Ahh termites. Hungry lumber munchers! These guys and girls are so famous that they make their way into the purchase contract for most real estate transactions in Hawaii. As a realtor, I spend so much time telling people that having your house tented is “No big deal!” and “Happens all the time!” Haha – yeah, but I actually never knew what the process was like personally until just recently where I had to have my own house tented.
Termite Fumigation Basics
So you might ask, how does tenting deal with an active termite infestation? Basically, the entire structure is sealed using heavy duty tarpaulins rolled together to make an essentially air tight seal. Then the gas is introduced via small tubes to the interior of the house. In Hawaii, Sulphuryl Fluoride is commonly used. (Brand name Vikane and others). The gas leaves no residue.
I found it hard to wrap my mind around this – because I kept mentally thinking of bug spray. But here there is no spray. The component is a gas and stays gaseous throughout the process. Think of a burst of carbon dioxide when you open a Coke. If you imagine that your house was soaked in carbon dioxide from a Coke bottle, you would feel pretty comfortable going back into the house after it had aired out somewhat. We can fairly easily grok that carbon dioxide doesn’t “stick” to any surface. It’s the same with Sulphuryl Fluoride. There’s no smell, no residue, no nothing.
Preparing the House for Tenting
Once you contract to have your house tented, the fumigation company will give you very thorough information on how to prepare your house. Many of the recommendations are obvious. Remove your pets, okay!! Yes, that includes fishes in fish tanks, birds, lizards what have you. Any food items that will stay in the house need to be double bagged in these heavy duty Nylofume gas impermeable bags that were provided to me by Bug Man.
The Dreaded Aftermath
Once the gas has been released into the structure, the house is left with the fans inside circulating the gas for 12 to 18 hours. The fumigation company will determine this length based on your house size and situation. Once the tent is removed, the house may not be entered until it has gone beyond the designated “air out” time frame.
The fumigation company posts a sign on the door stating when it is safe to re-enter the house. I decided to stay at my ex’s condo for another night because I felt weird about entering the house so soon after fumigation.
Can I just tell you that I’ve never seen so many lizard corpses in my life? Everywhere. Poor things. Geckos of all shapes and sizes – lying motionless – every few feet – very sad, but a necessary casualty in the battle against termites. This gives great struggle to the buddhist part of me that wants to live a non-harming life. Not sure how to wrap my mind around that one. If you have any ideas, please comment below.
Damage To Structure During Tenting
The fumigation companies take great care to protect your house during the tenting process, but they make you sign a contract that says among other things:
“Bug Man assumes no responsibility for any damage caused by the tenting or fumigation procedure, including but not limited to roof, gutters, water sprinkler systems, utility lines, awnings, plants, attachments, antennas, satellite dishes, chimneys, or any other protrusions from structure.”
My beloved house did suffer some roof shingle damage, but I was not at all surprised. [Cedar shingle roofs in wet climates are not a good idea, period!] – See the pics below. All in all, Bug Man did a great job despite unusually windy conditions, and the silver lining is that I’ve decided to rip off my cedar roof and get a nice metal roof, which will last many, many years with very little maintenance.
If you’re interested in buying a termite ridden house, or a termite-free house, please don’t hesitate to hire me as your agent. 🙂
– Liam S. Ball, R(B)