DIY Termite Inspection – How To Detect Termites Around Your Home

What Are Termites?

This si what we are looking for during a DIY termite inspectionBefore we talk about how a DIY termite inspection for your property is performed, it might be good to talk just a bit about what it is we’re looking for. It’s always a good idea to “know your enemy”, so to speak.

Basically, termites are small burrowing insects that eat wood. They especially like damp or wet wood and wood products like paper. They love the paper that they find on sheet rock, especially if there is a damp path to it.

They resemble ants, are social creatures and live in colonies. They will also destroy your home if the circumstances are right and they get a chance.

Termites Are The Invisible Invaders

It takes a keen eye to perform a DIY termite inspection and truly know that termites are in your home’s structure. Often, homeowners find out only after a lot of damage has already been done. Even after an inspection has been done and a home has been declared free of termites, there is no guarantee it will remain that way.

It’s a very good thing to learn to perform a somewhat reliable DIY termite inspection on your home’s structure.

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I’m writing after completing some research on how to inspect for termites myself. Last year I wrote an article about pest control and didn’t want to write about the termite dilemma since it can be a serious one and the best treatments are preventative.

What have I learned since then? Termites can be controlled before they invade and can be killed once they’re in the structure of your house.

Let’s dig right in! (Oh….well, so to speak);

What Does A Termite Look Like?

Termites look a lot like ants and like ants, are social in nature and live in colonies. The similarities pretty much end there though. They are about the size of a grain of rice up to about 5/8″ (the queen and king, although the queen is usually slightly longer than the king) and have soft, lightly colored to reddish-brownish-grey colored bodies. There are workers, soldiers and reproductives, which drop their wings and become kings and queens of new colonies. The colonies usually live in moist soil near a food source.

Termite damaged wall is too late for a termite inspection.How A Termite Lives

Plain and simple, termites eat wood and wood products and wood by-products. Especially the damp kind. They also eat stuff like paper, which is a wood pulp product. You can see what kind of damage a termite can do to the paper attached to sheet rock on one of my repair jobs: I took pictures.

Since their colony lives in a mound usually in the soil and have tunnel systems that carry the worker termites to and from their food source, they have to leave trails. Small ones….

How To Inspect For Termites; DIY Termite Inspection

Termites are usually detected one of 3 ways; first, when the colony is forming, termites swarming inside or outside of buildings as they move to a lit opening, like around a window can be seen. Second, they build mud tubes between their mound and there food source. You can see a mud tube on your house up from the soil against your foundation to the entryway to your home – on a slab, or on piers.

Finally, since termites like to eat the paper on sheet rock, you can see pinholes on the wall where they’ve invaded. The pinholes provide a way of expelling wastes from the holes they are boring as they eat their way between the sheet rock and the paint on your wall.

You will rarely see actual termites because they avoid light and open air situations.

Where To Look For Signs Of Termites

During a DIY termite inspection, you’ll walk around your house and look carefully along the foundation for small mud tubes between the soil and where the bricks begin. If you have mud tubes present around your foundation or on your walls, you’d better look closer.

Pinholes in sheet rock are a sign that termites are burrowing between the paint and the sheet rock itself. Do you have a stack of wood against your home? You may want to check that stack carefully. Especially if it has exposure to rain. So look for wood structure to ground contact. Look for cracks in your foundation. A termite needs 1/16″ gap to get in.

If you have a crawlspace, you can examine the piers or bricks for mud tubes. If you have a pile of debris under there, you may want to clean it up. Look closely at entry ways for pipes. Termites can work there way through the insulation around pipes if they know there is a food source on the other side.

You may find discarded termite wings on window sills. Floor boards that sound hollow when you knock on them are a sign of a termite problem. Cracked paint, usually near the floor can be a sign of termite invasion.

Professional Termite Inspections

I should emphasize that evidence of termite damage is invisible to the untrained eye until more or less extensive damage is done. This article simply offers some (not all) information on how to detect the critters. If you think you see signs of termites, you likely do have termites.

Any realtor should know a good termite inspector or pest control service if you’re not sure where to look. The inspection is primarily a visual one of the accessible areas of your home inside and out, including crawlspaces and sometimes attics.

A good termite inspection normally takes about 30-45 minutes to perform and the termite inspection company should give you a formal termite inspection report. They may offer advice about prevention, and if they find evidence of a termite invasion, should offer remedial treatment advice as well. If the termite report you get indicates anything suspicious or extensive, you should probably get a second opinion.

There are measures you can take for termite prevention and there are are several ways to kill termites, by utilizing pest control companies and on your own. I’ll tackle some of those topics in a later article.

Here’s to hoping you never have to go to war with the invisible invaders…

This Post Has One Comment

  1. Many people confuse rot damage with termite damage. If you don’t see active termites or mud tunnels in the warm months, then consider rot. Actually, termites aren’t the only problem when your square foot garden is in contact with the ground. We have problems with our pest control service. They constantly inform us of wood to soil as a conducive condition . This voids any warranties the pest control service offers. This is true for treated wood as well. Installing a concrete break isn’t a solution either. Any defect in the concrete will allow termites access through the concrete. Another problem is the wicking properties of both concrete and wood that will promote rot and attract pests. Termites need a supply of water. Normally, they travel back to the ground to get the water they need. However, once inside a structure they can forgo the trip if there is an active water supply. In other words a well cared for square foot garden. In order to deter both rot and pests, a moisture break must be installed between the wood portions of a structure and the concrete slab. For most post installations, this is a metal cap that attaches to the bottom of the post and then to a bolt set in concrete that leaves a space between the cap and concrete. This space is called a moisture break. This prevents moisture from wicking through the concrete and up the post. The space also provides a visual inspection point for the termites’ mud tubes. Our termites only travel in mud tunnels in exposed areas. No tubes no termites. Any dishes of water to deter other pests should be before the moisture break so the posts stay dry. If you find termites in your wood in your garden, do not disturb them especially if they are near a structure. They will seek out a new source of food which may now be your house. If you find active termites, and don’t scare them into another location, sentricon bait stations are much more effective when placed at the site of the active infestation. They will take the bait back to the queen and the entire colony will die. Do you use mulch in your garden? Yes, this too is considered wood to soil contact and is a conducive condition according to our pest control service. There can be many separate termite colonies per acre. Vinyl boxes will not be a conducive condition for termites or rot, but could the termites be attracted to some component of Mel’s mix?If termites are a real problem, try raised vinyl beds with the properly installed moisture break attached to the bottom of the posts. Bolt anchors are available to either set in wet cement or drilled into an existing slab or foundation. We have used gallon milk jugs as concrete forms with the anchor bolt extending through the top. You could probably set your box directly on these bolts if you don’t have posts. Then set the milk jug in water. No wicking through the plastic milk jug or up the bolts, plus a space to inspect for termite mud tubes .

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