Wooden sheds add a great aesthetic as well as extra storage space. But they are higher maintenance than plastic or metal. You’ve probably already read up on possible wood rot, but have you considered termites?
Even if you live in town, there’s still a large termite population that could find its way to your wooden unit. And, if you live in a rural wooded area, the population exponentially increases.
So, how can you avoid an infestation in your accessory building? A lot of it depends on the type of termites indigenous to your area.
The short answer is to keep all wooden components of your shed from touching the ground. In that same vein, you also want to avoid mulching near the shed or storing unprotected firewood near it. Let me show you how to prevent, detect, and treat a termite infestation at your shed.
How Termites Can Damage My Shed
Termites can cause considerable damage to your shed in a relatively short period of time. These insects live in groups called “colonies.” A mature colony is 60,000 termites and they can eat a foot of pine 2×4 in 6 months.
It doesn’t sound like much, but the sizes of termite colonies vary. Some colonies are as large as fifteen million termites. Not to mention, your wooden shed could be targeted by more than one colony, as well.
So, what kind of damage do they do? Well, termites can eat the wood below the surface of your shed’s floor. This could result in the floor falling through. Not only does it pose the risk of your injury, but also the damage of your stored items.
Termites can eat the support beams, weakening the integrity of your walls or roof. This poses a risk to the building’s structure as well as your safety.
These tiny insects could even weaken your shed’s security. Criminals easily overcome a weakened wooden door or a compromised doorjamb.
What Are Termites?
Subterranean termites are the most common termites in the United States. They tend to prefer warm, humid areas. Although they’re more prevalent in the southern states, they live in every state. Except for Alaska.
As their name suggests, subterranean termites build their nests underground. They enter your home via mud tubes, searching for exposed wood to infest.
The wood they damage will look like a honeycomb. They also feed by following the grain of the wood, never across.
Formosan termites are a more aggressive subterranean species. They also tend to colonize in greater numbers and build their nests above ground more often. Severe structural damage can occur in as little as six months.
Like other termites, the easiest way to identify the species is by the alates and the soldiers. The soldiers will have tiny hairs on their four, equal-sized wings.
Formosan infestations are more difficult to get rid of than indigenous termite colonies.
Unlike subterranean termites, dampwoods don’t nest in the ground. They also leave little evidence of their infestation. Despite being much larger than subterranean, they are stealthy.
Dampwood termites create galleries in damp or decaying wood. To hide their entry and to prevent the outside air from entering, they seal the opening with their own feces.
Dampwoods are often only detected after they’ve wrought serious damage. They do not have any worker termites in their colonies. Dampwoods eat across the grain.
Drywood termites are half the size of Dampwoods and get all their hydration from food and air. They do not need to have any contact with the soil and are often found in the attics of homes.
Drywood alates shed their wings much faster after fertilization than other species. This means that if you see a lot of dead, wingless termites in or around your shed, they’re likely drywoods.
Conehead termites are a major problem for southern Florida. At first, they called them “tree termites,” because they often build their nests in trees. They changed the name when people assumed that these termites only attacked trees.
Coneheads get their name from their soldier termite’s cone-shaped heads. Unlike subterranean termites, Coneheads forage for food on the ground. They build wider mud tunnels that are more extensive than their subterranean cousins are.
They eat anything made of cellulose.
How to Identify if I Already Have a Problem?
There are several indicators of a termite infestation, if you know what to look for. A lot of the signs will depend on the species, but some are true for all types of termites.
For example, all termites swarm. This occurs when a mature colony produces male and female reproductive termites. Alates leave their native colony and find a mate for the fertilization process. Once accomplished, they drop to the ground and lose their wings.
These wings are a common indicator of termite activity and are usually found in window sills. So, if you notice wings of equal length all around your shed, you may need to take action.
Another way is to tap on wood that should be solid. If it sounds hollow, you may have a termite problem. This is a good indicator regardless of species. You may also notice your shed floor sagging or that it feels more “springy” than you remember.
This is because termites devour wood in a way that leaves the surface virtually untouched.
Sometimes, termites’ feeding habits behind walls will result in unexplained cracks. If you notice a crack in a wall, investigate further and search for other indicators.
Drywood termites will push their sand-like feces out of their tunnels. Checking for small mounds of “coarse sand” may help you determine if you have a Drywood termite issue.
Subterranean termites build distinct tunnels of mud to gain access to wood. If you built your shed on a slab of concrete or have it raised off the ground with cinder blocks, you may feel safe.
Ground-dwelling termites build towers of mud to gain access to your wooden shed. If you notice these odd structures, you should inspect your shed and take appropriate action.
Some termites, like the Coneheads, can build their nests in the trees over your shed or on the roof. Coneheads don’t need to remain in contact with the ground to survive, unlike their cousins.
Check for round, bumpy nests of mud in the trees or mud tunnels going up tree trunks.
How to Get Rid of Termites in Shed
One way to prevent a termite infestation is to fill cracks around the shed that they may use as an entrance. They do eat through wood and create galleries, but this takes time.
Making it more difficult for them to gain entry to your shed may buy you some time. This could help you eliminate the infestation before actual damage can occur.
Don’t only focus on cracks in the wood, either. You should also seal any cracks between cement blocks that you may use as a foundation.
