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termite inspection

Termite Inspection

Termites can destroy your home if you're not careful. Here's what you need to know about them.

[Updated: Mar 04, 2021 ] Apr 28, 2020 by Maurie Backman
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When you own a home, there are countless problems that might ensue that cost you money. Your roof could spring a leak, your heating system could start to fail in the heart of winter, or your water heater could suddenly go kaput. But if there's one issue you really don't want to encounter, it's termite damage. Here, we'll review the signs of termites in your home, discuss the termite inspection process, and tell you what you can do to prevent termites from destroying your property.

What are termites?

Termites are insects that feast on wood, and they can be cream-colored, brown, or black. There are different species of termites you might encounter:

  • Subterranean termites, which live in an underground colony. These termites build mud tubes -- small pieces of soil and wood that resemble crusted, dried dirt -- to gain access to food, and they're the most destructive termite species in the U.S.
  • Dampwood termites, which infest wood that has a high moisture content. These termites are larger than most other termite species.
  • Drywood termites, which infest areas of dry or dead wood.

Because termites are generally clear in color, they can be hard to spot if you're not trained to look for them. Though they're sometimes confused with carpenter ants, they're capable of causing a lot more damage in a much shorter time frame. In fact, many people who call a termite inspector do so not because they've seen insects in their home but because they've seen the damage termites are capable of causing.

Signs of termite activity in your home

Termites can live on your property for a long time without you being any the wiser. Here are some signs of termites you should be aware of:

  • Damaged, rotted wood, or wood with visible holes in it.
  • Buckling in your wood floors.
  • Wood that sounds hollow or produces an echo when tapped.
  • Discolored drywall.
  • Chipped or bubbling paint, which may look comparable to water damage.
  • Loose flooring.
  • Squeaky floorboards.
  • Mud tubes along the foundation of your home.
  • Clusters of termite wings near entry points like doors and windows.

If you notice any of these signs in your home, it pays to call a termite exterminator immediately.

What to expect during a termite inspection

There are a number of pest control services that will assess your home for termites and provide treatment to mitigate the problem. It's important that you prepare for a termite inspection by moving items away from walls in high-clutter or storage areas like garages and attics. It also helps to remove any items you're storing beneath sinks.

Your termite inspector will then examine your home for:

  • Termite droppings or mud tubes.
  • Damaged or hollow wood.
  • Cracks in your foundation or any other damage to your home's structure.
  • Access points for termites, including door frames, deck or porch supports, or unscreened attic vents.

Once done, you should receive a termite inspection report summarizing your inspector's findings. That report should include recommendations for termite protection and treatment.

How to treat termites and termite damage

There are different treatment methods an exterminator can use to rid your home of termites and the damage they're capable of causing:

  • Bait stations can be placed strategically throughout your home to attract termites. These products typically contain pesticide that poisons termites and causes colonies to die out.
  • Termite insecticide can be sprayed along the perimeter of your home and onto your soil. This will prevent termites from getting inside.
  • Structural fumigation where the home is tented and then a fumigant is released through the house. This is generally used for drywood termites and the entire process takes several days.

Now you may be worried that these termite treatments could pose a hazard for you and your family, but when used properly, bait and insecticide can be quite safe. It's for this reason, however, that it pays to call in a professional for termite treatment rather than attempt to tackle the problem yourself.

Of course, these methods may help address your termite problem, but they won't address any structural damage caused by them. For that, be prepared to hire a contractor who can handle repairs like foundation cracks or flooring replacement.

How to prevent termites

In addition to mitigating an existing termite problem, it's important that you prevent those insects from coming back. To that end, you can:

  • Repair plumbing leaks so the ground near your home stays dry, which will keep termites away.
  • Use termite-resistant wood on structures like decks and porches.
  • Cover openings outside your home, like vents, with steel mesh that termites can't get through.
  • Point sprinkler heads away from your home's foundation to avoid moisture buildup.

How much does a termite inspection and treatment cost?

The amount you'll spend to rid yourself of a termite problem with depend on a number of factors:

  • The size of your property.
  • The severity of your termite problem.
  • The number of treatments required to get rid of those pesky insects.

HomeAdvisor (NASDAQ: ANGI) reports that homeowners pay an average of $557 for termite control services, but for a larger property with a substantial infestation, you could be looking at a much higher number. It pays to get quotes from different pest control companies to ensure that you're spending a reasonable amount. Also, before you hire an exterminator, ask what happens if any initial treatment efforts don't work. Will you have to pay for a repeat treatment a few months down the line, or will you be entitled to that follow-up service for free?

Of course, the amount you spend to fix termite damage is a different story. There, you could, unfortunately, be looking at thousands of dollars to repair the destruction those insects have already caused.

Termites can be found all over the U.S., and often, homeowners don't know they have a problem until it's too late. If you want to lower your risk of that happening, consider having a yearly termite inspection, even if you're not seeing any signs of termite activity or damage. In fact, it pays to have a pest control service come in to inspect not just for termites but for any other destructive insects that could wind up damaging your property. It's even recommended to secure a termite bond shortly after or before purchasing. Getting ahead of a potential problem could save you a world of money -- and stress.

Termites aren't the only pests that can cause problems. For more information, check out the following guides:

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Maurie Backman has no position in any of the stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool has no position in any of the stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.