Is Something Bugging You?

By: Preston Sandlin

Is something bugging you? I mean is something bugging you other than the price of gas, TV talent shows that always have a rude condescending British judge? Is something bugging you other than the fact Paris Hilton can make a very lavish living without any tangible talent, skill, or work ethic? Is something litterly bugging you? Is something or about 2 million little something's munching on your house?

My name is Preston Sandlin. I am a home inspector in Charlotte NC. I have performed thousands of home and termite inspections over the past twelve years. My purpose in this article is to let you know some common signs that you might have termites and where to look for them. This is by no means meant to take the place of a professional termite inspection. This article is just to advise what to look for so you can call a professional before they do more damage.

First, it is important to know a little about termites and how they work. Unlike us, termites work 24 hours a day and they eat 24 hour a day. Termites come from the ground and they have to return to the ground for moisture. The main hub of the colony lives down in the ground and they send up workers to forage for food. They bring the food down to the rest of the colony and regurgitate it to them. I know - yuck! That's not the half of it - they make protective shelter tubes of mud and their poop. Paris Hilton's 'Simple Life' isn't sounding so bad now when compared to the life of a termite. They must be doing something right though because they have been around for 55 million years and over 2 billion dollars annually are spent to control them. Termite damage and water damage are always number 1 and 2 on the list of damage to homes annually. Unlike water damage, termite damage is usually not covered by homeowners insurance. This is why it is so important to catch the termites early before they do significant damage. One more thing you should know before I tell you what to look for - termites start out as nymphs. The nymphs will either become a soldier or a reproductive. The nymphs do a majority of the work. You usually will not see these unless you break open a mud tube or some termite infested wood (termites keep their environment totally enclosed). The same goes for the soldiers as well. Soldiers look a lot like the nymphs except they have pinchers on their head to defend the colony against other insects. The reproductives are also called swarmers. These have wings and swarm out by the thousands in the Spring and Fall usually on a warm day following a recent rain. Most of the swarmers will die. They are male and female. Their wings will fall off and the male and female will try to meet and start a new colony. The female will become the queen of this colony. Wings are the tell tell sign of the swarmers. Wings or swarmers outside doesn't necessarily mean the house is infested, however, if they are inside, chances are good you have an infestation.

There are basically two types of construction. This is either a slab or a crawl space. Let's take the crawl space first. By far the most likely place for termites is the floor joist adjacent to the dirt filled porch or stoop. If you can crawl under your house (preferably with a flash light) Crawl up to the back of the front stoop and pull insulation back if there is any. Look for mud tubes or termite galleries in the wood. (Termites eat the spring wood so it looks like pages of a book when they finish with it). Look for the mud tubes coming from the ground at the porch, foundation, and pier walls. The reason dirt filled porches are hot spots for termites are that it is dirt all the way up to concrete surface. Since termites come from the ground they are in close proximity to the wood (cellulose material). Compound that with the fact that during original construction a lot of builders throw waste wood and food bags here because they know it will be capped off. This gives you a recipe for termites a few years down the road. Make sure you have no wood debris on the ground. Check around the outside perimeter of the house for mud tubes along the foundation wall. If you have a garage, check for mud tubes around the foundation walls. Once inside the house check for swarmer wings around the windows (swarmers usually swarm toward a light source).

If you have a slab house, which would include basement homes, check the outside perimeter like before and check the windows for wings. On a slab house you need to go around the perimeter baseboard inside the house and look for soft spots. The termites come from the ground and must return to the ground for moisture. The perimeter walls are hot spots on slab houses because of the expansion gap there. It is rarer to find termites in the middle of a slab house because they cannot bore through concrete. Termites can however get through openings in concrete as small as 1/64 of an inch so they can easily come up adjacent to water pipes in slab houses. You should also realize if you have a crack running through your slab termites could also come up here. The important thing to remember is that termites come from the ground and must return to the ground for moisture. Think how they could connect to the ground to the house and go back and forth. That's where the termites will be.

Again this is not meant to take the place of a professional termite inspection. I just wanted to tell you guys what to look for and where to look. If you would like more information or have a question for me you can email through my website . Well, I have to go fill up my Excursion and get back before 'American Idol' and 'Simple Life' comes on.

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