How Do Termite Fumigations Work? (A Homeowner’s Guide)

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Wondering how termite fumigations work? Then you’re in the right place!

In this Pest Strategies guide you’ll learn:

  • If you should treat termites yourself
  • How much termite treatments usually cost
  • When to fumigate and when not to fumigate
  • And exterminator tips with it comes to termite treatment

Let’s get into the guide!

Reviewed By:
Ed Spicer

Ed has been working in the pest control industry for years helping 1,000's of homeowners navigate the world of insect and rodent management. He manages Pest Strategies now helping homeowners around the world!

Table of Contents

    If you’ve ever seen what looks like a circus tent in a residential area, you were probably pretty confused.

    Hopefully, you weren’t too disappointed when you learned what was really going on: a termite fumigation.

    What actually happens when a person takes this step to clear their home of termites? Are they in the house the whole time? Is the process expensive?

    Keep on reading for everything you always wanted to know (but never thought to ask) about termite fumigation.

    Should You Do Termite Treatment Yourself?

    Right off the bat, the word “termite” is sending a chill down the spine of every homeowner–and for good reason.

    These little guys will destroy your home one bite at a time, and here at Pest Strategies, we highly recommend that you consult a trained exterminator who can attack your termite problem with expertise (click here to use our tool to find one in your local area).

    We’re all for recommending DIY methods to common pest problems, but when it comes to termites, we’re in favor of calling in the professionals.


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    How Much Do Termite Treatments Cost?

    Because termite treatments rely on a number of factors (including the size of the area to be treated, the extent of the termite infestation, the expertise of the exterminator, and the type of chemicals chosen), nailing down a specific price for every treatment is next to impossible.

    For this reason, you’ll always have an inspector come out first thing. This person’s job is to conduct a thorough walk-through of the space to be treated in order to write up an estimate and you know immediately how much you’ll need to pay.

    The inspector’s estimate may seem steep, but keep this in mind: termites will eat your money one way or another, so take it from us: this is a problem you really want the pros to handle before it spirals out of hand.

    We did a little research and found some ballpark estimates for termite costs, which we outline below. Remember these are estimates and will vary depending on lots of factors (we’ll get into these later).

    For Drywood Termites?

    These little critters, hence their name, live mainly in dead, dry wood. Typically, they’re found primarily in furniture–meaning that they’re easily transported by unsuspecting movers and deceptively difficult to stamp out.

    Since termites live within their food source, drywood termites draw moisture from the air around them, meaning they’re mostly found in humid environments like the southeastern US.

    Pest control companies along the Gulf Coast and throughout the southern states know the market through and through. They’ll generally offer contract deals to customers which treat a home with a fumigant for an initial price between $1000-$2000 (depending on several factors like the home’s size and type of fumigation chosen), with yearly fumigations for just $200 or $300 thereafter.

    For Subterranean Termites?

    Commonly referred to as most destructive termite species, subterranean termites live in soil and gain access to wooden structures through slits in the wood or via shelter tunnels from the soil below which burrows into the wood.

    These types of termites aren’t limited to a certain area of the United States, dwelling in most areas with access to forest and soil.

    Because the subterranean termites burrow up into the wooden structure of a building from the dirt below, they can be much more difficult to exterminate over a period of time.

    This is where the yearly contract offered by exterminators comes in handy: at a fraction of the initial price, the treatments can really pay for themselves over time in avoided cost.

    Are the Fumigations Toxic?

    So, if the fumes kill off the termites, what stops them from harming our household pets?

    And better yet, what about the people who actually live in the home?!

    Keep reading for vital info on how the fumigation process impacts everyone living in the treatment area.

    Should You Worry About Your Pets?


    When you schedule your fumigation with the pest control company, you will need to make provisions to remove any and all living things from the home–right down to the houseplants.

    The fumigant used to kill the termites, a gas called sulfuryl fluoride, is odorless, colorless, and deadly. Anything left inside the home will not survive the fumigation. Sulfuryl fluoride is a chemical used in popular termite treatments like Vikane®; Termafume®.

    For this reason, we highly recommend that you create a checklist of all your plants before fumigating, and make sure to find concrete plans for your pets well in advance during the fumigation days.

    And What About Your Kids?

    Just like with pets, kids will evacuate the treatment well before the fumigation process begins.

    However, it’s jarring to think about a toxic chemical wafting through the walls of your home, then having your kids run right back in to play with all their freshly-sprayed toys.

    We hear you.

    Here’s what we recommend: a few days before the fumigation, double-bag your kids’ toys in zipper-seal plastic bags and store them in tied plastic shopping bags. This will help prevent the toxic gases from coming into contact with your belongings.

    Bonus points: if you have plastic storage tubs with lids, these will work better than the plastic shopping bags. The goal is to take any measure you can in order to eliminate pockets of air where the gas can seep in.

    What If You’re Pregnant?

    It’s certainly not ideal to have a termite infestation at any time–but especially not when you’re expecting.

    The thought of having to leave your home so that a team of strangers can come in to pump it full of toxic chemicals before your baby is born sounds absolutely horrific.

    It’s not all doom and gloom, though: scientific studies on pregnant rats exposed to sulfuryl fluoride have shown no adverse affects. The baby rats and the mother rats alike showed no health issues after breathing in the chemical at low levels.

