First Time Home Buyers-how to Check for Termites

by Nate on February 4, 2011

First Time Home Buyers-how to Check for Termites

When you’re in the market to purchase a home, it’s easy to allow yourself to focus on the emotional and aesthetic aspects of selecting a property. While it is, of course, very important to choose a house that appeals to you aesthetically and can become a long term home for your family, it’s also vital to make sure that the house you want to purchase is structurally sound and free from active termite infestation or damage.

Before your lender finalizes your home loan, a professional termite inspector will have to visit the property to verify whether or not the presence of termites or un-repaired damages from prior infestations is a concern.

As a first time home buyer, you can save yourself a great deal of time and heartache by learning how to check for the presence of termites and termite damage yourself. The last thing you want to do is fall in love with a home only to discover at the last minute that you can’t secure funding because of termite problems.

1. Watch for Termite Tubes

The presence of small tubes made from mud on the exterior surfaces of a property is a tell-tale sign of termite activity. The existence of termite tubes isn’t necessarily a sign that a property is currently infested, but it definitely means that it has been preyed upon by termites at some point in the past if none of the creatures are currently present.

As subterranean insects, termites live underground. However, they must travel from their colonies to the properties they infest in order to feed. When they must leave their underground hiding places, termites build these tiny tubes, usually about the same thickness as a pencil, to shelter their progress.

2. Check Wooden Areas for Termite Damage

Look closely at the wooden parts of the home, as well as those of any exterior fences, garages, carports, sheds, and other structures. If you notice hollows in the wood along the grain, it’s very likely that termites have burrowed inside the wood, eating it from the inside out. Typically, the tunnels left by termites will be covered with dried soil.

The absence of visible termite tunnels does not necessarily mean that the wood is free from damage. Keep in mind that termites can tunnel their way into wood from the backside. This means that active or prior termite infestation can be a factor in the condition of the home even if you don’t detect termite entry points on the visible parts of the wood.

3. Check Drywall or Plaster Walls for Signs of Infestation

While termites aren’t likely to eat drywall or plaster, it is not uncommon for these insects to tunnel their way through these types of surfaces in order to get to the wood that lies underneath. If you see small bore holes in the home’s plaster or drywall, particularly if they are surrounded by fragments of soil, there is a good chance that termites have worked their way though the material.

4. Look for Foundation Gaps and Cracks

Even though termites can cause serious damage to any type of structure, they are very tiny creatures. One of the most common entry points for termites is gaps or cracks in a home’s foundation. They can enter a home through the tiniest foundation openings. Anywhere there is a tiny opening into the home is a good spot to check for termite tunnels and other signs of damage or infestation.

5. Be Aware of Common Termite Hiding Places

Termites can hide in numerous locations throughout a home or other structure. Termites frequently hide beneath carpet, rugs, and other types of floor coverings, particularly if there is wood underneath. They also often take refuge in or beneath a home’s insulation, whether it lies inside the walls or in the attic.

Professional Inspections Are a Must

When you’re considering buying a home, you need to know if the home is currently infested by termites and you also need to find out if there is preexisting damage from prior infestations. Keep in mind that a professional inspector may discover signs of termite infestation even if your initial scan of the property did not turn up any evidence of the presence of these insects.

When you’re getting ready to purchase a home, you can’t depend on your own visual scan of the property to reveal everything you might need to know about the home’s history with termites. One of the reasons that termites are so problematic is the fact that these pests can remain undetected in a property for years. Many times, by the time homeowners discover termite activity, the damage has progressed to a point where it will be difficult and very expensive to stop and repair.

Stephanie Larkin is a freelance writer who writes about issues pertaining to home maintenance including Termite | Termite Control

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