Termite inspections: where do you begin?
Austin M. Frishman, Ph.D.
Great termite inspectors are not born that way. You have to learn to fine tune your skills based on your experiences and the experiences of others in the industry.
Before getting started, make sure you know whether non-native termite species are in your area, and if so, know how to identify them. You’ll also want to indicate the type of inspection you are performing — for wood-destroying insects, wood-destroying organisms or termite species — and always use termite inspection forms permitted in your state or region.
Make sure you can also distinguish differences between:
- Live termite activity
- Dead termites (e.g. old swarmers)
- Signs of termite activity (e.g. mud tubes)
- Conditions conducive for termite activity
Here are some things to look for around the structure:
- Mulch spread too high
- Cracks in the foundation slab
- Vegetation growing too close to the structure
- Siding structures (e.g. shingles) buried in the ground
- Rotting tree stumps nearby
- Large trees with roots that go to the foundation
- Evidence that a previous termite treatment was done
- Termite wings in light fixtures or window ledges
- Form boards left in concrete sidewalks
- Signs of decayed wood replaced with fresh wood
- Signs of termites behind or near the washer and dryer
Water damage can indicate favorable conditions for termites. Some signs of water damage to watch out for include:
- Plants growing from gutters
- Sprinklers that can reach the structure
- Missing downspouts from rain gutters
- Gutters that are too narrow
- Ground slope toward the structure
- A sump pump or french drain that would indicate a high water table
- Peeling paint that indicates a moisture problem
- Water stains or mold
The last thing to watch out for is the sign of a disrupted treatment. Ask these questions:
- Did a nearby river flood and submerge the lawn for several hours or longer?
- Did the roof have a leak? If so, when and where?
- Did plumbing in the house burst or spring a leak?
- Was a well added or relocated close to the structure?
- Was a sewer line recently installed or repaired leading to the structure?
Always leave enough time for a full inspection of the interior and exterior of the structure. Termites are fast workers. They can build two feet of tubing within 24 hours, so be sure to do a thorough job with the inspection to get ahead of them. Taking the time to do the job properly can save costly mistakes.
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