Termites are the number one cause of home damage in the United States. They do more damage each year than fires, floods, tornados and hurricanes combined. Termites are the best-organized enemy you’ll ever face. They are tough, determined and highly efficient. Chances are that you won’t see evidence of their work until structural damage has been done. There can be as many as 13 to 14 subterranean termite colonies per acre. Each colony can contain as many as one million termites and they are able to travel up to 130 feet from the colony.
The presence of swarmer termites or alates, which resemble flying ants, is a strong indication that termites are infesting a structure and it should be inspected immediately. Subterranean termites are quite common in most of the U.S. with increasing activity and abundance in the southern states and warmer climates. Termite infestation is no reason to panic, modern control techniques are quite safe and effective and termites work relatively slowly.
Subterranean termites, which are the most common in Missouri, need constant moisture and protection from the elements and predators. Termites may tunnel through softer surfaces such as drywall, paint and carpet padding even though they are not edible. Termites spend most of their time underground in their colony or foraging for food. Whenever termites come above ground, they build “shelter tubes” or “mud tubes” made from bits of mud, saliva and feces. Termite shelter tubes may be visible on infested wood or traversing impervious surfaces between the soil and wood such as concrete foundations, pipes and drywall. These termite shelter tubes keep the moisture inside the tunnel system and provide protection from predators. Termite shelter tubes can sometimes be seen going up concrete foundation walls in basements and crawlspaces, up exterior foundation walls, in cracks behind door jambs, along floor joists or in the hollow voids of concrete blocks.
Because termite evidence is often hidden for many years before it is detected, behind insulation, boxes, stored items, vegetation, fixed walls, ceiling areas and drywall; it sometimes takes a well trained eye to spot termite activity. We recommend a professional termite inspection at least once a year.
Concrete slab homes and homes with additions are often the places where termites are overlooked because of the lack of unfinished areas. Often significant damage can be done before termites are detected. Sometimes termites are not detected until small bits if mud or shelter tubes are seen protruding through drywall, wallpaper or ceilings.
In most cases the buyer of the property is responsible for arranging the termite inspection, paying for the report and choosing the inspecting company. Should treatment be needed it is generally the responsibility of the owner to arrange for treatment by the company of their choice and pay for treatment. Homes bought with cash, at auction or under other circumstances may not require a termite inspection; however, it is still highly recommended as it may prevent further damage if there is activity or just to provide piece of mind that there is no infestation.
Real estate termite inspections are inspections that should be performed by an experienced, licensed termite inspector. These termite reports are often required by lending institutions such as banks, mortgage companies and refinance companies. Sometimes called a termite report, a WDI (Wood Destroying Insect), WDO (Wood Destroying Organism) or other real estate inspection report; it should also reveal infestations of any wood destroying organism in the structure. You may also hear these reports called termite letters or certification letters. These are not the same as “free” termite inspections which are often undocumented. In Missouri, a termite report is usually done on standard NPMA-33 termite report form. We’ll do a thorough inspection for past or present signs of wood destroying insects such as subterranean termites, carpenter ants, carpenter bees, and wood destroying beetles as well as provide recommendations for treatment. Even if you’ve already had a termite report done, our low cost wood destroying insect reports allow you to get a “second opinion” to ensure that the findings are accurate.
For subterranean termite activity, a thorough inspection should be done of the foundation. This usually starts with a check of the outside foundation for termite shelter tubes or wood that may shows signs of termite infestation. The basement or crawlspace should be checked, examining the sill plate, band board, and floor joists for weak spots, termite damage, or termite shelter tubes. Any insulation blocking view of the wood members will hinder the inspection however it can usually be moved aside. The other floors should also be checked for termite shelter tubes on baseboards, door and window frames, and walls. If possible the attic should be checked, occasionally subterranean termites may work their way to the attic without any visible signs in other areas.
Although Dry Wood Termites can not survive in Missouri for any length of time, they may be imported from different states and require a different procedure. Dry wood termites don’t require contact with the soil and can exist in wall studs, ceilings, furniture, and other wood. Other possible infestations include carpenter ants, carpenter bees, various wood infesting beetles and wood destroying fungus.
A wood destroying organism infestation report usually covers only readily accessible areas. Areas where evidence or damage is hidden are not included in the report and inaccessible areas should be described on the report. Inaccessible areas may include crawlspaces or parts of crawlspaces that may be too low for access, crawlspaces with no access point, blocked or sealed crawlspace and attic openings, areas behind fixed wall and ceiling coverings and areas obscured by dense vegetation. If you are buying a property, you should consider being present when the termite report is being done and make sure that there is access to crawlspaces for inspection.
Types of termite treatment may include conventional liquid soil treatment, termite bait and monitoring systems and fumigation or “tenting”(Dry Wood Termites) performed by a professional pest control company. The subterranean termite found in the U.S. can be controlled in a number of ways. Chemical barrier treatment is still the most common way to treat subterranean termite infestations. A trained technician will apply either a repellent or non-repellent termiticide formula to the foundation of the structure. The idea is to place the chemical in all areas that termites could enter the structure. Not all treatment options are available for all structure types or conditions.
Another termite treatment option is termite bait and monitoring systems. These systems use bait stations baited with small pieces of wood. These stations are inspected periodically and when activity is found, the wood is replaced with slow acting bait designed to reduce the number of the termites in the colony or eliminate the colony all together. A termite inspection will allow the termite control professional to determine the best treatment method for each situation.