Plants' Future

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When planting shrubs, you need to think about how large the plants will be in 10-15 (or more) years, not just in terms of their height, but also how wide they'll grow. Do not plant shrubs too close to the foundation (Figure 5). Shrubs that are too close to the house may hide termite (and other pest) activity. Tree/shrub limbs touching the house can damage siding and allow ants an entry point. Prune shrubs to prevent them from blocking airflow through foundation vents (Figure 6).

Figure 6. Space between landscaping and foundation wall.

Figure 6. Keep shrubs pruned away from foundation to make treatment easier.

Michael Waldvogel - NCSU - Entomology & Plant Pathology

Figure 5. Shrub block foundation vent.

Figure 5. Shrubs covering the foundation vent interfere with air-flow.

Michael Waldvogel - NCSU - Entomology & Plant Pathology

Foundations, Walls, and Crawlspaces

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Inspect your foundation for cracks that may indicate a settling problem. Termites can use cracks in your foundation footer as small as 132-inch to gain entry to your home. Check around doors and windows for signs of damage that could be from decay or termites. Make repairs to prevent further problems. A wet crawlspace can create conditions conducive to termites. Fix the cause of problems such as wet soil or standing water in the crawlspace. This may require installation of a drain along the exterior (or interior) foundation wall. Installing the drain will disrupt any termite treatment done to the soil and possibly void your termite contract.

Figure 7. A crack in a foundation wall.

Figure 7. Cracks in foundations may indicate settling that can allow termites entry to your home.

Michael Waldvogel - NCSU - Entomology & Plant Pathology

Figure 8. Person pointing to hole and soft spot on wooden porch

Figure 8. Decayed wood on a porch column may indicate other problems as well.

Michael Waldvogel - NCSU - Entomology & Plant Pathology

Figure 9. Decayed window trim.

Figure 9. Decay in window trim could also be an indication of a termite problem.

Michael Waldvogel - NCSU - Entomology & Plant Pathology

Figure 10. Standing water in a crawlspace.

Figure 10. Standing water in a crawlspace is a condition conducive to termites.

Michael Waldvogel - NCSU - Entomology & Plant Pathology


For information on termite prevention in new home construction see Termite Prevention - Approaches for New Construction.


Extension Specialist (Household & Structural Entomology)
Entomology and Plant Pathology
Asst. Director - Structural Pest Management Training Facility
Entomology and Plant Pathology

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Publication date: June 21, 2017
Revised: April 7, 2022

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