What is a Termite Inspection: 10 Things You Need to Know

home inspection termites

When buying your first home, there are all sorts of professional services you need. One of the most important is a termite inspection. When obtaining a mortgage, your lender will require a termite inspection as part of your real estate transaction.

Termites damage affects 600,000 homes in the United States each year, and homeowners spend an estimated $5 billion to combat and repair termite damage. 1

To preserve the structural integrity of your house, you’ll need to do routine termite inspections and preventative termite treatments on a regular basis.

You may be wondering what a termite inspection is or just looking for some clarity on what a termite inspector looks for.

A professional termite inspection is also known as a wood-destroying organism (WDO) or CL100 report. A professional termite inspector looks for visible signs of active termites and other wood-destroying organisms like carpenter ants, carpenter bees, wood-boring beetles, and wood-destroying fungi. 

A termite inspection is often performed by a trained technician from a state-licensed pest control company. All houses should have annual termite inspections in areas where termites are prevalent.

The termite inspector looks for signs of termite activity like shelter tubes along foundation walls. They use a moisture meter to check the wood moisture levels and will recommend inspection by a building contractor if structural damage from termites is found.

Depending on the circumstances, they will identify conditions conducive to future termite activity like wet crawls spaces and make recommendations for corrective actions to prevent future infestations.

A termite inspection report is given directly to the homeowner but can be shared with the real estate agent and mortgage lender for real estate loans. The termite report is generally 2 to 3 pages long and details evidence of termites and signs of damage from termites. If active termites are found, a termite treatment may be required.

Whether you are having a preventative termite inspection or have a major termite problem, a professional termite inspector can help strategize an action plan against termites.

Later in the article, we will go over what you can expect, prepare for an inspection appropriately, and other things you should be aware of before scheduling your first (or next) inspection, so read on below!

What is a Termite Inspection?

A termite inspection is when you hire a professional to thoroughly investigate your home and look for any traces of termites that may have already invaded your home or help you keep your home termite-free. 

The process can be rather long and require some preparation to make things go smoothly for you and the inspector

Still, with a bit of direction, you can hopefully be fortified or in a position to remove these pests in no time.

In most terms of a termite inspection, the agent will need access to various portions of your home, both inside and out. 

The professional carefully check your home’s perimeter for weak points and structural damage that termites may have already caused without your knowledge.

Termite inspectors look for all species of termites including:

  • Subterranean termites can be found in every US state except Alaska. They live underground in colonies or under damp, hidden places aboveground. Colonies can have as many as 2 million termites.
  • Formosan termites are the most damaging of more than 2,000 termite species identified in science. They can cause significant structural damage as well as form complicated termite colonies within building structures.
  • Drywood termites feed on dried wood and may rapidly spread throughout wooden wall supports, roofs, and other structures. Drywood termites can be found across the Southern United States, from North Carolina through the Gulf Coast and as far west as California’s coastal areas.
  • Dampwood termites feed on damp wood, predominantly found in damp environments. Dampwood termites don’t typically infest residential homes since wood has low water content. They are found throughout California and adjacent states, as well as Arizona, Nevada, and southern Florida.

Who Does a Termite Inspection?

Considering just how much can go wrong if you have termites actively burrowing through exterior walls of your home, you must have someone who not only knows what termite damage looks like but what the culprits can accomplish and how to snuff them out.

Thankfully, an entire field of workers specialize in just this area of expertise, and they are none other than termite inspectors. 

In most cases, these people are working under the umbrella of a larger company. 

Some companies catch your eye immediately because they have been around for ages. 

These well-known companies are ones like Terminix (which is even in their name) or Orkin, another staple in the industry.

Regardless, you will want to make sure you go through someone who has some experience and offers you the best deal and the most thorough examination for your investment.

While you have many options, it is wise to research the most popular and successful termite inspectors in your area, as the rates they charge can vary quite significantly.

What Happens in a Termite Inspection?

Now that we have a reasonably decent grasp of an inspection and who would perform one, let us go over what happens during one. 

These results can vary primarily on whether or not your home is free of termites or if you have an infestation in your home. 

In your termite inspection, the professional will request access to several places in your home, including your basement, attic, crawl space, and the outer perimeter of your house, directly against the wall. 

Having access to these areas is because the most glaring amount of damage that termites can do will occur in these areas. 

Assuming you have done your part in preparing for the inspector’s visit, you can expect the whole thing to be completed in about an hour and a half to two hours, but we’ll go over that timeframe below.

What to Expect in a Termite Inspection?

Initially, your inspector will be looking for about four critical signs of an active infestation. Those signs are as follows:

  • First and foremost, apparent wood damage can be observed relatively easily by large (or small, depending on how long the infestation has occurred).
  • Holes and chunks are missing from the wood.
  • Complemented by the next telltale sign of termites taking residence in your home.
  • Droppings of feces.

Although sure signs are listed above, let us go over some of them in more detail below. 

Feces Droppings

Suppose you have termites, and they are eating. In that case, you can probably guess that they will be leaving some tangible proof of their existence. 

Unfortunately, that comes in the form of their poop, lightly decorating whatever area they have been gorging on recently.

While that might be a bit disgusting, the amount you will pay to repair such damage in the long term will disgust you even more, so let us move on to the next thing to expect, mud tubes.

Mud Tubes

A mud tube could be compared to a highway for us, as it serves as an active connection between the soil termites typically live in and their nutrient-rich food source (your home). 

As you might guess, this one is yet another obvious tell that you have an infestation, but more importantly, mud tubes have been around for quite some time to establish a working network both to and from your home.

