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Termite Inspection

Whether as a home buyer, a home seller, or a long-term homeowner, the time will come when you will need to do a termite inspection.  The minuet creatures can cause a lot of damage and, if you have them, you want to know it so that you can do something about it.  Professional pest control is advised by most experts in the field.  Though you can do your own inspection and treatment, there are too many opportunities to make mistakes.  Die hard do-it-yourselfers can rise to the challenge, but only after thorough research.  Either way you go, there are some things you should know.

What do termites look like?
Termite InspectionThe University of Wisconsin Insect Diagnostic Lab describes two types of termites: “Worker termites look like small cream colored ants. They do not have the pinched waist of an ant, and their antennae are straight and bead like and not bent or “elbowed” as they are in ants. Workers are only found if tubes are broken or infested wood is opened up. The winged termites (swarmers) are dark brown to black and have long clear wings that break off easily.1  If you see anything like this around your vents, ducts, or wooden structures, you know you need a full scale termite inspection.

Termite damage
Termite InspectionOften, it won’t be a termite sighting that will let you know that you need a termite inspection; it will be the damage that they leave in their wake.  What does this damage look like?  The damage is easier to see than the villains themselves.  Sometimes mistaken for rotten wood instead of termite infested wood, the University of Massachusetts describes termite damage, along with ant damage (which people get confused):

You may see tunnels or you may not see damage at all. Wood may appear crushed at structural bearing points. Damaged wood resonates with a dull hollow thud when tapped with a hammer. If you pick open damaged wood with a penknife you’ll expose tunnels running parallel to the wood's grain. They are messy. This is one way to determine if you have ants or termites. Termite galleries are filled with soil, chewed wood and excrement. Ant tunnels are meticulously clean.2

Experts warn that if you can see the damage the termites have done while doing your own preliminary termite inspection, that the termites may have been present anywhere from two to ten years or more.  If you see this kind of damage, it might be a good idea to pay for a professional termite inspection so that you can get more information.  At that point, you can determine whether not it is a good idea to take it on as a do-it-yourself project.   If you decide to take it on, you must not put it at the bottom to your to-do list.  You need to get the termite treatment done immediately.

What are the primary areas for termite inspection?
Termite inspections need to take place in the following areas: basement and crawl spaces, under decks and porches, window sills, support posts, cracks in cement, expansion joints and wooden exterior areas.  Exterior areas that need termite inspections include old tree stumps, wooden posts, and wooded storage units and work areas.

2 Building Materials and Wood Technology, University of Massachusetts, Controlling Carpenter Ants and Termites, <>, 2006.


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