How To Get Rid Of Carpenter Ants: DIY Tips And Extermination Cost

We put together a useful guide on how to get rid of carpenters ants, including DIY tips and extermination cost if you hire a professional.

Carpenter ants infestation is one of the most common problems faced by a majority of homeowners. They get their name from their excavation activities in the wood where they build their nests. They make hollows in some sections of the wood and create nests where they move through. Carpenters ants prefer dead or damp woods, and that’s the reason why they infest wooded structures in homes and buildings.

If left untreated, the infestation can become severe causing serious structural problems. Even though they do not eat wood like termites, carpenter ant hollow or chew out the wood and make galleries and nests inside. With time, as they excavate the wood, they will create connecting tunnels and end up creating big hollows in the wood and weaken the wood with time. As the ants continue with their activities, it will take a long time to be able to notice the damage on the surface.

The carpenter ants vary in colors. They appear reddish orange to black. They also differ in sizes. For example, the workers measure an average of ¼ to 5/8 inches in length, and they are the ones you will see crawling on the surface. The male carpenter ants are also about the same size as the workers, but you will only see them when they get out their nests to mate with the queen ant. The queen is almost three times larger as compared to the worker and male, nearly one inch in size.

These small ants feed on sugars and proteins such as honey which produced by aphids, jelly, meats, syrup, and honey. They can crawl to your home in search of food at night but only in spring and summer.

The ants do not sting, but they can bite and inflict pain with their jaws. If they bite, they will spray formic acid into your wound which causes an unpleasant burning sensation. The carpenter ants usually have two types nesting place; satellite colonies and parent colonies. They will nest in any wood that is rotting such as trees, firewood, old stumps, etc.

Carpenter ants can find their way in your home and buildings through a damaged or wet wood. They can access a building through cracks in the windows and doors. They will create tunnels through the wood and sometimes if the colony is big, they create their way through a healthy wood.
A fully developed colony of carpenter ants can have almost 10,000 ants, and there will only be around 10% to 15% of ants seen outside the nest most likely foraging for food. However, the ants can travel a distance of almost 100 yards looking for food, so if you happen to see one in your home, it may not necessarily mean you an infestation.

Signs of Infestations of Carpenter Ants

It’s true that carpenter ants infestation take a long time before being noticed and can end up becoming a costly situation that is not easy to handle. The most crucial step is to identify if you have a carpenter ants infestation. By correctly identifying the kind of ants you are dealing with, it will enable you to know the right elimination method to use. You can either get a professional to correctly identify the type of infestation you have and how far it has spread.

Here are signs that you should look out for to identify carpenter ants infestation.

Piles of Wood Shavings

Carpenter ants do not feed on wood; instead, they chew it and nest in it. If you have a major infestation, you may start spotting little piles of wood shavings that look like sawdust coming out of wooden structures around your home. The carpenter ants excavate tunnels in wood using their mandibles to be able to nest in it.

Therefore, they will leave what looks like sawdust as they excavate their way through the tunnel. You are likely to spot the wood shavings beneath the door jams, window sills, skylights, baseboards and in corners of your rooms.

A Trail of Big Black Ants and Winged Ants

Even though carpenter ants live in trees, it’s possible to find them in your home. They look like the typical ants you see around, but if you study them closely, you will be able to identify the difference. These ants are almost reddish to black and have bent antennae with a rounded thorax and carry a narrow waist. The ones in their reproductive stage have wings.

If the ants you see in your house have the above description and you spot a trail of them in corners, pipes, wires, and logs moving towards a food source, then you probably have a carpenter ants infestation. They will form a trail towards your kitchen to any form of food that has sugar like spills of sweet syrups, or jam, or honey. They will find their way to pet food containers or sweets. Sometimes you will spot them creeping out from walls, ceilings and any hidden cracks and crevices.

Rustling Noise

If you hear distinct rustling noises coming out of your ceilings, voids, inside the walls and any other hidden crevices, it’s possible that the carpenter ants have invaded your home. The colonies are in constant movement in their nests, and they produce what sounds like a rustling sound.

To confirm your suspicions, you can tap on the area you where you suspect it’s the source of the noise and press your ear against it. If you hear a faint sound after the tap, it’s possible that the ants are present and the infestation is likely to be substantial.

