Termites 101: Inspection, Prevention, Extermination

By: Beth Krietsch How to
Live termites eating wood. Frass or wood droppings present.

Termites destroy parts of more than 60,000 homes in the United Statescausing $5 billion in damage in the States and more than $40 billion of damage worldwide each year. Aside from extermination, regularly scheduled termite inspections are the best way to keep these bugs at bay.

Should I get a termite inspection?

Termites are found in every state in the US except for Alaska. Because they eat away at wood, wallpaper, and flooring from the inside out, termites often do serious damage before homeowners even realize they’re present and causing problems.

Many homeowners’ insurance plans don’t cover termite damage, so it’s crucial to stay on top of eliminating termites before you’re faced with a huge bill. Termites tend to work slowly, often chewing their way through wood for up to five years before damage is visible. If you detect termites early on through a house termite inspection, you may be able to save on home repairs.  

How much do termite inspections cost?

A termite inspection typically costs $75–$150, though some extermination companies will waive the home inspection fee if termites are found and you hire them for extermination.

How often should I get a termite inspection?

Older homes should be inspected for termites every year, as they are at higher risk for infestations and damage. New homes can go two years between inspections. However, if you live in a warm climate, like the Southeast, Southwest, California, or Florida, you should have your home inspected for termites every year even if you don’t see evidence of termites.

What does a termite infestation look like?

When an exterminator visits your property to check for the presence of termites, they’ll usually be looking for a few key indicators.

You can investigate your property on your own if you’re up for it, though if you find any of these indicators, you should call in a professional.

  • The presence of mud tubes in or near a building’s foundation, pipes, attic, or crawl spaces. Termites use these long tunnels to travel around open and exposed spaces they can’t chew their way through.
  • Holes in and deterioration of wood, usually at floorboards or the home’s foundation, but can be as high as crown molding.
  • The presence of termite swarms or winged termites in the home. Often found near windows, doors, and lights, these are indicative of a nest somewhere nearby. Be aware that winged ants can sometimes be confused with winged termites.
  • Dead termites near windows, doors, heating vents, bathtubs, and sinks.
  • Dirt within small cracks in your home’s foundation or sheetrock.
  • A flat and hollow sound emitted upon tapping a wooden beam, windowsill, baseboard, or wall. This may indicate that termites have been eating away at the wood inside. If the structure is severely damaged, it may even break upon tapping.

Left Mud tubes are a sign of termite infestation

Right Holes in and damage to wood can also be an indicator of a termite problem

How can I prevent termite damage?

Many people wait too long and call for an exterminator only after they notice damage or observe a swarm.

Many homeowners association (HOA) dues cover an annual termite inspection, so check your HOA policy first to see if you’re already paying for one. Termite inspection is typically handled by exterminators. Once you find someone, ask to see their license, especially before they take on any extermination work.

What happens if termites are found?

If termites are present, an exterminator will treat your home chemically or non-chemically, depending on their specialty, the extent of the damages, and your personal preferences. It’s crucial to hire a licensed pest management professional to handle the extermination, as homes and local water sources can be contaminated when chemical treatment goes wrong.

Because of the environmental health risks associated with pesticides and insecticides, many people are increasingly choosing termite bait these days. Many baits still incorporate insecticide, but in smaller amounts.


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