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Of all the Wood Boring insects, Termites are definitely the most damaging wood destroying insect out there. The average single-family home has as many as four termite colonies beneath it (and each colony can have as many as 1 million winged residents within it). You want to prevent these termite colonies from attacking your home and causing extensive structural damage. See below...
Termites must stay moist in order to survive. They can die rather quickly from dehydration when exposed to the environment due to their very thin exo-skeleton. To maintain a moist environment and protect them from predators they build protective mud tubes from the soil right up to your home and can remain unseen most of the time. The smallest of cracks in your foundation -- usually a basement or concrete slab -- is enough for those sneaky little termites to gain entry into your home to start destroying your structure. They will utilize the foundation cracks to gain access to the wood framing in your home because it's much easier for them to utilize a protected path than to build mud tunnels to protect themselves from the environment. Termites need to remain in a moist environment at all times. Once they're inside your home, anything that is made of wood -- from the framing within your structure, window and door frames to subfloors to floor joists and sills-- is fair game. You will not be able to visually observe Termite activity simply because they will feed undetected. Termite workers attack the wood in your home from the inside out and infestations can go undiscovered until the wood is almost completely destroyed, which could take many years.
The image below is a main carrying beam (from my clients prospective home) with Termite damage. Note how most of the Termite activity remains within the center of this beam. That's exactly why Termite infestations are almost impossible for a typical homeowner to visually observe.
The image below is extensive Termite activity inside a wall cavity of a home I inspected, which I had accessed through the basement side. This Termite activity was never visible to the homeowner. Note the light brown Termite tubes everywhere.
As if this scenario weren't bad enough, after they feast on wood, termites leave behind a chemical trail that sends signals to other termites that food is near and leads them right to the infested area of a home. Once started, this trail of destruction is impossible to stop without the services of a professional exterminator who is skilled at locating the hidden regions of your home where these termites take up residence. Wood-boring insects are difficult to control by homeowners once an infestation has begun. Treating insects is not a do-it-yourself project. If you have signs of Termite activity, do yourself a favor, hire a professional Exterminator.
It's Moisture. It's extremely difficult to ward off moisture throughout your home, and especially underneath it, where termites gain initial entry to your property. The good news is that in many cases, the problem starts in areas you can reach (outside and around your home), where wood products are exposed to the elements and thus trap moisture. Prevention is the best management method.
Above all, schedule an annual termite inspection and watch for mud tubes over exposed exterior surfaces of your home (especially the foundation) and swarming termites in April and May.
Trim all shrubs, bushes, vines and other dense greenery away from the foundation and the siding of your home.
So many homeowners collect piles of firewood outside their homes come wintertime. But some of us who don't use the entire pile let it sit throughout the rest of the year. This does you no good for many reasons. First, the firewood begins to rot as it's exposed to changes in the weather; second, it's ultimately useless because it becomes wet with moisture; and third (and most important), it's a magnet for termites seeking a home. You'll obviously need to store some firewood outdoors during the winter months -- particularly if you light fires often -- so your best bet is to keep the pile raised off the ground and away from the side of your house.
Consistent with the reasoning of the above-listed point, remove all lumber, tree stumps and any other variety of wood from the parameters of your home. If you're saving some wood for that home-improvement project you're planning to tackle on a rainy day, store it in your garage in a high and dry area. No wood should be touching the ground around your house, period. Including exterior finishes of your home. These areas should be 6 to 8 inches above grading.
This includes removal and replacement of any wood posts or stair stringers that penetrate any concrete floor or rest on dirt in the basement or crawl space of a Post and Beam foundation. These penetrations will only invite Termites and provide avenues for their passage to more appetizing segments of the structure.
If you've got leaky pipes or any accumulation of water underneath your home, call a professional (or tackle the job yourself if you're capable). If you've been putting off the job, don't stall any longer. You may already have attracted termites to the water. By the same token, if you find standing water anywhere -- inside or outside your home -- get rid of it immediately. (Please "Wet Basements").
Clean your gutters and downspouts regularly. Clogs and other obstructions can attract termite populations. Inspect your gutters regularly for signs of disrepair. Inspect your home's crawl space. It may be in your best interest to determine if the space is properly protected in order to stave off termites. Moisture and humidity in crawl spaces can be reduced by installing 4-6 ml polyethylene sheeting over the soil surface. This cover will act as a vapor barrier to reduce evaporation from the soil and condensation of moisture on joists and sub flooring. (Please read "Your Crawl Space").
Since termites can prey on the outside of your home, inspect your home regularly for any foundation cracks. If you find cracks inside or outside, seal them immediately. Ensure that your home receives continual maintenance to keep its exterior paint in good condition. Chipping, peeling paint can increase the likelihood of termite infestation.
As a homeowner, you can never prevent termite infestation with 100 percent certainty. However, you can take these various measures to decrease the probability of infestation in your home. Considering both the cost of damage and inspection/extermination, you have absolutely nothing to lose by trying every one of these precautions. Yes, it is true that termites may find a meal at your house. But they are not the only pests ready to eat your house.
Termites are typically found in the sill area of a home due to the proximity of the grading on the exterior.
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I recently accompanied David Valley during his inspection of the house my son was buying. Having purchased a number of houses during my lifetime, I considered myself very knowledgeable and thorough. However, he surpassed me greatly, picking up on important details I would have missed. He frequently suggested ways on how something could be fixed or improved. He displayed broad knowledge of house structure, heating and cooling system, plumbing, electrical, etc. David is the best home inspector I have ever employed and I recommend him implicitly. Thank you for a great home inspection.