Termites in Mortar

In nature, termites are beneficial. They recycle fallen trees and other dead wood. However, when there are no fallen trees, termites often turn to the wood in homes for food.

Termites are soft–bodied insects. They are sensitive to dehydration, so they stay out of the light as much as possible. When subterranean termites must travel in the open, they make protective dirt tunnels. However, termites can often find cracks to use as entryways into the home. This allows them to travel from the ground without being exposed.

Many homes are built with bricks or concrete blocks. Bricks and blocks are commonly used in foundations. They are also used as bases for fireplaces and porches.

When the blocks or bricks are installed, they are assembled with mortar. This mortar is similar to cement. Like cement, when mortar dries, it often shrinks. As mortar shrinks, it creates tiny cracks.

People used to think that termites could chew through mortar. Scientists have learned that when termites find a tiny crack in mortar, they squeeze through it. If they find food, they use the crack to travel back and forth to their nest in the ground.

As the termites continue to travel, they gradually make the crack wider. This enables more termites to get through the crack. Over time, the termites widen the crack enough to allow several termites to pass through at the same time.

Homeowners are often surprised to find termites in their home. Termites enter through cracks in mortar in the base of the fireplace. They appear in the family room in the wall beside the fireplace.

Termites also enter through cracks in mortar in the bases of porches. Homeowners discover the termites in the doorframe or the sill in the doorway.

Treating termites in mortar can be challenging. They can remain hidden in tiny cracks and travel long distances. The mortar allows termites to attack wood that is a long way from the point where they entered. Sometimes the mortar acts as a shield to protect the termites from an application of liquid termiticide.

To treat termites in mortar, it is often necessary to apply a borate solution to the wood sill at the top of the foundation wall. The borate makes the wood toxic to termites. In this way, if the termites travel past the termiticide barrier in the soil, they will be impacted by the borate treatment.

Many homeowners have their home inspected periodically. Termite control professionals can recognize the signs of termite activity. If treatment is necessary, they can prescribe the most effective treatment.