600,000 American homes are infested with termites on an annual basis, and yet only 50% of American homeowners have their homes regularly inspected.
An encounter with these small but destructive creatures can cause serious structural damage to your home and prove inconvenient and expensive (not to mention, seeing swarms of the critters in your house and hearing them in your walls may leave you with nightmares).
Don’t worry—there are steps you can take to effectively prevent an infestation. One of the most important is scheduling regular termite inspections. But how often you have your home inspected depends on a variety of factors. It’s important to do your research and develop a termite prevention plan for each new home you inhabit.
There are no hard and fast rules on how often your home should be inspected for termites. The type of termites native to your area, your home’s style of construction, and past infestations all play a part in determining your inspection plan. Below is everything you need to know about devising a plan for your home.
There are a variety of factors that may influence how often you choose to have your home inspected for termites. For instance, the frequency of inspections may depend on the type of termites most common in your area.
Dampwood termites require moist or water-damaged wood to survive, whereas conehead termites can survive on the ground like ants and spread much more quickly, and the infamously destructive subterranean termites live in underground colonies with millions of members that may be harder to spot.
Your home’s style of construction also affects how often inspection is necessary. Homes with unfinished basements, crawl spaces, or thin slab foundations are attractive to termites. Older homes, built in a time of different construction standards, tend to be more vulnerable to termite activity.
Homes without vapor/moisture barriers are also prone to becoming hospitable to termites. Window ledges, porches, patios, and walkways that slant toward a building may also funnel water (and in turn, termites) inside.
In timber-framed homes, termite infestations can be deadly if not discovered in time. Preventing leaks wherever possible is essential, and pre-treating your home for termites (especially any new additions to the house) is advised.
Finally, previous infestations are another factor that affects the frequency of inspections. If your home has been previously infested, it’s a good idea to keep tabs more often than you might for a low-risk home with no previous infestations.
How frequently you have your home inspected is also determined by the risk factor of your area. If there are other termite infestations in your neighborhood, your home is unfortunately at higher risk. Moreover, climate and geography play a role—termites prefer warmer, more humid environments, so they’re far more common in the southern U.S.
Do your research to determine how high your home’s risk of termites is and plan accordingly. Homes in high-risk areas should have annual inspections, homes in moderate-risk areas should be inspected every 2-3 years, and low-risk homes should be inspected every five years.
There are a variety of warning signs to look out for when it comes to termite infestation. The first and most obvious sign of an infestation is swarms of the bugs themselves (they’re often described as looking like “white ants”).
You might also notice discarded wings—this signals the beginning of a new colony, as winged termites leave their nests to mate and search for food.
Damaged wood is another telltale sign, particularly if the paint is bubbling, the wood appears blistered, or you notice holes that may serve as entrances to termite tunnels. Termite-infested wood will also be easy to poke into and sound hollow when knocked on, as termites have likely begun to eat it from the inside.
Other signs include a persistent “tapping” sound, brown termite droppings, and mud tubes running up your walls.
There are many steps you can take to prepare for a successful termite inspection by a pest control company. Firstly, make sure you clear access to your home’s foundation, as this is the first and most crucial place an exterminator will search for termites. Make it easy to access your basement, attic, and crawl space, as well as any water sources (i.e., clean out under your sink).
Remove any debris from your yard (it may be necessary to temporarily rearrange some landscaping to allow access to the foundation). Finally, do some research on potential termite treatment and termite control options.
The most common treatments include soil and barrier treatments (using termiticides and other chemicals), fumigation, and termite baiting stations.
The most effective way to prevent a termite infestation is to keep your home dry—nothing attracts termites like damp wood. Be sure to prevent leaks wherever possible, provide ample ventilation, and probe any exposed wood regularly.
Seal off any cracks or holes that may act as entrances for termites with caulk or spackle. Finally, move any “outdoor” wood in your yard (i.e., trees, plants, piles of firewood) a safe distance away from your home to prevent termites from hitching a ride inside.