Shed Wings

The swammers shed wings occasionally. If you spot the shed wings near baseboards, windows sills, vents and at the corners of rooms, it’s an indication that the carpenter ants are nesting somewhere close.

Wood Damage

Examine the wood structure in your home. If there is any rotten wood or wood that appears to have collapsed or softwood, it could be a sign that ants have been borrowing inside making it weak, rotten, or soft.

Weather Transitions

The carpenter ants hibernate during the cold weather, i.e., during winter. When the weather gets warmer, the ants will creep out and get on the move. For a homeowner, this is the time to be on the lookout and watch to see if you spot any ants that look like carpenters ants creeping out the ceilings and cracks. The perfect time to be vigilant is from spring to summer.

However, if you spot carpenter ants in your home during the cold season, it’s possible that you have an infestation and the ants can come out because your house is warm enough, so they do not hibernate.

Getting Rid Of Carpenter Ants

If you confirm that you have carpenter ants infestation, the next step will be getting rid of them. Getting rid of carpenter ants is not an easy process. Depending on the severity of the infestation you may need the assistance of a professional to be able to eliminate them and prevent future attacks. Sometimes, even with the help of a professional, you will need a few attempts to be able to get rid of carpenter ants.

But before you start carpenter ants treatment, you will need to identify the nest. Carpenter ants have two types of nests; the parent nests and the satellite nests. The Queen resides in the parent nest. The satellite comes about when the parent net gets full hence increasing the colony.

Finding the nest should the starting point of carpenter ants elimination. They can either be located inside or outside. In fact, when you spot a few carpenter ants in your home, the nests could probably be 100 yards away.

To be able to locate the nest, you can follow the trail behavior of carpenter ants in your home by dropping the kind of food they like such as drops of jelly near their trail. During spring, the ants are known to be attracted to protein foods. You can drop a few pieces of tuna packed with water and let them feed.

Once they feed on the tuna, they will head back to their nest carrying the food; follow the trail to see where it’s headed. This process can be time-consuming, so you will need to be patient and perseverant. Also, the ants are usually active late at night; you need to time them when they come out to forage for food.

Another method of finding the nests is by use of a flashlight. Cover the flashlight with are a film over the lens to avoid direct light. You can then follow them carefully without startling them to their nests.

You are also advised to look closely at areas in your home where there is constant moisture which probably has been a problem for some time. This includes areas around the basement, around venting entrances and plumbing. Also look at the trees that have branches hanging closer the house. All these could be entry points or sources of carpenter ant nests.

Cost of Control and Treatment

Once the nest has been identified, the next step is to destroy it getting rid of a carpenter ant nest can be challenging, and you will need a professional to control the situation. The professionals have the right equipment and treatment products that will be effective in the process of killing carpenter ants.

The professional will locate the nest with your help. They will drill holes and then treat surrounding area and wood with pesticide as they move outward from the location of the nest. They will then finish the process by spaying a residue insecticide at the perimeter of your home.

A DIY process of getting rid of an outdoor nest can cost you around $25 to $50. If you are using a professional to make the drilling and treatment application, you will pay an average cost of $500- $1,000. After the initial treatment, it’s recommended that you do a monthly follow-up with treatments to avoid future and new infestations. The routine maintenance treatment will cost you an average of $250 per year.

Some exterminators can charge a flat rate that covers a certain quantity of treatment and set services. Most flat rate charges come to around $95 per hour, and others will charge you an average of $225 with one year guarantee.

Most pest control professionals use the square footage to determine their charges. If you have a bigger home or property, the costs will be higher because the professional will need more employees and chemicals to be able to complete the elimination process. For a home measuring up to 2000 square feet expect to pay an average of $159.00. The charges are for a one-time treatment process. For the quarterly treatments, you will be charged an average $99.00.

If your property around 2000 to 3500 square feet, the cost of one-time treatment will come roughly to $179 and $109 for the quarterly treatments. For 3500 to 5000 square feet property, the costs come to around $199 for a one-time treatment process, and you will pay an average of $119 for the quarterly treatment.