If you already have a termite infestation, there are some great ways you can handle it yourself. One of the absolute best ways I’ve come across is the nematode method.
Nematodes are tiny parasitic roundworms. There are countless species of them throughout the world. When choosing nematodes for termite control, be sure to choose the correct species.
The way nematodes work to kill termites in your shed is by poisoning their blood. Nematodes will enter the termite’s body through their mouth, anus, or wall of the body.
Once they do this, they secrete a substance that poisons the termite and kills it in a short amount of time. The nematode will reproduce from its dying or dead host and go on to infect other termites.
It usually only takes 24 to 48 hours to completely wipe out a colony of termites with the use of nematodes. After all pests that the nematodes prey on are eliminated, the nematodes die. They are not harmful to humans, pets, or plants.You can find BioLogic Ecomask Beneficial Nematodes on Amazon
How to Protect Shed from Termites
1. Use InsecticidesInsecticides are a great preventative measure to keep termites away from your shed. Before applying insecticide to your lawn, make sure that you’re legally allowed to do so. This largely depends on where you live.
In the event that your locality permits you to use an insecticide, this is a great preventative. Some chemicals will remain in your soil and protect your property for up to five years.
For around the shed, I suggest you use Taurus SC. You can check current pricing for Taurus SC on Amazon
2. Paint the Wood Shed
Especially for Drywood termites, a good layer of run-of-the-mill paint does the job. Termites don’t eat materials that do not contain cellulose, so paint acts as a deterrent.
More aggressive termites, such as the Formosan termites, will search out weak points. For this reason, make sure that you are thorough when painting all wooden surfaces.
Add an extra layer of paint if you’re painting for termites. If you notice any cracks, caulk them and paint over them. If your brush cannot reach a gap between the boards, seal it and paint over it.
3. Cover the Wood
When taking measures against infestation, it’s important not to neglect your shed’s surroundings. For example, many people store their firewood next to their outdoor buildings. Exposed wood of any kind, especially damp wood, attract termites.
An easy way to prevent your firewood from becoming a haven for termites is to cover it with plastic. When you do this, make sure to lay the firewood on a bed of plastic sheeting. You want to avoid the wood’s contact with the ground as much as possible.
Termites need moisture and a temperature range of 75 to 95 degrees Fahrenheit to thrive. This is why ventilation in your storage shed is critical in preventing infestations. Termites cover their entry and exit holes in wood for a good reason.
Although ventilation may not do much for the temperature in your storage unit, it does help dry it out. The ventilation will also help preserve the integrity of the building’s wood.
5. Remove Rotten Wood
Wood that is decaying in or around your outdoor building is quick to draw termites. Almost all termites need a good source of constant moisture to survive.
Decaying and waterlogged wood provides both a food source and the ideal environment. For this reason, you should remove all damaged wood as soon as you notice it.
6. Eliminate Standing Bodies of Water
As mentioned before, termites need a constant water source to survive. The more accessible this water source to a large food source like your shed, the better.
For this reason, check your yard for any areas where water collects. This may mean that you will have to correct the grade in your yard or install drainage systems.
7. Close off Entry Points
Even if you’ve protected the exterior wood, the interior is still vulnerable. Termites may not be able to chew through the wood from the outside, but what about the gaps around windows? The door?
Take the time to seal these areas with caulk or strong weatherstripping. Remember ventilation ducts and any wiring you’ve threaded through the walls or floors.
8. Reduce Wood to Ground Contact
The most common termite in the continental United States is the subterranean variety. Since they rely on the moisture in the soil, wood that has direct contact with the ground is most tempting.
When storing wood for fires, you may consider keeping it in a bin off of the ground. For your shed, it’s smart to build it on a slab of concrete where it won’t have contact with the soil.
9. Remove Wood Landscaping Features
It’s not uncommon for homeowners to spruce up their yard with mulch or wooden furniture. The problem is that the damp wood chips you spread in garden beds right beside your wooden shed is termite dinner.
If you must use a mulch or other aesthetic to add flavor to your yard, consider a non-wood option. Lava rocks are attractive, for example. There are even rubber mulches on the market that termites won’t touch.
10. Install Bug Screens
We’ve discussed the importance of ventilation in your storage building. We’ve also covered the threat of leaving gaps for termites to enter. So, how do we reconcile these two points?
Bug screens. You should equip every vent in your outdoor unit with termite-proof bug screens. When choosing a screen, ensure that even the tiniest of termites cannot penetrate it.
Obviously, choosing a screen with a wider gauge than termites will be ineffective. When installing the screen, seal it well. Do the same for all windows in your shed.
11. Use Termite Barrier for New Construction
One of the best, non-chemical termite barriers I’ve seen is the steel mesh barrier. If you haven’t yet built a shed or if you’re able to move the shed, you may want to consider this option.
Termites are unable to chew through the steel mesh or pass through it. Laying this beneath your concrete slab or other foundation is a great deterrent.
At the very least, it forces the termites out in the open to where you can detect them.Recommended product:Termidor Foam
Did you enjoy this article? I wanted to share all of this information with you in one place. I wish I’d known it when I first started out. With all of this knowledge at your fingertips, I hope you’ll be able to avoid a costly termite infestation.
What did you think of these ideas? Was there anything you would have added? Be sure to let me know in the comments! And, as always, if you liked this information, be sure to share it with your friends!