Termites can be a major concern and even stall the sale of your home if you don't inspect your home routinely for these pesky insects.
"It's really important to have regular inspections and preventative treatment measures in place so [a termite problem] doesn't get established," says Ron Harrison, director of technical services for Orkin.
Harrison says, without routine inspections, a termite problem can be penetrating your home without your even knowing it. He says about half to three-fourths of the United States is prone to having termite problems and just because you don't see them doesn't mean they don't exist.
"Once you get a termite infestation, you probably won't know it for at least five years," says Harrison.
By that time, significant damage could have occurred and if your home is on the market, handling the infestation can slow the sale process as well as be a costly corrective-measure.
Typically, when a home is put on the market a seller will get a termite inspection but it doesn't always mean the home is termite-free.
"To buy a home, in most states, the seller only has to provide you with a letter that says 'there is no termite activity that was found'. So that doesn't mean it's not there, it's just that they couldn't find any [sign of termites] and usually that guarantee can be from three months to a year which would be very odd for termites to show up during that period of time anyway," explains Harrison.
He says routine inspections are really the preventative step to ensure that problems aren't developing. "You hate to put another investment on your home, but, I'll tell you, if you don't, the down side is [the possibility] that someone may have to open up some sheetrock in your house which will cost thousands of dollars just to get in there," says Harrison. He adds, "It would be a great prevention and long-term investment to have a [termite] protection plan." The plan can also be transferred to the new buyer.
Having a general understanding about termites can help you recognize when a problem is developing. Termites are most active in moist areas, warmer temperatures (60 - 70 degrees), disturbed soil, and wherever there are objects to follow. "So if you have pipes underground or roots, they will follow those just like a highway," says Harrison. He recommends not having plants that have roots that extend to the foundation of the home.
There are at least 1,900 species of termites on earth but three are extremely prevalent throughout parts of the United States. Subterranean termites live in the ground and then come up and feed. However, their main colony is under the ground.
The second type is very common in southern areas of the United States. Drywood termites do not have a connection with the ground. "They swarm into your house and establish up in rafters or furniture. They're quite slow growing and they have relatively small populations," says Harrison.
Formosan termites, originating in Asia, are the third species that Harrison talked about. "This is a much more aggressive termite. It can eat 10 times as much as the typical native subterranean termite," says Harrison.
He says it's very important to make sure you know which species of termite you are dealing with. "You may be dealing with one or two, or three of them and therefore the treatment strategy is going to be a lot different based on what species you're working with," says Harrison.
You can learn more about termites at termite101.org
"The product to take care of termites can be quite expensive," says Harrison. You have to be sure you hire a trusted company with a solid reputation to care for your home or else you might end up with "a diluted-down product that doesn't do the work".
"It's not like changing your oil or even washing your car -- things that a lot of us have other people do but we really could do it ourselves. Termite work takes a lot of expertise and the equipment that we use isn't just like a screw driver and a wrench that you have in your garage. It's specialized equipment -- drills going through cement -- and product applications have to be just right to ensure that you have that protection," cautions Harrison.