Everyone has heard of termites and at least knows someone who has a story about them. The story is never good. It’s one of those things that we never think about until it happens then we wonder, “Why me”. Termites are just about everywhere in the world. There are different types of termites in different parts of the world. Here in the USA, we deal with about three species. Around North Carolina and north we deal with eastern subterranean termites, which will be the focus of this blog.
Eastern subterranean termites live in the soil. The move freely underground foraging looking for food. They are an important part of the Eco system tasked with breaking down wood. The way I like to visualize it is, you see ants all the time running about all over the ground. Well, termites do the same thing but under the ground.
Termites eat the sugar in wood called cellulose. It’s found in all wood types. An average colony can eat a standard 2x4x8 in a year. The problem is they don’t just focus on one stud then move to the next one. They damage several at a time. Termites damage wood slowly, but move very quickly, building shelter tubes at a rate of an inch and a half per hour. The shelter tub is made from surrounding material and mud. They use it for protection from sun light, air, predators and turn it into a super highway. I have seen some shelter tubes as large as my wrist. Most shelter tubes are the diameter of a #2 pencil.
Oh yes, I know. Your house is okay. You know you don’t have termites because it made of brick and you have it inspected when you bought it. You can stop reading now and just go to the end where my phone number is. You’re going to need it. Now, for everyone else, it doesn’t matter what your house is made of outside. Stone, brick, steel, concrete, treated lumber, EFIS, stucco or any other type. Having a metal termite shield at your sill plate won’t help either. Termites can build that mud tube over anything. They come up under the slab or footer of your home and forage until they find wood. Almost all homes in this area still use wood studs. If you use metal studs great. Drywall has cellulose in it, which isn’t good. Your inspection you had back when you bought the house was only effective for 30-days. The pre-treatment you had performed by the builder when you had your home built at best lasts 1-2 years tops. I know it’s guaranteed for five years. Good luck with that.
So. With all this good news, what do you do? First thing is to relax. You need to have a termite inspection performed. It should be free and I will give you some tips. Do not call a large company like Terminix, Orkin, Western, Ehrlich or Home Paramount. They send out sales people with little to no experience of termites and their only goal is to sell you something. Ask around. We all have a network of neighbors, friends and family. See who’s using who and if they are happy.
TIPS FOR SCHEDULING YOUR TERMITE INSPECTION
- Call the company and pay attention to how you are treated when they answer the phone.
- Schedule the inspection for a day you will be home.
- Request that the inspecting company send out someone that has performed termite treatments to perform the inspection.
- You should walk with them and watch them closely. Any reputable company/specialist shouldn’t mind your involvement in the inspection process. If you are asked to let them walk around without you, consider moving on to another company.
When they arrive they should ask you a few questions like:
- “How long have you lived here?”
- “Has your home, to your knowledge, ever been treated for termites in the past?”
- They will need to inspect the basement/crawl space and the outside perimeter of the home at a minimum.
- Garages also need to be inspected.
- If you can’t see the wall the inspector can’t see the wall unless, the inspector is armed with a thermal imager. Thermal imagers allow us to see heat behind the walls. Termites maintain a constant temperature of about 86 degrees. The imager can detect termites hiding behind a wall that 99% of inspectors without one would miss. I would highly recommend using a company that uses thermal imagers as part of their inspection process. If a pest control company says they never heard of that, simply move on to the next one.
Outside the inspector should check the perimeter of the home.
They should flip over rocks, dig in the mulch and dirt and really looking for something.
They should also look for water issues. Leaking pipes, gutter and standing water. Termites need moisture constantly.
If the inspector finds something they should show it to you.
Know what termites look like before the inspector comes out. I hate to say it but a lot of people are taken advantage of because they just don’t know what a termite looks like.
Suggested read: Tell the difference between flying ants and termites
POST INSPECTION TIPS
- After the inspection the inspector should explain everything they found or didn’t find and answer all of your questions.
What questions should you ask?
- What type of termite materials do you use?
- Where would you need to drill and why?
- Do you have references that I can call in my area?
- How long have you been performing termite treatments?
If you have termites I would schedule one or two more inspections with other companies. I wouldn’t do more than three. You will start to confuse the treatments and programs between them. Next week I will discuss how to select the right treatment and company.
Bryan W. Guderjohn
ATC Termite & Pest Control – CEO