Q: We have lived in our older (80-year-old) home for over 30 years. We’ve had yearly termite inspections with only clean reports. How important is it to keep up with yearly inspections?
The cost now tops $300 annually and includes basically a 15-minute flashlight check of crawl space and basement. How likely are we to develop termite problems at this point in the life of this house?
A: A lot depends on where you are located. Southern and coastal states have higher concentrations of termites than states further north. Termites are found in 49 of the 50 states, with Hawaii having higher concentrations. Alaska does not experience termite infestation.
Because I live in an area that has high concentrations of termite infestation, I advise my clients that you either have termites or you will get termites. Educate yourself on where and what to look for. A Google search turned up several sites that are helpful in identifying termites and where they are most often found.
Subterranean termites live in the soil and forage day and night for cellulose, their major food source. Because the subterranean termite must maintain a damp environment, they create shelter tubes that are connected to the soil. During an inspection we may find the tubes meandering up a foundation wall until it reaches the wood structure of the home or garage.
In coastal and Southern states there are drywood termites, which can live inside a damp or wet piece of wood above the soils and are more difficult to locate. Drywood termites do not have to return to the soil or be connected to the soils to survive.
You can inspect the home yourself using a high beam flashlight, making sure to look behind and under items on the floor and use a screwdriver to probe wood trim on all walls that rest on a foundation. This is a simplification of where termites might be found and what to look for.
With this said, there is never a guarantee that you or a professional will find termites before they do some type of damage. It’s best to have a licensed and insured pest control operator perform a visual inspection.
You must insist that a thorough inspection of the crawl space and/or basement be performed. This means examining and probing each accessible floor joist and sill plate for evidence of weakness that might indicate hidden damage.