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Termite Fumigation is an effective way to control drywood termites. Millions of homeowners battle termite infestations every year and many of their homes are treated by whole-structure fumigation with products such as Vikane or Zythor gas fumigant.

What is the termite fumigation process?

After assessing your home and recommending fumigation your professional fumigator begins the termite fumigation process.

First the structure is secured with secondary locks on all entryways and warning signs are posted at specific locations.

Then the licensed fumigator tents your home with large tarps. The tarps are secured with long “sand snakes” placed along the foundation of the structure.  The licensed fumigator prepares the interior, seals the tarps, and releases a warning agent (chloropicrin) into the structure. Then, the fumigant is introduced through a special hose attached to a fumigant cylinder located outside your home.

The fumigant is contained in the structure for a predetermined time, usually between 24 to 48 hours varying depending on the size of the structure being fumigated, during which time the fumigant penetrates deep into wood to eliminate drywood termites. After the fumigation is complete, your fumigator aerates and certifies the fumigant from your home, allowing you and your family to re-enter.

Properties of the Fumigant?

Vikane and Zythor are a colorless, odorless gas that is non-detectable by people during fumigation, as well as non-staining, non-corrosive and non-flammable. In gas form the fumigant dissipates into the atmosphere and does not deplete the ozone.

Because these fumigants are odorless, Chloropicrin, a warning agent is added to the fumigation process.  Chloropicrin is a colorless liquid with a strong odor, causing tearing of the eyes and throat when used at low concentrations, Chloropicrin helps ensure a structure is vacated of people and pets prior to fumigation.  It also serves as a deterrent from early or accidental entry into a structure under fumigation. At the end of the fumigation, your fumigator aerates both chloropicrin and the termite fumigant from the structure before allowing you to re-enter your home.

Safety Precautions

Your fumigator takes many precautions to ensure the safety of you, your family, your pets and property before during and after the fumigation process.  A licensed fumigator is required to take several steps in furtherance of this goal:

  1. Release chloropicrin, the warning agent used with the fumigant, to warn anyone against entry into the structure.
  2. Secure the doors on your home with additional locking devices designed to prevent entry by anyone except the licensed fumigator
  3. Use sophisticated equipment to detect when the fumigant has dissipated and ensure your home is clear for re-entry.

Customer’s duties in preparing for a fumigation

In addition to the work performed by your fumigator, it is your responsibility to help prepare your home for the fumigation. Taking the following steps prior to fumigation helps ensure its success, resulting in the elimination of drywood termites from your home. Check with your fumigator for additional home preparation information.

  1. Bag or Remove Items Prior To Fumigation

Ask your fumigator to help you determine additional items that need to be double-bagged or removed prior to fumigation.

A good rule of thumb is, “when in doubt, take it out.” Here are some examples.

Double-Bag or Remove These Items No Need To Remove
  • Chips, pasta, rice, and other foods packaged in plastic bags
  • Cereals, crackers and other foods packaged in cardboard boxes (even if the boxes have never been opened)
  • Spices, salts and pepper shakers, and other items where the seal has been broken.
  • Eggs
  • Ice, opened bottled drinking water
  • Butter, cream cheese and any other items stored in a resealed container, including items stored in Tupperware containers
  • Fruits and Vegetables
  • Bags of pet food and bird seed, as well as opened cans

 

  • Unopened cans (including home-canned goods)
  • Cosmetics, such as lipstick
  • Unopened soda cans and glass bottles
  • Shampoo, soaps and unopened toothpaste and mouthwash
  • Unopened bottles of liquor and wine (stored horizontally)

 

  1. Cut back foliage, shrubbery and landscaping at least 18 inches from the structure to allow room for the tarps. (The fumigant will likely kill all plants left under the tarps)
  2. Remove all plants from your home (including those on outdoor patios)
  3. Water the soil up to 18 inches from the outer walls of your home to protect outdoor plants and shrubs.
  4. Remember to make arrangements for overnight accommodations for you and your pets, as your home may be under fumigation for 24 to 48 hours.
  5. Call the gas company to arrange an appointment to restore gas service (The Gas Company is requiring that the homeowner or agent be present at the time of service restoration and that they show proof that the structure is safe for re-entry. The re-entry notice we post on the front door will suffice, so make sure you keep that notice to show to the Gas Company Representative.)
  6. Antennas, chimney caps, and weather vanes should be removed.
  7. Fences without gates attached to the house may need to have some boards removed to allow the tarps to reach the ground.
  8. Remove mattresses completely enveloped in plastic, such as baby mattresses with water proof covers, or remove the covers themselves. (see your fumigant expert for more details)

