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Home Inspection – Termites Are The Most Destructive Pest
Among all the wood-boring insect, termites does the most damage to a house.
But while this number 1 status does give it a cause for concern when discovered in a house, homeowners and buyers generally overreact when confronted with the problem.
This is because it takes years for the average mature colony of termites to do some serious damage. However this does not mean that you should delay taking action on it.
There are over 40 species of termites documented. But 3 main species are most often found to enter a home uninvited:
- Subterranean termites
- Dry-wood termites
- Formosan termites
Of the 3, subterranean termites are the most common while formosan termites are the most destructive.
When infestations are found, always engage a experts to exterminate them professionally. Trust me, you are not equipped to take on this task yourself.
What do termites look like?
Television has embedded the appearance of termites in our minds that is white in color, big head, and 2 pointy horns.
While that is a not a wrong representation of the insect, it’s also not 100% correct. In fact that is just the soldier. And it can look very different than other.
While a pale body is a good indication of a termite. There are also termites that are not noticeably pale.
But if you are suspicious of one, just follow it’s trial until one of it’s soldiers appear. Soldiers are very distinguishable.
Some even have wings that many homeowner are shocked to realize. Termites with wings are usually swarming to start colonies. They can resemble flying ants and do not necessarily pose a danger of infestation. They might come and go without you even noticing.
3 main characteristics will help you determine whether one is an ant or termite. A termite has:
- a straight or curves antenna while an ant has a bent or elbow-like antenna
- a thick body as if there is no waist while an ant will have a narrow waist
- wings in symmetry while ant might have wings that differ in size and shape
A quick observation should help you differentiate them as long as you know what to look for.
Signs of termites
Here are some ways to look for sign of termites during home inspection.
As obvious as this sounds, it is not as simple as it sounds.
This is because these pests usually reside in particular spaces seldom moving off to other areas. This means that the whole house can look free of them, yet they are thriving in a little corner under the house.
Yes! The crawl space!
This is common for houses built elevated from the ground.
So the task of exploring the house and crawling into tight spaces for inspection can be a tough one. It better to hire an inspector to do it.
However, as mentioned before, it takes a long time before they can cause significant damage. When termite colonies are found, the overall damage is minor and can easily be fixed or replaced.
Seldom will the devastation be so bad that it causes structural problems to a house. If you need peace of mind, consult a professional.
I don’t think that it’s wrong to say that ants are nature’s first engineers. They have this knack of building mega-structures in the open as if to taunt us to go one better.
This arrogance is their downfall as workers usually build tunnels in the form of shelter tubes to protect themselves from light and to conserve moisture.
These function as passageways that connect the ground and food supply. And they can usually be found on the exterior of wood framing, foundation walls, and even audaciously freestanding in open areas linking the ground and a structure above.
An active termite tube will have termites making the rounds almost 24/7. If you break the tube, they would immediately start repairing the hole.
If you find none of these pests after punching a hole in the tube, it does not necessary mean that the colony has migrated to your neighbors. They might be in the house! Or another corner!
Maybe they had got smarter and built a tube concealed within the walls!
Pest control professionals usually still recommend that termite-proofing still be done if they find an abandoned tube.
Common prone areas
If you are intent on inspecting for termites yourself, here are some common areas they reside.
- Basement walls and windowsills
- Garage door frames
- Back door frames
- Wooden steps on decks
- Wood sills
- Trims on foundation walls
- Areas around the heating system
- Any piping that pass through foundation
- And any wood framing close to or in contact with earth
Be sure to investigate wall areas covered and hidden by shrubbery.
Probe suspected deteriorated wood
When you find a piece, plank, or section of wood that looks suspiciously deteriorated, gently tap with a metal object to hear for hollow sounds.
It would depend on you whether to go further than just knocking.
Termites can consume wood from the side up to the paint. So sometimes some extra pressure on it can cause it to break.
If what you discovered encourages you to probe further, and you are perfectly fine with damaging that section of wood, try probing it with a screwdriver with one swift and firm action.
If the wood has not been destroyed by termites, there would be little penetration. And if the wood has been attacked and at this point defective, the screwdriver should pierce deeply into the wood.
Just remember not to leave the screwdriver there with your hand on the handle if there are indeed termites. These creepy crawlies will run up your arm before you know it.
Frass is just a fancy word to describe their droppings (shit).
Dry-wood termites do not live in the ground and prefer to make home inside the wall. And maybe for hygiene factors, they do their business outside their home. Often in the open.
When you find a collection of white poop-looking stuff in a particular corner of the house, touch them at your own risk. They could be frass and a clear indication of dry-wood termites.
Treating termite infestations
Now that we have discussed some of the common signs of termites, it’s only appropriate to show you some of the common ways pest control companies use to exterminate them.
Also take note that the method of treatment will also depend on the species of termites discovered and the extent of the infestation in a house.
Chemical treatment of soil
This is executed by injecting chemical pesticides into the soil through walls on the basement and floors. This creates a chemical barrier against them.
In row and cluster housing, the entire building has to be treated so as to prevent termites entering a house via the house next door.
Fumigation basically is a method of sealing a house and it’s rooms with canvas tarps. A fumigant is released which will penetrate wood timbers and thereby eliminating termites.
The whole procedure can take up to 3 days. Sometimes even longer.
Poison bait stations
This is the typical delicious poison food left in a bait trap. Obnoxious termites will arrive thanking their lucky stars and start consuming the poison which has a delayed effect.
They get infected and transfer the poison to the rest of the colony. It would be like a zombie apocalypse.
This is more of a DIY way of managing the problem.
Termiticides can be purchased from stores. They come in liquid form in container bottles and sometimes in a spray bottle.
It is basically applied to the perimeter of a house to create a barrier against the pests.
exposed wood can be treated with a borate solution that is toxic to termites
This is as literally as it sounds. Equipment is used to heat up wood walls to kill them.
Costs of termite treatment
As you might expect, this is a question that has an answer that depends. It depends on how big the problem is and the choice or appropriate treatment type to undergo.
But there are some expenses you can generally expect to pay:
- Termite baiting system – up to $500 for DIY advanced systems, and around $2,500 for pros to do it
- Termiticide – up to $3/oz for DIY
- Chemical treatment – up to $15 per linear foot, usually run up to around $1,500 per treatment
- Fumigation – Average costs of about $2,000 and more likely to go up rather than down
- Heat extermination – up to $1/sqft of the house
Some pest control companies charge by a per square foot basis while others charge by area blocks. Some even do a one-time fixed fee. But usually, professionals will not quote a price until they can get the staff to arrive at the location for a situation assessment.
Then there are those who seem like affordable pest control companies when they offer free termite inspections knowing that you would inevitably need to take action when they are found.
The companies wouldn’t tell you how to get rid of termites but would provide the service to exterminate them. And if you don’t hire them, they will withhold their findings and instead charge you about $150 for a termite inspection report.
There is also something called a termite bond. This is like an insurance policy for termites. You pay the pest experts an annual fee of up to $300 and they conduct regular inspections and treatments. Should any part of the house suffer damage for termites, the company would reimburse you for the costs of repairs and replacements.