The treatments used by professionals mostly include foundation barrier spray that they will be sprayed on the perimeter of your property. For window sills, hollow doors and walls, attics, eaves, etc. professionals will use dust products as treatment. Other areas where dust treatment is ideal include plumbing areas and electrical lines. They dust all these areas with the dust treatment which kills the worker carpenter ants and effectively reduces the satellites.

For a thorough treatment, they will use extended barrier yard treatment which involves the use of water activated granules that will kill the subterranean ants.

The Bait System

Bait system is becoming one of the reliable methods of getting rid of carpenter ants. The baits are made to target ants while on their trails. This method is a perfect option for killing the carpenter ants and destroying the outdoor colonies to prevent an indoor invasion.

The workers will pick on the bait and carry it back to their nests. As a result, it will poison the whole colony solving the infestation problem. The baits contain boric acid which slowly poisons the stomach. Once the poison reaches the digestive system of carpenter ant, it affects the metabolism by interfering with the absorption of nutrients making the ants starve to death.

The indoor baits will need frequent replacement after every few days since most of them are food grade and usually spoil after week. If you place them outside, you will have to replace them after a few days. You will need to keep monitoring the baits to see the progress. If the baits stop disappearing, then the ants are most likely reducing. Baiting takes time, so do not place one time and expect the carpenter ants to vanish in one day.

The average cost of a bait kit that contains ants bait and ants dust will cost an average of $56.75. Indoor baits cost around $4. 75 while outdoor baits cost an average of $10.00.

It’s crucial to purchase baits that specifically attract carpenter ants and not other pests. This is to avoid a situation where all the bait is taken by other pests leaving the carpenter ants with little or nothing of the bait. Avoid placing the baits near repellents which might drive the carpenter ants away. Also, make sure you remove any foods such as pet foods and crumbs which might distract the ants and pick them instead of the baits.

Treatment process and laborDescriptionAverage cost
Drilling holes to destroy nests and treatment applicationDIY for an average home

Professional services for an average house
$25.00 to $50.00

Routine maintenance$250.00 per year
Flat rates $95 per hour
Charges based on property size
Up to 2000 square feet$$159.00
2000 - 3500square feet$179.00
3000 - 5000 square feet$199.00
Bait kitHas ant bait and dust$56.75
Indoor baits$4.75
Outdoor baits$10.00

DIY Carpenter Ants Extermination Vs. Professional

A homeowner can choose to kill the carpenter ants without the help of a professional and reduce the overall cost of the elimination process. A DIY removal process which involves the drilling the nest and use of sprays will cost you an average of $25 to $50.

However, getting rid of carpenter ants can be difficult and challenging. Even the process of identifying the nests may prove to be a hard one. The chances are that you may not be able to kill all the carpenter ants on your property successfully.

Most homeowners do not stick to the required procedure of using the bait system making it fail. The bait system requires strict monitoring, observation, and patience. You also need to identify the right areas to apply the baits to attract the carpenter ants.

A professional will identify the right baits to use and assess the severity of the infestation to know the correct number of baits to use. They will also recognize the common and possible places where the ant trail will pass through and place the pieces of bait appropriately.

Some over-the-counter baits do not contain the attracting agents that will lure the carpenter ants. Most people spend a lot of money purchasing such baits and get no results. A professional will be able to identify the right baits that will effectively eliminate the ants. Also, same goes for some of the over-the-counter sprays. They might not have any effect at all on the carpenter ants infestation.

Some homeowners opt to spray the visible carpenter ants which only kill the few exposed workers leaving the queen and majority of others still in the nests. Also, some of the spray ants tend to have repellants. The ants will avoid the spray instead, rendering it useless.

If you are determined to get rid of carpenter yourself, you will need to be patient to identify the nests so that you destroy the ants from the source. You will need to consult a professional for advice on the most effective treatments to use to make the operation successful.

Preventive Measures

Most exterminating companies offer packages that have monitoring schedules after the initial treatment. They schedule the periodic visits on a monthly basis or after every two months, or quarterly, i.e., after three months.

Here are the average costs for occasional visits charged by most of the professional exterminator:

Monthly visits$40.00 - $45.00
Semi-monthly visits$50.00- $60.00
Quarterly visits$100.00-$300.00

The periodic visits help manage the expected return of carpenter ants. Even if you take precautions, sometimes carpenter ants can be very stubborn, and you will still spot one or two on your property. So, the occasional treatment will help get rid of them with time.

