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What Is A Termite Inspection And How Do I Know I Need One?

termite inspection
Little bugs can cause big problems. Here’s when to get a pest inspection.

We all hate them: creepies, crawlers, things that go bump in the night. Bugs can make the brave and brawny jump at the sight of a simple scurry across a kitchen floor. But besides striking fear into your heart, insects can make a dent in your wallet. Termite damage causes more than $5 billion in damage to U.S. homes per year, with treatment costing an average of $3,000 per home. That’s just one reason for homebuyers to seek a pest or termite inspection of their prospective property — any potentially expensive repairs can possibly be negotiated with a seller before the deal on your Sioux Falls, SD, real estate is closed.

What is a pest/termite inspection?

Most larger bonded and insured home inspection companies, as well as smaller ones, offer professional pest control operators (PCOs) who will check a property for the presence not only of termites but also other pests, such as cockroaches, rodents, bedbugs, and fleas. While squeezing into crawl spaces and other areas of the home, a PCO also will evaluate any damage that pests have caused and recommend steps to eliminate the unwanted guests.

The best part about pest and termite inspections? They’re often free or offered at a low cost — making them even more of a no-brainer for someone buying a home. Inspectors are merely presenting a report that says whether they have found any evidence of infestation, what areas of the home need treatment, and what areas could have future problems. If your home requires treatment or repairs and you opt to engage their services, then the inspector’s company can make some money. Also note, an inspection company will usually warranty its past inspections for a time, in case the pests show up again.

If a termite infestation is detected early, the cost of treatment could be as little as $100, but if there’s damage to wood — a substance that subterranean termites particularly adore — in a foundation or wall, the cost of repairs and treatment can be several thousand dollars. Once you’ve purchased a home and it’s free of pests, it’s recommended that you get a pest and termite inspection every year or two, depending on where your home is located. Although a problem across the country, termites are more prevalent in areas with high humidity, such as the Southeast.

How do I know if I need an inspection?

Again, an inspection seems to be a no-brainer for someone in the midst of buying a home. Or perhaps the seller already has had the property inspected recently and can present a report. But for current homeowners, there are several signs that pests are present and need to be eradicated.

As for termites, look for dry rot, which is caused by fungi and also can lead to wood disintegration. Because termites will eat wood from the inside, rot can be tough to detect without some crawling, as an inspector will do. But you can give the wood around your foundation a few occasional stout taps with a flat screwdriver and see if the wood crumbles.

Other signs of termites include mud tubes the size of a drinking straw along cracks, beneath flooring or siding, and in other areas of a home. When termites are eating wood and run into a concrete part of a foundation, they build the mud tubes along the concrete until they have tunneled their way to the next available strip of wood. Also look for dead termites or wings around windows, vents, and doors, or flying termites that swarm near lights and windows (often an early sign that an infestation is about to occur).

As for other pests, including rodents, watch for droppings, half-eaten food items, bad odors, nests, and the sounds of scurrying. The life cycle of many insects that can invade a home, including pantry moths, comprises four stages — egg, larva, pupa, and adult — and a homeowner should be on alert for all of them. Products that are billed as remedies for these other pests, including mousetraps and bug sprays, are sold over the counter for the DIY types. Experts caution, however, that many of those products don’t work and that it’s best to get a professional exterminator instead.

Did you get a pest/termite inspection when buying your home, and did the test reveal any unwanted residents? Share in the comments!

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