    There are no lingering gases left in a home once the fumigation process is complete, which means that the tests on the pregnant rats is a much higher exposure than any human would ever encounter from a residual nature.

    One natural way to combat termites is to spray your yard with beneficial nematodes.

    These little guys are your one-stop-shop for getting rid of just about any kind of pest, acting as a parasite to all the bugs you don’t want.

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    Any Nontoxic or Natural Termite Treatment Options?

    Even though the sulfuryl fluoride itself leaves no residue behind, many consumers would prefer to explore the unrefined avenues before committing to such a harsh treatment.

    Beneficial Nematodes

    One natural way to combat termites to spray your yard with beneficial nematodes. These little guys are your one-stop-shop for getting rid of just about any kind of pest, acting as a parasite to all the bugs you don’t want. 

    To use beneficial nematodes for termites, simply spray them in your yard, and wait a few days. The nematodes will attach to the bodies of the termites, using them as a food source. After they feed on the termites, the nematodes will die and decompose back into the soil.

    Nematodes have found to be beneficial only in termites residing in soil, however. Termites eating away at wooden structures must be exterminated by other means.

    Stainless Steel Barriers

    Since most termite infestations occur when a colony burrows its way in through the wooden structure, more and more homeowners are building their houses with a stainless steel wall encasing the structure of the house.

    This provides a solid protection around the wood for decades, and generally requires virtually no upkeep.

    Will Your Furniture Be Affected in a Termite Treatment?

    The current widely-used fumigant (known as both sulfuryl fluoride and Vikane) is chosen as the standard in the pest control industry due to its toxicity to pests and its low lingering effects after fumigation.

    However, no chemical is 100% residue-proof. It’s always a smart idea to strip all beds of linens and place plastic covers or tarps over mattresses and pillows to avoid contact with the chemicals.

    Cover all couches, chairs, and other plush furniture with tarps in order to keep the fabric fresh, just as a precaution.

    What is Tented vs Tentless Termite Treatment?

    A “tented” treatment is the casual term for the fumigation with sulfuryl fluoride; a moniker stemming from the circus-like tent placed over the entire property to contain the gas while the fumigation takes place.

    “Tentless treatments” for termites, however, can mean a few different things.

    Spot Treatment for Termites

    This means, essentially, that a chemical agent is used in one specific area by a technician. A professional will drill a hole and infuse an insecticide into the structure, killing a colony of termites known to live there.

    This method is really only cost-effective in large structures, not houses, where termite colonies are known to only live in one specific area.

    Bait Method for Termites

    The bait method to knock out termites is possibly the simplest choice for a homeowner, yet it’s still a pretty involved process nonetheless.

    An pest control specialist will come out to set a series of bait traps along your property to lure termites away from the wooden structures of your home, and will need to make a few visits in order to monitor the system appropriately.

    Control and prevention of further infestations will take time–most likely around a year of proper management and baiting.

    Barrier Method for Termites

    This method to control these pesky critters involves constructing a barrier between the soil and the actual home or building (usually made of concrete and filled with sand), then pumped with an insecticide using holes drilled from the outside.

    Once the termites cross the barrier, they die immediately. More insecticide can always be infused, and a pest control specialist normally must make several return visits to maintain the efficacy of the barrier for customers.

    How to Find an Exterminator to Conduct a Termite Extermination

    So, you’ve gotten this far and you realize that you need to hire a pro.

    If you’re handing over the keys to your home (not to mention everything in it), you’re going to want to make sure you’ve got someone on your side that you can trust.

    Keep reading for some great tips on what you need to look for in a reputable pest control specialist.

    First Things First: A  Solid Reputation

    You wouldn’t eat at a restaurant with a 1-star Google rating, would you?

    We live in a reviews-based society, and ratings are everything in this day and age. Make sure you choose a company with excellent client satisfaction and detailed feedback about previous experiences had by others in the past.

    Proper Qualifications

    If a company knows how to keep its customers happy, they probably have all their ducks in a row when it comes to required paperwork.

    Make sure the company you choose meets the regulations for your state and is fully licensed to practice fumigation.

    A Lasting Relationship

    Do you live in an area with a nearly-constant cycle of termites?

    If so, the yearly contract option offered by a majority of pest control specialists might be the best bet for you.

    Before committing to a first-time fumigation, check to see if you can enter into an agreement to have your home fumigated yearly at a low cost and maintain a contract with your pest control specialist.

    An Answer to Every Question

    If you have a question, they should have an answer. Period.

    If there’s a question on your mind for your pest control team, let them spread some of their knowledge. If the team you’re considering can’t answer your questions, move on to the next company.

    Termite Fumigation Final Thoughts

    For most people, buying a home is the most expensive purchase they’ll ever make.

    After the initial purchase of the home itself, there are renovations to consider, not to mention wooden furniture pieces–laid out over the years like an all-you-can-eat buffet for generations upon generations of termite colonies.

    Don’t let termites eat your most valuable asset. If you realize you’ve got an infestation on your hands, no matter how small, get it taken care of as soon as possible.

    Take it from us: your money is much better spent on a solution to a problem than waterfall of quick fixes.

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