Preparing for Tent Fumigation of Your Home

A house being tent fumigated

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Thousands of homes, schools, and commercial structures are tent-fumigated to control dry wood termite infestations and other pests every year. Although pest control professionals must conduct such fumigations, several preparation steps need to be taken by the homeowner, or the landlord and tenants, before the fumigation can be done.

This preparation is necessary to protect your personal property, foods, pets, and landscaping. It is also critical to ensure the effectiveness of expensive periodic treatment.

How to Prepare for a Tent Fumigation

Your fumigation service provider will give you specific instructions on preparing for the fumigation. Some of these require moving food and items off-site and finding a place for you, your family, and your pets to stay for a few days. So all residents will need to begin to prepare for the fumigation service well in advance of the day.

Following are some of the general recommendations and instructions you should be prepared to undertake:

  1. Unlock and open all rooms, cabinets, desks, closets, attic hatches, and safes.
  2. Food that is not in plastic, glass, or metal bottles, cans, or jars with the original manufacturer's air-tight seal intact must be removed from refrigerators, freezers, pantries, and storage closets and moved off-site or double-bagged in nylon bags provided by your fumigator.
  3. Dry food goods packaged in bags and cardboard boxes (cereal, chips, rice) must be removed or double bagged even if they haven't been opened.
  4. Remove all linen from beds, mattresses, sleeping pads, waterproof mattress pads, and closets and move these off-site or ask the control professional how you should handle these items. The circumstances may change depending on the pest being fumigated.
  5. Remove plastic furniture covers or mattresses wrapped in plastic, like baby crib mattresses.
  6. Raise all blinds and drapes to allow window access.
  7. Turn off gas flames and pilot lights in fireplaces and appliances such as water heaters, ovens, furnaces, refrigerators, washers, and dryers.
  8. Remove all pets, including aquarium fish and caged animals.
  9. Remove all houseplants.
  10. Trim outdoor plants near the home to be no closer than 12 inches away from the structure's exterior.
  11. Rake any rock, gravel, bark, or landscape mulch so that it is no closer than 12 inches away from the structure's exterior.
  12. Detach any fences that contact the structure.
  13. Provide a garden hose for use by the applicator. They will use this hose to wet the soil around the structure to ensure soil penetration of the fumigant.
  14. Provide the fumigation service provider with a set of keys for the exterior door (and gate and garage if applicable), enabling entry for the fumigation provider and enabling the structure to be secured once the tent has been removed.
  15. Have your bags packed, the family and pets readied, and a place for all to stay for two to three days/nights.
How to Prepare for a Tent Fumigation

The Spruce / Madelyn Goodnight

Timeframe of a Tent Fumigation

You will need to make plans to stay out of and away from home during the fumigation and during the aeration period that follows. Although your preparation will likely require two to three hours, the fumigation and aeration periods will mean two to three days and nights away from your home. 

Your pest control professional will advise you of the amount of time needed for your particular fumigation and any other precautions and actions you will need to take.

What You Will Need to Complete Preparations

To complete the steps listed above, there are some items you will need. These should be gathered well in advance of the fumigation day so that you are not held up in the middle of your preparations because you cannot complete a step.

  • Plastic containers with lids (to store foods that you remove from the home)
  • Plastic bins and totes (for linens and non-perishables that you remove from the home)
  • Garden shears
  • Garden rake
  • Garden hose with outdoor bib or hookup
  • Pliers and hammer for disconnecting
  • Flashlight
  • Keys to all locked household areas/items
  • Lodging for at least two days for the family and pets

How Tent Fumigation Works

Preparing for a tent fumigation is not easy, but the method can be the best way to ensure the pests are eradicated. Always review the pest control service you are considering and get their full instructions—some companies vary in their requirements.

During tent fumigation, a pest management expert will use tarps to cover an entire home, creating a seal around the home. The pest service will release a gas pesticide throughout the home, enabling the gas to reach cracks and crevices. For termites, the fumigant can get between and inside the wood, where termites live. Once a termite breathes in the pesticide, it affects its nervous system, killing it.

Once the pest professional has determined that your space has been successfully fumigated, the tent will be removed, and the home will need to air out. It can take about six hours for a fumigant to dissipate.

The entire fumigation process, from tenting, fumigation, and aeration, can take 24 to 72 hours, depending on the size of the home. The pest control expert will use a sensor in each room to test that the home has been cleared of fumes before declaring the home is safe for reentry and moving back in.

It is essential to follow all of the expert's instructions in preparing your home for safe, effective fumigation. Fumigants do not leave permanent residues in a home or on household items.