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Termites cause billions of dollars in damage to homes every year, more than almost any other cause. Whether you’re looking to buy a new house or maintain one you’ve had for years, a timely inspection may make the difference between a cheap, decisive extermination and prolonged, expensive repair.
Termites are tiny insects that are present almost anywhere in the world. They most often make their home in the ground, similar to ants, but several species will burrow into wood, also. They make no distinction between the wood of a stump or fallen tree and the wood of a human home. If they find an appealing beam or rafter in your house, they’ll dig into it like any other wood. They’re individually miniscule, but a termite colony can have many thousands or even millions of members, and it won’t take long for a large group to make short work of portions of your house.
Why You Need a Termite Inspection
A casual review will generally not reveal a termite infestation. They’re very small and stick to dark places in cracks and underground. The insects eat wood from the inside out, meaning that by the time you do start noticing readily apparent structural damage it’s probably just the tip of the iceberg. This makes noticing them with the untrained eye very unlikely.
Repairing termite damage is difficult and often requires tearing apart entire sections of a house. Unfortunately, this is the only way to ensure all the damage is found and all the termites destroyed.
The only way to prevent this level of severity is to strike with overwhelming force the moment they start chewing away at your house. To do that, you’ll have to keep a watchful eye out for any sign of infestation. A thorough home termite inspection should be performed at least once a year by a trained professional. However, you can perform your own reviews in between professional inspections.
What to Look For
There are a few telltale signs that indicate the presence of a termite colony:
- Discarded wings that look like little brown or white flakes
- Pencil-sized mud tubes or papery mud coverings constructed to protect the termites from the elements
- Droppings that will resemble small, sand-like grains of sawdust
- Crumbling or rotting wood
- Tiny holes dug into wood, drywall, or sheetrock
- Solid surfaces that feel spongy and give in to pressure easily
Where to Look
Termites can make their home wherever there’s an ample supply of exposed, untreated wood. However, there are a few termite hotspots you should always be sure to check:
- The Attic—This area is usually wood-framed, dark, and out of sight; prime territory for a colony. Even if you don’t have a dedicated attic area, the eaves of your roof and ceiling are still vulnerable. The top of your house is especially tempting if it leaks when it rains, softening the wood and providing a water source.
- The Deck—Your porch, pergola, and deck are all appetizing termite targets, all the more so since they’re usually pure wood and outside. Be sure to give extra attention to the support beams that are out of sight and built into the ground. Use treated wood in these structures to minimize risk.
- The Yard—Sheds, woodpiles, and fallen vegetation are all fair game to termites. Clean up fallen branches and trees, and monitor other outdoor wood sources that serve as staging areas for termites. Be sure to keep an eye on any outdoor structures, including doghouses, carports, and tool sheds.
- The Basement—Typically darker and damper than the rest of the house, termites find basements especially attractive. The support beams of your house are usually around here, so take extra care in inspecting this area. Keeping your basement dry and uncluttered will make it less attractive to termites.
- Crawlspaces—These are often overlooked because they’re difficult for people to look at and get into. Termites, however, have no problem getting into crawlspaces, especially if they’re built directly into the earth. The bugs will happily dig straight from their underground colonies into these areas.
Though these are the most common termite locations, they’re by no means the only places the bugs will take up residency. It’s a good idea to give these areas extra attention, but don’t get complacent just because you find no termites in these five locations. The only way to be safe is to monitor your whole house.
The moment you come across evidence of termite presence, contact an exterminator immediately to confirm your suspicions and take aggressive action.
Professional Termite Inspections
Though doing frequent inspections on your own is advisable, they shouldn’t replace a professional termite inspection. Termite control experts know to look in places you’d never even think of, and have the tools to detect termites that would otherwise go unnoticed. Make sure they have easy access to the five termite hotspots when you call them in.
If there is an infestation, inspectors will typically have the tools on hand to handle most situations. They have access to chemicals and equipment that average homeowners don’t. Amateur application of store-bought pesticides can work sometimes. However, it will rarely have the effectiveness and efficiency of professionally applied industrial chemicals.
Pest control experts are available wherever termites are, and there’s probably one closer than you think. Exterminators realize the importance of haste when dealing with these destructive creatures, so get in touch with one right away. And don’t be surprised if they come take care of your problem within a day.