The truth about pretreats for termites

Well here I go; I’ll probably get in trouble from this one. Maybe I should post this under an assumed name on a different blog:

Pretreating is suppose to be for the consumers protection against the ravages of the subterranean termite, instead it’s a huge money making scheme for the termite company.

Well too late now, I better explain myself.

A pretreat really is the best chance a home has of staying termite free for years and years. There is nothing in the way, no slabs to drill, no roots to try and trench through and the technician can actually see where he’s applying his product on 100% of the job. What really happens however is that a weak solution is either sloshed around or lightly sprayed in an uneven pattern and as soon as it’s applied the construction crew begins walking all over the treated soil punching holes in the barrier with their boots.

Well, that’s the end result let’s look at how we got there. To pretreat there are many rules on the label one must follow to be in compliance. The label is the law. This is the first step down; the labels of almost all pretreat products call for a 1% solution to be applied at a rate of 4 gallons per 10 square feet. Let’s take a 2000 square foot home as our example.

2000 / 10 = 200 (200 10 foot squares that require 1 gallon each)
200 * 1 = 200 (200 total gallons of mix to treat the entire 2000 square feet)

It’s obvious that in order for any company to properly do a pretreat job for this home you would need a huge truck, that’s # 1. Secondly, I believe most foundation work at this stage would be washed away with so much liquid being applied, and lastly the cost of doing a job this size would be a lot higher than the .09 cents per square foot that most companies bid them out at.

That’s right, I said .09 cents. I don’t do pretreat work not because I don’t want to but because I can’t match anybodies price in town. Let’s do some more math;

Also not included is the ‘final grade’ treatment(required by the label) which is done after the shell is up and just before landscaping is put in. That is 4 gallons of mix per 10 linear feet around the home. That should add to the cost but you rarely hear about it. Or should I say the consumer is quite often surprised by the extra bill if the company comes back.

I almost forgot the most important part, profit, companies need to make a profit to stay in business, don’t they? I’m not sure how they can at .09 cents.

I realize there are different business models out there such as volume selling but this is a bit overboard to say the least. I also realize that ‘mega’ companies such as Terminix or Orkin can buy products a lot cheaper than smaller companies. But try this for yourself if you don’t believe me. Call the number 1 and number 2 companies in the world and see if you can get a phone quote for a pretreat. They’ll usually do it because it’s not a situation they want to send a salesman out on. I’d venture to say you’ll get a price of .25 to .30 cents per square foot. Why? Well I’ll let them answer that but I can assure you they are successful because they do most things right, and to do it right requires getting the right price to make a profit.

So why are companies selling so low and just how do they make a profit? The why is that they now have you as a customer and if they get in with a builder that could mean a lot of customers. It’s automatic, you contract to have a house built, and the builder has chosen the lowest bid for just about everything including the termite company. You didn’t pick them, they didn’t have to advertise and wella, you belong to them. Now that they have your name and address it’s only logical that they send you brochures on the other services they offer.

The how is where I break from their business plan. They have either got to take a 100% loss the first year hoping to make it up with other sales or they may be tempted to use less product than is required and make at least a small margin right off. Either way, I want no part of that or most consumers wouldn’t either I’m sure if they knew the details.

Regardless of the method and assuming the company stays around, the 2nd year is a complete turnaround from red ink to black. Most if not all states require a company to give a 5 year guarantee with pretreats at one year increments. That means next year you get a bill in the mail to renew a termite contract you might not even know you had from a company you didn’t know existed. This bill is usually around the same price as the original pretreat cost so from our example that would be $ 180.00. The kicker?, remember I said the label is the law, and by that same label they are not allowed to spray any more chemical unless they find due cause. So now the company sends out a pest control technician who inspects the home (5 minute inspection/20 minutes of selling) and his job is to sell you the other services they offer assuming you didn’t respond to their mailers. At the end of the state mandated 5 years this company is now released from their obligation and can either choose to sell you a whole new job or walk away. The ‘new’ jobs vary in price but can be quite steep because now they have to do the drilling and trenching of the standard termite job.

So there you have the scoop and I am aware that not all companies operate this way but, ask yourself if saving a few cents is worth all the potential pitfalls. If .09 or .10 cents were the norm why aren’t all companies doing it? At the risk of sounding rude, ‘Don’t be penny wise and pound foolish.’

About The Bug Doctor

Jerry Schappert is a certified pest control operator and Associate Certified Entomologist with over two and a half decades of experience from birds to termites and everything in between. He started as a route technician and worked his way up to commercial/national accounts representative. Always learning in his craft he is familiar with rural pest services and big city control techniques. Jerry has owned and operated a successful pest control company since 1993 in Ocala,Florida. While his knowledge and practical application has benefitted his community Jerry wanted to impart his wisdom on a broader scale to help many more. was born from that idea in 2007 and has been well received. It is the goal of this site to inform you with his keen insights and safely guide you through your pest control treatment needs.

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  • Heath

    You should read those labels a little more closely. Dominion 2l, for example, calls for 1 gallon per 10 square feet, and 4 gallons per linear feet. Big difference in linear feet and square feet. Also, it calls for a .05% solution mixture, not 1%! 8 gallons of raw chemical on a 2000 square foot pretreat would not only be ludicrous, it would be blatantly disregarding the label, and therefor breaking the law.

  • Dylan

    You should take your own advice Heath. .05% and .1% are both acceptable per label. But you are right, It is 1gal/10sqft (slabs) and 4gal/10lnft at .05% or .5gal/10sqft and 2gal/10lnft at .1% for Dominion. And another thing. Those ‘lnft’ rates are per 1 VERTICAL foot. So if you have footings 3-4 feet below grade at final, your chemical amount just tripled. The point of the post is still valid. The rates on the labels can be absurd in real world situations and combined with low ball bidders who splash and dash…it makes it hard for the honest people in the industry to survive on pretreats.