Termites in Kitchen Cabinets: Causes + Control

Dampwood termites are popular in the united states and they can also attack kitchen cabinets at home. Termites will eat the wood from inside thus making it too difficult to identify them early enough. They can remain dormant and eat the cabinets for 2-3 years before you notice a serious infestation.

Termites live in moist environments and are attracted to wooden kitchen cabinets because they trap moisture that is released while cooking. They can also be found in cabinets under the sink if there is a leakage soaking the wood. Use a flashlight to inspect the cabinet joints and dark areas.

Termites infest kitchen drawers and cupboards if wet utensils are always kept in them. Water drops released from the utensils can keep the drawers and cabinets moist and weak. This is very attractive and comfortable for termites to breed and thrive.

Termites in Kitchen Cabinets
Termites in Kitchen Cabinets

Main cause of termites in kitchen cabinets

One of the major causes of termites infestation in kitchen cabinets is the importation of plywood that is already infested by termites. They will not notice then because dry wood termites can get into the plywood and remain dormant for 1-2 years.

Termites can perfectly hide while dormant and carpenters may fail to see them. This is one of the major causes of sudden termite infestation in the kitchen. You may be living in an area where there are no termites yet you find them in the kitchen.

After the kitchen cabinets have been installed, termites will sense that there is no movement and they will become active again. They will feed on the wood from inside, lay eggs and multiply very fast. Termites will only be noticed after they have done great damage to the cabinets.

It takes time to identify termite damage on cabinets because they take time to nurse their young ones and build a colony. They do not move fast and in most cases, they are concentrated in one hidden area in the wood.

Signs of termites in kitchen cabinets

The first sign of termites in the kitchen is the presence of the swarmer’s wings that are often dropped. The swarmers are winged termites that build a new colony and they can sometimes be spotted on the kitchen counters.

1. Termite frass in the kitchen

A sudden appearance of wood-like powder on kitchen counters and floors is a sign of termites in kitchen cabinets. Those are termite poop and not sawdust. You may think they are wood dust because of their color. They are also known as termite excrement.

The more you find a heap of frass around the kitchen cabinet, the heavier the infestation is likely to be. They look like sawdust in appearance and termites will always leave them behind as they continue to multiply at home.

2. Small wooden pallets  

Those are still termite waste from the wood that they eat. This is still known as frass but the difference is that they are huge and appear like wooden grains. They always take the color of the wood that the termites are feeding on.

If you notice a sudden appearance of wood pellets that are the same color as your kitchen cabinets, then that is a clear sign of termites infestation. This should never be ignored since, at that point, they are already doing serious damage.  

3. Hollow sound on wooden kitchen cabinets

Termites will always engrave themselves in wooden cabinets and eat them from inside. It can even take over 2 years before you realize the damage caused. When the cabinets are new, they will sound compact when you knock or bang them.

After noticing wooden debris in the kitchen, knock on the wooden cabinets and compare the sounds you get. A hollow sound on them with wooden-like powder falling off when you knock harder is a sign of termites infestation in your kitchen cabinets.

When the infestation is severe, a hard knock may crack the cabinets or some of the termites may fall off. Those are the worker termites that chew through the wood to get cellulose. Worker termites are gray in color and are a clear sign that the cabinets are being destroyed.

How to get rid of termites in kitchen cabinets

After identifying them, you need to replace those that are heavily infested. This may sound like the last option you want to hear because of the expenses involved. However, it is the best solution for a serious infestation.

Kitchen cabinets that are heavily attacked by termites should be replaced because they are already too weak. If you ignore this, they will eventually fall off and this is the last thing you want to happen especially when you are cooking.

1. Bora Care

Another termite control method is the use of Bora-Care liquid solution. This can be used to kill and get rid of termites in kitchen cabinets especially when the infestation is not serious. Bora care is good because it will last for 1 month or more after spraying and the effects will still be deadly to the termites.

Bora-Care will last that long while killing the termites by penetrating through wood even if they are hidden inside. If you have identified early signs of termite infestation, take the following steps to get rid of them:

  1. Pour 2 liters of warm water in a large bucket
  2. Add 2 liters of extra warm water into the bucket
  3. Stir with a long pole to ensure it is mixed thoroughly
  4. Pour the mixture into a sprayer and ensure you spray it along the edges where there is no finishing coat

You can spray it directly on the kitchen cabinets only if they do not have a liquid proof finish. This is because the aim is to have the liquid solution penetrate inside the wood to kill all the termites that are hidden in it.

Most kitchen cabinets have a waterproof coating and you need to check the edges that have no coating so that you can spray from there.

2. FiPro foam

When termites start feeding on kitchen cabinets, there will be cracks and holes along the edges. The inner part of the cabinets will become hollow and eventually there will be loose ends. You can inject a FiPro Aerosol into those holes to get rid of termites.

The advantage of using FiPro foam to get rid of termites in kitchen cabinets is the fact that it is less messy. It will leave no water on the surface that needs to be moped. When injected into the cabinet cracks and holes, it will penetrate and find the termite paths.

This will kill termites on contact. Spraying this around the kitchen cabinets and will also keep them from coming back. Those measures should be used before the infestation is heavy because they will eradicated and stop the termites from spreading.

After treating termites, look for any leakage in the kitchen that may be keeping the wood moist. Get rid of that and apply a protective coating to keep termites away from your cabinets.

Termite proof kitchen cabinets

Use sealed wood when making termite-proof kitchen cabinets because they will not be able to eat through them. Sealing wood is important because it keeps water from soaking them. When protective paint is added over it, those cabinets will remain resistant to termites for years.

After getting rid of termites in kitchen cupboards and drawers, have preventive measures in place. If you are replacing the cabinets that were damaged, use termite-resistant kitchen cabinets. Those are designed and made from wood that termites cannot attack.

It is also important to coat your cabinets with quality paint before installation. This will resist termites because it will create a protective layer on the wood. Termites cannot eat wood that is well painted and coated.

When making termite-resistant kitchen cabinets out of plywood, use those that are resistant to boiling water like BWR Ply. This will keep moisture away from the cabinets and they will last longer. Cabinets under the kitchen sink are prone to termite infestation because there is always water around that place.

The secret behind termite-resistant cabinets in the kitchen is to either use treated wood or to build them with woods that are naturally resistant to termites like the Teak, Honduran Mahogany or Redwood.

Termites around your house may also invade the house if they are not controlled. If you have a wooden fence, you can paint it with motor oil to kill and repel termites before they spread into the house. Here is a video on how to check for termites in the kitchen cabinets, cupboards, and drawers:

References:

  1. University of Kentucky: Protecting home against termites: UK College of Agriculture, Food and Environment
  2. University of Florida: Florida dampwood termites: UF|IFAS