As you continue with the scheduled treatment, its recommended that you take preventive measures that will keep away new infestation. There are number things that you can do to control a re-infestation.

Proper home maintenance – if you want to make sure you do not get carpenter ants again in your home you need to make sure that all the cracks appearing on your home’s exterior are sealed. Also, check the utility pipes, windows and wires to see if they have openings and seal them as well. Insulating and sealing your home will bar the carpenter ants from getting inside your home.

Also, if there are leaks inside your home, you will need to dry them up and replace all wood that you suspect has been damaged by moisture. If there are plumbing problems causing leaks, make sure you call a plumber to handle all the issue. It’s vital to know that damp and moist areas attract carpenter ants.

Take care of your lawn and trees – make sure your lawn is always well maintained. Also, trim your trees regularly and ensure any overhanging branches are taken care of to avoid creating a path for carpenter ants to enter your house. If there is any dead wood or tree trunks, make sure it’s taken care of and disposed of as these make an ideal place for carpenter ants to create their nests.

Inspect firewood – firewood attracts carpenter ants, and it’s possible to transfer them to your home when you bring in firewood. You should inspect the firewood before bringing it to your home. Stack your firewood far from your house and make sure it does not touch the perimeter wall. Also, the storage place should be elevated to prevent any chances of carpenter ants breeding and nesting. Carpenter ants tend to be drawn to piles of firewood, and it could be the starting point for the infestation.

Inspect regularly – always perform regular checkups to locate leaky pipes and faucets. Check your windows, roofing, and plumbing areas especially under the sinks. Rotting wood and wet environment attract carpenter ants, and they will nest right away. Therefore make sure you keep an eye on moisture exposure and take care of it’s of its source as soon as it’s spotted.

Keep your home clean – carpenter ants feed on a protein-rich diet, crumbs, drops of honey, jelly and any other food residue left on the surface. Clean your house and make sure there are no food residues especially beneath the dishwasher. Take care of garbage both inside and outside. This way you will be able to keep the ants away from your home.

Finding the Right Professional to Get Rid Of Carpenter Ants

If you suspect that you have a large infestation and you are unable to locate the nests and the colonies, you should consider getting a professional. They will do a thorough examination of your property and home using the right equipment to locate all the nests. They are also the best people to evaluate the extent of the infestation and the proper method of treatment to use.

Professionals know the right insecticides and equipment to use that an average person may not know about. They are trained to handle insects and ants and have experience that allows them to identify the kind of infestation you have and the fastest way to get rid of them.

However, it’s vital to note that, most professionals use some extermination methods that will require you vacate your premises temporarily for like a day or two.

Finding the right professional is essential. Remember carpenter ants are difficult to handle and eliminate. You will need to exercise due diligence when searching for the right professional for the extermination job.

Ask around

Asking the people around you like neighbors or friends can help you get a local exterminator who could be convenient for you. You need someone reliable and within your the vicinity to make the occasional visits much easier. Make sure you get enough details about their process of treatment and ask the person giving you recommendations if the methods used on their property were successful.

Take Your Time and Research

Sometimes when people notice that they have an infestation, they may panic and get desperate to have the ants eliminated immediately. However, rush decisions sometimes can be fatal and regrettable.

Take your time and search for someone who is competent, reliable and most importantly experienced. You do not want a scenario where you get re-infestation weeks after treatment was supposedly done. Carpenter ants invasion can be challenging to get rid of, you will need someone who has probably dealt with them before, and they know the best approach to use in a severe infestation situation.

10 Questions to Ask a Carpenter Ants Exterminator

To be certain that you are dealing with the right professional, you need to take time and interview them and find answers that will determine if they are competent. Evaluate their responses carefully to see if they address your concerns professionally.

1. How Long Have Been In Extermination Business?

When dealing with carpenter ants infestation, you do not want a professional who is experimenting for the first time in your property. You need someone who knows their way around their job and has earned enough experience over the years. Ask the person you are about to hire how long they have been in business and how cases of carpenter ants have they handled.

2. Ask For References

You need to hear more about their services from their past clients. Ask them to give you a few contacts for clients they recently served. Contact the references and find out if they were satisfied with the treatment process provided by the professional. Did the professional eliminate the carpenter ants? What methods did they use? The answers you get should guide you towards making the right decision on whether to hire or not.