Fumigation Timeline

Days Before the Fumigation

The Day Before the Fumigation

The Day of the Fumigation

After the Fumigation

Cut back foliage, shrubbery and landscaping at least 18 inches from the structure to allow room for the tarps.Remember to make arrangements for overnight accommodations for you and your pets, as your home may be under fumigation for 24 to 48 hours.Please keep in mind the fumigation may need to be rescheduled if the weather is uncooperative. High winds and rain may hinder a fumigation and cause potential damage to fumigators.Try not to purchase extra food from the groceries store, the more you have the more you will need to bag or remove.

Make arrangements for gas company to shut off gas service.

Water the soil up to 18 inches from the outer walls of your home to protect outdoor plants and shrubs.Gas Company Representative shuts off gas service. Please make sure they have access to gas meter (no locked gates, dogs, etc.)You may stay the night however depending on your home you may loose hot water, heat and your stove. Remove all plants from your home, including those on outdoor patiosEvacuate all people and pets from the structureRemove mattresses completely enveloped in plastic, such as baby mattresses with water proof covers, or remove the covers themselves.Remove or double-bag and food, feed, drugs and medicines in special Nylofume bags (your should fumigator provide)

Double-bag cold or frozen foods and leave them in the refrigerator and freezer. Remove shelves from the refrigerator and freezer to make it easier to stack the bags inside.

Be sure to remove or double-bag anything that will be ingested (medicine, spices, etc.).

Meet with Gas Company to restore service.It is not necessary to wash dishes, linens, clothing, etc., as Vikane is a gas and will dissipate from the structure.Once the proper amount of aeration time has elapsed, the licensed fumigator takes air samples from the interior living spaces of the structure with equipment specifically designed to detect the presence of the fumigant.Once it is determined that it safe to return to the structure, the licensed fumigator will place a Re-Entry Notice on the front door. This notice will indicate the date and time that it was certified safe to re-enter.

The secondary locks and warning signs are removed to complete the fumigation.

 

Advantages and Disadvantages of Fumigation

Advantages of Fumigation Disadvantages of Fumigation
Tenting and fumigation can completely eradicate a termite infestationFumigants can penetrate parts of the structure not easily accessible by local treatment  Residents cannot be in house while structure is fumigatedFood products and medicine must be sealed or risk contaminationWith added expense of displacement, can be more expensive than other treatmentsFumigants can kill plants in the immediate vicinity of the structure

 

Fumigation Used As Termite Spot Treatment

While far less common, certain termite control companies employ special fumigation chambers to completely surround infestations located entirely in one area, such as furniture.  This is a far less practiced method for termite control for more information talk to your local fumigant technician.

Some Common Technical Questions about Fumigation

  1. What dosage of fumigant is required?

Fumigant Dosage Determination: Because of a multitude of structural, environmental, and fumigation variations, there are no two fumigation jobs that are identical. The required dosage of Vikane is influenced by the temperature at the site, the length of exposure period, and the susceptibility of the pest to be controlled. The typical single family home fumigation involves the use of a 16-18 ounces/1000 cubic foot.

  1. How does the fumigant leave the house?

Aeration: During the aeration, the fumigator aerates the structure with operable doors and windows open and with the aid of a fan for a full hour before securing the structure and allowing a total of six to eight hours of additional aeration.

  1. How does a technician know when the structure is safe to re-inhabit?

Certification: Certification is the final step of the fumigation. The fumigator must aerate a structure, so that the concentration of Vikane in the air is five (5) parts per million (ppm) or less prior to allowing reentry. This five (5) ppm Permissible Exposure Level (PEL) is substantially lower than the level that may affect people and pets following even long-term exposure. (Please check local standards. In California, the Permissible Exposure Level (PEL) must now be brought down to (1) ppm. The fumigator is required to post a reentry notice on the property at the time the structure is actually deemed safe for occupancy. If within 24 hours following aeration, you experience headaches, dizziness, nausea, tearing, coughing, nose/throat irritation, shortness of breath, double vision, unusual drowsiness, or tremors, leave the fumigated structure and immediately contact your physician, poison control center, the fumigation company, and your local agricultural commissioner to report the incident.

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