Worried about termites? You aren’t alone. According to Orkin Pest Control, these wood-destroying insects damage approximately 600,000 homes in the U.S. each year, and homeowners spend an estimated $5 billion annually on termite prevention and repairs.
Termites can cause significant damage to homes, and colonies are active 24/7. Not only can they destroy furniture, flooring and personal belongings, they can compromise the structural integrity of your home and cause ceilings and floors to collapse.
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See signs of termite activity? Here’s what you need to know about termite inspections — and what it’ll cost you.
— What is a termite inspection?
— How much does a termite inspection cost?
— What do termite inspectors look for?
— Do I need a termite inspection?
— Tips to prevent a termite infestation.
What Is a Termite Inspection?
A termite inspection is performed by an experienced technician who inspects the interior and exterior of your home for signs of activity and infestations from subterranean and drywood termites. The inspector will check your attic, crawl space and basement. They’ll also check anything that’s made of wood — baseboards, window frames, door frames and cabinets — as well as closets, bathrooms, kitchens and utility rooms. Outside of your home, the inspector will examine any wooden structures, wood fences, piles of wood or firewood, wood mulch and cracks in expansion joints and brick.
Some companies don’t require any prep work before doing an inspection, but others may ask that you make sure key areas of your home are easily accessible. The termite inspection can take anywhere from 30 minutes to more than an hour, depending on the size of the property and whether the technician finds signs of termite damage.
How Much Does a Termite Inspection Cost?
When buying or selling a home, you may need to pay for a termite inspection separate from the regular home inspection. According to HomeAdvisor, the average cost of a termite inspection is $100, but it ranges between $75 and $325. This may include the inspection as well as a termite letter confirming the inspection to a mortgage lender.
However, several pest control companies, like Orkin and Terminix, offer free inspections to determine if your home has an infestation. The cost of an annual inspection is also typically free.
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What Do Termite Inspectors Look For?
There are several signs that inspectors look for during a termite inspection. While some may be obvious, others are difficult for homeowners to spot on their own. This is why regular inspections are important to have every one to two years.
— Mud tubes. Subterranean termites carve out small tunnels from their nest to a nearby food source to protect themselves from predators and prevent dehydration. These tubes are made out of wood and soil and are typically found on the exterior of walls or wood beams.
— Damaged wood. Termites can significantly damage your wood’s structural joints. If there are termites, the wood will look crushed and sound hollow when you knock on it. You can easily check this by using a screwdriver to expose tunnels within the wood.
— Frass. “Frass or termite droppings is a sign of drywood termites and has a hard, gritty feel to it,” explains Scot Hodges, A.C.E. certified entomologist and vice president of professional development and technical services at Arrow Exterminators, headquartered in Atlanta. Frass is often found around active areas, like baseboards or doorframes.
— Swarms. When termites are looking for a nesting area or mating, they fly in swarms. This happens when it gets warm outside or when a colony matures.
— Piles of wings. Hodges says termite wings, which are shed once a swarm nests, are thin and papery and can be found near window sills or on the floor.
— Bubbling or buckling paint. Inspectors will look for areas of paint that look bubbled or cracked, Hodges says. As termites damage drywall, moisture and air can get underneath the paint. This isn’t always a sign of termite activity, but it’s something to look out for.
— Live termites. Every termite species looks different, and they can be difficult to spot. A certified technician can easily tell if an insect inside or around your home is a live termite.
Do I Need a Termite Inspection?
Your state or mortgage lender may require a termite inspection or wood destroying insect inspection report if you buy or sell a home or refinance your mortgage. As of June 2022, the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs requires WDI inspections for all VA loans in areas where termite infestation probability is moderate to very heavy.
A termite inspection is not required outside of real estate transactions, but it is recommended. Many pest control companies waive the termite inspection fee for annual inspections. “Have your home inspected annually by a licensed pest professional who specializes in termite control,” Hodges says. “If you have termite protection, it’s important to maintain your coverage and renew annually.”
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Tips to Prevent a Termite Infestation
Termites are difficult to control, but homeowners can take steps to prevent an infestation. Hodges advises homeowners to keep moisture away from the home’s foundation and keep moisture levels down in crawl spaces using proper ventilation. “Divert water from the house using proper downspouts and gutters,” he says. “Termites are attracted to moisture.”
Don’t stack firewood or lumber by the side of your home and remove old tree stumps from the yard, Hodges adds. Also, make sure you don’t slack on your landscaping. “Keep tree branches and shrubbery well-trimmed and away from the house, which will also help with inspections and finding termite infestations. Additionally, avoid excess piles of mulch since this is a favorite food source for termites.”
When left unchecked, termites can wreak havoc on your home. If you notice any signs of termite activity, contact a reputable pest control professional to inspect your property.
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Termite Inspections: Cost and What to Expect originally appeared on usnews.com