Do I Need a Termite Inspection?
Before you buy a house, have it inspected thoroughly for termites. (Photo courtesy of Angie’s List member Bryce N. of Berkeley, Calif.)
Termites commonly cause problems in homes, but it's not always easy to detect an infestation. Getting a routine termite inspection from a professional exterminator will ensure your home stays termite free.
There are four main types of termites — dampwood, drywood, Formosan and subterranean — and they thrive in different climates. Termites eat 24 hours a day, seven days a week, and cause major damage to your home and surrounding structures.
How to do a termite inspection
The easiest way to know you have termites is to see them. To find termites, search the damp areas of your home, especially around wood. You may also find swarms of them around windows and other parts of your home after rainfall. If so, contact a pest control service immediately to combat the problem.
Termites create mud tunnels when they can't eat a certain substance. For example, if termites feeding on a wood beam in your home discover concrete, they create a mud tunnel to follow until they find another source of food. You can also find mud tunnels in your foundation. The tunnels, which are about the size of a pencil wide, point to a termite problem. If you find a mud tunnel, you should hire an exterminator to inspect your home.
Lastly, the most common sign that you have termites is wood damage. This can be hard to detect because termites destroy the inner parts of the wood and don't always leave markings on the outside. If wood damage is severe, it may start to show darkening or blistering on the outside. Routinely poking woodwork with a screwdriver to see if it crumbles is a great way to check for termites on your own between inspections. If you find that the wood crumbles or shows odd signs of damage, you should call someone immediately to investigate the source and severity of the problem.
How often to get a termite inspection
Termite inspections play a vital role in keeping your home safe and well maintained. Many home inspections include termite inspection, but if yours doesn't, make sure to have one done when purchasing a home. Once that initial inspection is done, it doesn't mean you are forever in the clear. You should still receive routine termite inspections to make sure your home isn't infested and to gain valuable information on how to prevent one.
You should have an expert come out once a year to check for termites and termite damage. He or she will check the interior and exterior of your home, as well as basements and crawlspaces. The professional may also inspect your attic. A termite inspection, depending on the size of the home, takes about 30 to 45 minutes. Once the inspector completes the inspection, he or she will review the findings with you and go over any necessary treatment or preventative measures that you should take. Doing this regularly will ensure your home stays termite free for years to come.
Editor's note: This is an updated version of an article originally posted on Nov. 30, 2012.