Home Inspections—The Trouble With Termites

By: David Haigh

What do teenagers and termites have in common? They’ll both eat you out of house and home. The difference is, termites do it literally by doing serious damage to wood structures.

Termites invite themselves into your home, but you may not know it. If they go unnoticed for a long time, they can cause tremendous damage. When your home inspector conducts his inspection, a home inspection engineer should thoroughly check for evidence of termites. Your mortgage lender may ask for a clear termite certificate.

If termites are discovered, an anti-termite chemical, or termiticide treatment, or a termite baiting system will be needed to get rid of them. A licensed professional engineer may then be necessary to design repair procedures for the damaged structures.

Though there are different types of termites, it’s the subterranean termites that make their home in the ground near a source of moisture, warmth, and wood. They send workers to find food for their colony, and they start in the lower parts of your home.

Food for ttermites is any source of cellulose, such as the wooden framing of your home, wooden flooring materials, and sub-flooring. They also like paper on sheetrock walls, newspapers, magazines and just about anything that contains cellulose.

Here are a few steps to lower the chances of termite infestation. Make sure there is no wood to earth contact of any parts of your home. Don’t allow landscape chips from flower beds to come in contact with your home’s siding. Keep gutters and their extensions clean so water can drain away from the building. This is a good idea for several other reasons as well, but don’t invite termites with a moist environment.

Some homes are at greater risk of termite problems. For example, slab on grade homes with radiant floor heating are a natural breeding ground for termites. If you own a home with radiant floor heating, a wise maintenance procedure is to periodically have inspections done by a competent and qualified exterminator.

Detecting termites is difficult because termites eat out the inside of wooden beans, leaving the outer shell. Signs of termite damage include the following:

* A termite swarm flying or crawling around your property

* Damaged wood, especially pulp or saw dust around the house or under wooden overhangs

* Termite shelter tubes—sand colored tubes about the thickness of a pencil

* Change in sounds, such as woodwork that sounds hollow when struck or you hear extra creaks in floors

The best time to inspect for termites is in the spring and fall of the year. Any inspection should thoroughly check the basement, crawl spaces, and upper floors as well.

If you’re planning to buy a home, you could find yourself in serious trouble by moving heavy furniture into an area where termites have damaged flooring. A home inspection can determine the extent of termite damage and whether major repairs or replacement is required for flooring or other structures.

The possibility of termite trouble is one more critical reason to have a home inspected before you either buy or sell.