3. Are They Licensed?

Find out from them if they are licensed by the pest control board in your area or state. You can verify the license by following up with licensing departments. Also, let them give you a copy of their license. A reliable professional will readily provide you with all their credentials even before you ask for them.

4. Ask About Treatment

You need to know what kind of chemicals will be used on your property. The carpenter ants professional should be able to explain the procedure to you and probably show the labels of products they will use to get off the carpenter ants. What type of products are they using, is it gel, dust, or spray? They should also inform you about the amount of treatment to be used and how many applications you will need.

5. Are There Any Precaution Measures I Should Take?

As mentioned earlier, some treatment methods may require you to vacate your home for some time. It could be the treatments are not safe especially in households with young children. Ask the professional to tell you about the precautions you need to take before and after they do the treatment.

6. Ask About Insurance

Find out from the carpenter ants professional exterminator if they have insurance to cover your property and their technicians. Dealing with insecticides and other extermination treatments can be risky. Ensure you get copies of their insurance certificates to ascertain that they are up-to-date and valid.

7. Ask About Their Equipment and Protective Gear

Find out the type of equipment they will be using during the treatment. You also need to know if they are responsible and wear the required protective gear during the treatment process. This will show you that they are organized and professional.

8. Do They Provide A Guarantee For Their Treatment Process?

You need to be assured that the extermination Company will take proper measure to ensure that the carpenter ants infestation in your home and property is eliminated. What steps do they take to prevent a re-infestation? It’s advisable you settle for a company that offers a package with periodic visits after the initial treatment.

9. Are There Any Preparations I Need To Do Before the Treatment Process?

You may be required to clear out clutter or empty your kitchen cabinets. The professional carpenter ants exterminator should give you instructions on what to do before they commence the treatment process.

10. Ask About the Time and Day When They Will Do the Inspection

Ask them when they will do the inspection and how long they expect it to take. Also, find out when they will start the treatment and the duration of the process. This will enable you to schedule your time so that you are present during the inspection and treatment. You will need to be there to make sure they follow the treatment procedure they gave you.

Avoid getting scammed

The extermination industry has dishonest people who will either lie to you about the extent of the infestation or use substandard treatment products that will see you getting a re-infestation a few weeks after their services. You need to be vigilant and careful when searching for someone to get rid of carpenter ants in your home.

Get More Information

You can contact the State Pesticide Regulatory Department organizations like Better Business Bureau and find out if they have received any recent violation case or complaints about the particular company you are about to recruit to eliminate the carpenter ants on your property. If a company has a bad reputation, there are chances that several people have reported them and these organization will give you all the details about their services.

Get Several Estimates

To avoid paying exorbitant costs, get several estimates from different companies and make a price comparison. This way, you will know the average cost that you should pay for the particular service you want. Extremely low quotes could be a sign that the exterminators are not following the right treatment process or they lack proper licensing and insurance. On the other hand, expensive quotes could mean you are just being ripped off. Therefore make an appropriate comparison of price and feel free to ask questions about the terms.

Get Everything in Writing

All the details discussed from pricing to treatment to be used should be put down in writing. Before you sign the contract, make sure the details are correctly captured. If there are extra costs that are likely to come up, they should be included in the agreement.

Avoid Door-To-Door Exterminators

If anyone comes knocking on your door claiming to offer extermination services decline their offer politely. Allowing strangers in your home can be risky. If you need a professional exterminator, follow the right channels and do your research to ensure they have the correct credentials and you know their physical address where you can get them in case you need to do a follow-up.


Carpenter ants infestation can cause a lot of structural damage and can be frustrating to a property owner. If left unchecked, the ants can spread their colonies and make the process of eliminating them hard and costly. However, if the right tools and treatment are employed, the infestation can be controlled.

Once you discover that you have an infestation, you can consult a professional pest control expert to know the right treatment to use. Alternatively, you can get a professional exterminator to do the treatment for you and get rid of the nests and carpenter ants colonies. Make sure you follow the right preventive measures after the treatment process and get occasional visits from a professional to ensure they control a re-infestation.

Let us know what you think of the information provided in this article.