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What is a Termite Shield?

Mary McMahon
Updated May 17, 2024
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A termite shield is a barrier installed in the foundations of a house which is designed to prevent termites from crossing into the foundations and flooring. Termite barriers can be put in place during construction or renovation, and the inspection and replacement of such barriers can be a routine part of the maintenance of a structure. Many home supply and hardware stores carry termite barriers, and they can order specific brands, sizes, and styles by request from customers or contractors who have accounts at the store.

Termite shields are made from metal such as galvanized iron or copper. Metals which are not as readily subject to corrosion are usually chosen so that they will hold up over the life of the structure, ideally without needing to be replaced. The termite shield is used to create a barrier between the wooden elements of the foundation and flooring and elements such as slabs, perimeters, and piers used to support them.

When termites encounter a termite shield, they are forced along the barrier as they seek out the edge. This forces them into the light. Since termites do not like light, they will usually seek out easier sources of food than the wood above the barrier. They also cannot tunnel through the barrier or create tunnels which will allow them to work around it. This keeps termites away from the wooden elements of the foundation, and, in turn, away from framing, joists, and other wooden parts of a structure.

Obviously, a foundation termite shield cannot keep all termites out. It's also important to take other steps to repel termites. These can include regular inspections to make sure that there is no wood to ground contact, as might happen, for example, if dirt accumulated next to a deck, potentially allowing termites to cross from the deck to wooden parts of the building. Likewise, it's important to keep trees and shrubs cleared as they can also be used for cover by insects which might damage or destroy wood.

When inspecting a piece of prospective real estate for purchase, it is advisable to confirm that a termite shield has been installed and that it is working properly. This can be done during a termite inspection in which the structure is examined for signs of infestation. If termites are present, it can be grounds to cancel a contract, to request a reduction in price, or to ask that the situation be remedied before the property changes hands.

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Mary McMahon
By Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a About Mechanics researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

Discussion Comments
By kylee07drg — On Sep 08, 2011

The house I rent was built about fifty years ago, so it has no termite shield. My landlord does regularly send out someone to spray the area for termites, though. He also takes care of the bill for this. The house is in a shady spot, and some of the trees are home to termites, so I’m sure he recognizes the need for protecting the house from them.

Someday, my husband and I will likely build a house of our own. When we do, we will be certain to install a termite shield. I have seen the damage that they can do, and I will definitely have prevention in mind when helping plan the design of my home.

By jennythelib — On Sep 08, 2011

@EdRick - That's not a bad idea. Of course, some responsible homeowners will drop their termite bond due to the cost if they go for a while with no termite problems, but having the bond in place is reassuring.

The pest inspection is even more important when there's no bond. The pest/termite inspector will look for signs of damage. Of course, you should also have a regular home inspection and that person will look for previous damage to see if it was properly repaired. In Georgia, where I used to live, the seller is always required to pay for the pest inspection (or at least that was the case several years ago) while the buyer pays for any other inspections s/he wants.

By EdRick — On Sep 07, 2011

If you're looking to buy a house in a termite-prone area, something else to ask about is whether the house has a termite bond. This is an agreement with a termite or pest service in which generally the house has had some sort of treatment, a long-term one that lasts ten or twenty years, and then the company sends someone out annually to inspect the property.

With the termite bond, if damage is found, it's repaired, I think at no cost to the homeowner. Some bonds cover only termites, while others also cover other problems like mold.

The nice thing about a termite bond is that they tend to be transferrable, so if you are buying a house that house one, you can take over the termite bond (and, of course, the annual payments). It also reassures you that the property has been well-maintained by the previous owner.

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a...

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