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Bad Termite Inspections
Termite inspections can make a huge difference in your decision to purchase a home. If you know before you purchase that a home has live termites or what is known as a termite infestation, you should either walk away from the house or begin a very thorough and extensive probe into the history of that termite infestation. If your termite inspection produces evidence that there is a live termite infestation, then the infestation can be treated and the seller will have to pay for it. But that may not be the end of your termite inspection problems.
If a termite inspection reveals live termites, then those live termites caused some form of physical damage to the wood in your house. That damage can be inconsequential and not affect the structural integrity of the wood members of the home. Or, if your termite inspection leads to the discovery that there has been a long standing infestation, you may discover that there is extensive termite damage. Termites eat the wood for food and they can literally eat a 2 X 4 stud so throroughly that you can poke your finger through it.
This is why it is so imperative that you have a good termite inspection and you conduct a serious follow up to the discovery of any current or previous termite infestation. Since termites are cryptobiotic, they avoid detection and do not leave signs of their presence in the open. If they have caused serious damage to a home, this damage can go undetected for years until the structural components begin to weaken and show signs of distress. Other signs that should be revealed in a termite inspection include the cavitation of soft wood like door molding, floor molding and window molding. Sometimes, termites leave exit holes for swarmers.
If are considering a house where the termite inspection has discovered swarmers, then you should know that swarmers are a sign that the termite colony has grown so large it is trying to expand and start a new colony by sending out mating termites. That is what swarmers are. So by the time a visual termite inspection reveals swarmer termites, the damage behind the walls is most probably pretty extensive.
So what can you do if your termite inspection does reveal an active termite infestation, a past termite infestation or the presence of swarmer? You should hire a Board Certified Entomologist like Jeff Tucker of Houston Entomology Associates Inc.,2020 North Loop West # 115,Houston, TX 77018 Phone: (713) 681-9004 or Ted Granovsky in College Station, Granvosky & Associates, 1720 Barak Lane, College Station, TX 77840 Phone:(979) 691-2629. Even if you live outside Texas, you should call them and they will either travel to you or find someone in your area who can help.
If you financed the purchase of your home, your lender required that you have the home inspected for termites. This is a long standing practice in the industry because termites and their damage are not readily obvious to a lay person, and because your homeowner’s insurance will not cover termite damage. A lender does not want to finance a purchase that may be worth less than the amount loaned with no insurance to correct any problems.
A home lender wants to know two things:
- 1) Does the house have live termites?
- 2) Are there any CONDUCIVE CONDITIONS ( conditions that are inviting to termites and can actually promote infestation) ?
- 3) Has the house been treated for termites in the last 30 days?
If the answer to either of the first two questions is “YES”, then the home lender will not fund the loan. BUT WAIT! If the house is treated after a finding of live termites, or finding Conducive Conditions, it is deemed to be termite “free” by the home lender. If Conducive Conditions are found but are corrected, then the loan will fund. So in the end, the home lender has a couple of straightforward concerns about the property they will be funding, but they also are very easily appeased.
What a Termite Inspector Looks For
When an inspector looks at a house, his job is to note visible evidence of the following:
- 1) An ACTIVE INFESTATION (meaning a live infestation);
- 2) A PREVIOUS INFESTATION;
- 3) PREVIOUS TREATMENT for termites;
- 4) CONDUCIVE CONDITIONS for termite infestation.
In reality, they are required to look for other wood destroying insects in these categories, but far and away the most destructive are subterranean termites.
How a Termite Inspection Should Be Performed
As a homebuyer, you expect the termite inspector to find live termites if they are there. If the house you just bought has live termites or what is known in the pest control industry as an “active infestation”, then the odds are pretty strong that you didn’t buy the home knowing or believing you had a problem. So how did this happen to you? Were you deceived, mislead or given false information by your inspector? It’s possible. There are several factors involved. First, how substantial is the infestation? If there is considerable damage and the pests have been present for more than a couple of years, then the easy answer is that your inspector probably could have and should have found evidence of the infestation. If the activity is more recent and there are no signs of previous infestation or treatment by the preceding homeowner, then you may be the unfortunate victim of nature and bad timing. However, that is rarely the case. As a defense attorney for dozens of pest control companies, I have seen first hand how poorly inspections are performed.
It became obvious that in the vast majority of inspections, if the termites didn’t come out from behind the walls and introduce themselves, the inspector wouldn’t find them.
What should be done? For starters, the inspector should sound the obvious danger areas around fireplaces, windows and doors. What is sounding? It is where the inspector takes a rubber handled screw driver and taps on the wood to se if the sound is normal. If it is dead and not loud, then the wood is damaged.
The termite inspector can also use a moisture meter to check the moisture levels in walls. The termite inspector would check the window frames, door frames and around fireplaces and around water lines in the house. If a high moisture reading is found, then there could be termites in the same area. It is by no means conclusive that termites are present where high moisture readings are taken, but it is worth investigating.
Additionally, it is very important for the inspector to use a high powered flashlight in attic spaces and crawl spaces as well as any wall voids that may be accessible.
In the end, the termite inspector has to actually care about the quality of the job he or she is performing and has to want to do all that he or she can to determine if the termites are present.
NEW PHONE & FAX: Phone: 512 221 0121 Fax: 512 233 2559