One of the common questions I hear is whether or not home inspectors also check for termite damage and prepare a termite inspection report. So let’s look at this in a little more detail.
So, does a home inspector also perform termite inspections? No. While most home inspectors are qualified to inspect and identify termite activity, the two inspections are distinctly different and serve different purposes. Also, in every state, the licensing for home inspectors and termite inspectors is different. Termite inspectors are issued a specific license due to their use of controlled chemicals which allows them the ability to treat the home if termites are present.
To clarify the differences in the two inspections, we need to identify what each inspector does and some of the terminology used.
Home Inspection – is a home inspector examines a home’s structure, its systems, and components for defects. This includes aspects of the construction, electrical, plumbing, heating/cooling systems, roof, interior, and exterior components. The home inspector will inspect nearly every aspect of a home and is much more detailed than a WDO inspection report.
Termite Inspection – a termite inspection is a slang term for a Wood Destroying Organism (WDO) inspection (also referred to a CL-100 report in some areas). Termite inspectors look various wood destroying organisms in the home including termites and fungi. Termite inspectors will inspect from the ground to the first floor. If accessible, termite inspectors will enter attics to examine the roof structure.
Some home inspectors possess both licenses, but most do not. National organizations like the International Association of Certified Home Inspectors (InterNACHI or NACHI for short) and the American Society of Home Inspectors (ASHI) have training courses on wood destroying organisms that teach home inspectors how to identify wood destroying organisms like termites, carpenter ants, borer bees, and fungi.
However, the training these organizations provide does not in and of itself allow a home inspector to produce a Wood Destroying Organism (WDO) inspection report. The license to produce these reports is generally reserved for licensed pest control companies.
A termite inspection will typically last 45 minutes to an hour. During a termite inspection, a licensed termite professional will inspect and probe accessible wood framing areas of the home such as inside crawl spaces, basements, and attics for evidence of termite damage.
Evidence of termite damage includes buckling floors, dry rot in wood floor joists, and wood rot found in door and window frames where water damage exists. Since termites are attracted by moisture, termite infestations can be found where areas of mold or mildew exist.
What Happens if a Home Inspector Finds Termites in a Home?
Termites can cause thousands of dollars in damage to a house depending on the age of the termite colony and the location of the termite damage. Many times the damage caused by termites is never seen until it’s too late. Termite damage can typically be found in the wood floor structures located inside crawl spaces or along the interior side of the exterior walls of a concrete slab foundation.
Crawl spaces are notorious for moisture problems due to numerous conditions like poor control of storm water runoff, condensation from ductwork, and poor air flow caused by inadequate ventilation. Moisture creates an ideal environment for termite and wood, destroying organisms.
If a home inspector identifies termite or other wood destroying organism activity, it will be referred to a licensed pest control contractor for treatment. Depending on the amount of damage present, a referral will also be made to a licensed building contractor for repair. Severe cases may require referral to a licensed structural engineer.
For example, if the damage is observed to wood framing components such as engineered trusses, a referral to a pest control contractor, a building contractor, and a structural engineer would be warranted because all three contractors would need to be consulted on the repair.
How Much Does a Termite Inspection Cost When Buying a Home?
When buying a home, the typical WDO Inspection costs about $75 for a slab foundation to $150 for a crawl space or basement foundation. This inspection is usually a requirement by the mortgage lender.
If you already own your home, you can hire a licensed pest control company to perform a wood destroying organism inspection for a fee. If treatment is needed, the inspection fee is often waived in exchange for the pest control company performing the necessary treatment.
I Own My Home, How Often Should I have a Termite Inspection Performed?
If you own your own home, it is recommended you have it inspected by a licensed termite professional annually. If you know the signs of termite activity, you can do this yourself (at least initially). If you see any of these signs, you should immediately contact a pest control company for a thorough inspection.
Some of the signs of termite activity you may see include:
- Mud tubes along foundation walls. Mud tubes act as a highway of sorts for termites to travel throughout your home
- Discarded wings. Termites will drop their wings once a new colony is established.
- Termite waste. Termite waste looks like sawdust or coffee grounds. Typically found around door frames, window frames, and baseboards.
- Sagging in floor or ceiling structure. A sagging floor or ceiling structure can indicate that the wood is no longer structurally sound due to termites feeding on the wood members.
- Water damage. If your home has water damage, particularly on the ground floor termites may be present.
If your home has an active termite bond, a licensed pest control specialist will inspect your home at least once a year as part of the termite bond.
How Much Does a Termite Treatment Cost?
A lot of questions go into determining the cost of termite treatment. Some of the factors include:
- Where is the termite infestation located? Infestations located inside wall cavities or ceilings cost more to treat because of the amount of work that needs to be done to access the infestation for treatment.
- How long will it take to treat the house? Some infestations take longer to treat due to the size of the colony and are labor intensive.
- What’s the extent of the damage done? Some times the scope of the damage is impossible to determine without exploration. Contractors have to remove the floor, wall, or ceiling coverings until no further damage is found. In some cases, infrared scanning can be used to get a general idea of the amount of damage but ultimately physically removing the building coverings is the only accurate measure.
- What type of foundation the house has? Crawl spaces, for example, are tight spaces and are difficult to work in. Sometimes it’s only possible to repair crawl space damage from above by removing floor coverings and subflooring. Concrete slab foundations have to be drilled for treatment, and damage is usually concealed inside the exterior walls.
- What’s the size of your home being treated? Larger homes will take longer to treat for both current activity and preventative treatment.
On average, a whole house termite treatment for a 2000 square foot house will cost about $1750.00. Spot treatments focus on areas where termites have been seen. The average cost for the spot treatment is $350. This may or may not be the best option because the whole house is not treated.
Bait Station Treatments are a popular preventative treatment method. This method includes placing round cylinders in the ground around the perimeter of the house. The cylinders are baited. Termites feed on the bait and carry it back to the colony, effectively killing the termites. Initial installation costs run about $1,500 with an annual maintenance contract starting at $350.
When Should I Order a Termite Inspection When Buying a Home? The Wood Destroying Organism (WDO) inspection report is often a lender requirement for financing. Since the WDO inspection report is only valid for 30 days, lenders usually wait until after the appraisal to order the WDO inspection. If the WDO inspection is ordered too soon or if problems are identified, a second inspection would be required.
Can I Purchase a Home that has Termite Damage or Activity? In some regions of the world, termites are prevalent. It’s not a matter of if but when termite activity occurs. Just because termites are found in a home you are looking to buy, doesn’t mean you can’t buy the house. Most often times, termite colonies can be treated by a termite professional and the damage repaired.
How Long Do Termite Treatments Last? On a newly constructed house, the initial termite treatment will last about 5 years. Subsequent treatments will vary based on the type of treatment performed. The most popular preventative treatment is a baiting station system. This type of system requires a service contract with a pest control company where a licensed termite professional will check the stations around your home every 90 days, and if termite activity is detected, the termite professional will treat that station to kill the colony before it can become an infestation.
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