Pieces of Termites

Finally, the inspector will be looking for pieces of the termites themselves. 

In most cases, broken pieces of their wings signify you not only have an infestation, but they have begun actively attempting to make a new colony in your home. 

Given that information, your infestation has been upgraded to a severe infestation, which may become costly.

How to Prepare for a Termite Inspection?

For your inspector to easily access the places he needs to get to and do so in a timely fashion not to interrupt your day or his, you can help ease the entire process by taking time to prepare your home before the investigator’s arrival.

Clearing Out Pathways

Thankfully you can do this by clearing any pathways throughout your home and ensuring that they can walk through and reach all the walls without playing a round of improv twister.

Rearranging Your Home

Another thing you could do to help ease this process would be rearranging your home to help facilitate the inspection. Doing so is as easy as creating a nice two-foot gap between your home walls and anything else in each room.

Having ready access to both your attic and crawlspace (if applicable) will be necessary for the inspection, so do your due diligence and remove any blockages that might keep the agent from checking things out promptly.

Landscaping Your Yard

The last thing you will want to do, at the very least from a preparation standpoint, would be servicing your yard and trimming down any large bushes or vines, really anything that could make accessing the walls outside your home a chore.

How Much Does a Termite Inspection Cost?

Ah yes, the meat and potatoes, and if that jargon escapes you, we are talking about money leaving your hand (for a good purpose).

In most cases, a basic termite inspection can cost you anywhere from as low as $75 to as much as $150. 

However, these rates can vary depending on your area, so research and compare costs before taking the plunge.

It is worth noting; however, cheaper is not always better, especially in this area of expertise. 

You will want an excellent, thorough investigation to be confident about whether or not you have termites. 

When comparing rates, check what these pest inspections include, and while you are at it, what some of their treatment rates and annual plans detail. 

These points will allow you to grasp better how their companies operate and what to expect.

How Long Does a Termite Inspection Take?

Assuming things go according to plan, and the investigator does not need you to move anything or help grant them access to an area (no hiccups, essentially), you can expect the entire inspection to be done within about two hours. Again, this is working with the understanding you did prep indeed for their arrival.

Property Size

The size of your property can also dramatically increase the amount of time an inspection might take. 

Having the total square footage of your home at the ready-to-ask potential inspectors could prove valuable information if time is a concern to you and you need an approximate estimation.

Clutter vs. No Clutter

The professional may request that you take time to clean said areas before they offer an inspection in the first place and may charge you for a visit. 

Asking to clean up clutter depends on the severity of the mess and other issues that could affect your home and impede their investigation,

Who Pays for a Termite Inspection?

Speaking of paying for services, in most cases, the homeowner (or seller depending on circumstances) is responsible for paying for any termite inspections. 

If the damage is found, whoever owned the property prior is legally held responsible for covering damages, as technically, their neglect allowed the premises to become infested.

How Long is a Termite Inspection Good For?

Getting your home inspected is critical in the long battle waging against termites themselves. Still, if you are looking to take out a loan or something weighing on the integrity of your home itself, the typical “seal of approval” is about 30 days. 

After that, you will need another inspection to validate the condition of your home.

Despite 30 days being the standard, certain institutions will accept an inspection as late as 90 days.

However, if you are looking to ensure you stay within the guidelines of your request, make sure you have that timeframe precise to avoid double charging yourself on back-to-back pest inspections!

How Often Should You Do a Termite Inspection?

Thankfully there is some time you can give yourself between inspections unless, of course, you are pursuing a loan or some other reason that supersedes you requiring one more often. 

Unless you have a specific reason to have another, you are good at getting your home inspected for termites once a year, but you should be wary if your home is somewhat old because you could be a prime candidate for an invasion.

What Preventative Measures Should You Take After an Inspection?

If the inspector gave you the all-clear, then congratulations, you are free of pests and structural damage to your home. 

Still, as you might guess, there is always another step to take, especially if you are the kind of person to head off a problem before it becomes one.

Sealing Holes, Leaks & Internal Damage

Taking extra precautions on just how many vectors of infiltration a termite has can dramatically reduce your chance of getting an infestation. 

In that case, you should take care of any holes, leaks, or damage to your home ASAP if you want your home to remain pristine.

Reduce Excess Moisture in Your Home

Never one to waste time and capitalize on a good rhyme, you could also make the sound decision to reduce any excess moisture in and out of your home. 

Doing so removes the possibility of gradual damage to your home that could allow for an accessible entrance to form.

Ensure Landscaping Keeps Up

Showing your landscape some love will improve your home’s general aesthetic, but keeping any wood or general outside debris from building up outside your home will considerably cut down on your chances of a termite infestation!

Try using gravel, river rocks, or rubber mulch instead of wood mulch in landscape beds. This can attract termites to your house.

Remove Old Tree Stumps

Termites like to take up residence and feed on tree stumps around your house. It’s important to remove tree stumps when you cut down trees in your yard. Tree stumps become a food source and can cause a massive colony to form. Once the stump is gone, the colony will look for the next available resource, which could be your house.

Conclusion

Finding out you are in the midst of a termite invasion can be daunting. The termite inspection process doesn’t have to be scary as long as you are diligent in regular termite inspections.

Make sure to exercise diligence in your preparation, and keeping in step with annual inspections can decide whether or not you are at risk or have made a calculated investment in keeping your home safe.

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Hubert Miles

I've been conducting home inspections for 17 years. I'm a licensed Home Inspector, Certified Master Inspector (CMI), and FHA 203k Consultant. I started HomeInspectionInsider.com to help people better understand the home inspection process and answer questions about homeownership and home maintenance.
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