As with the inspection for wood-destroying insects, the inspection for rot should be conducted on the exterior and interior of the structure. It can be performed concurrently with the inspection for termites. Areas that are vulnerable to attack by subterranean termites or carpenter ants are also conducive to the growth of the decay fungi. During the exterior inspection, in addition to probing the wood that is located near, or is in contact with, the ground, you should check wood members having cracks and open joints that are subjected to periodic wetting from rain. One area particularly vulnerable to decay is the end cut of exterior wood framing, trim, or siding. An exposed end cut (across the grain) absorbs water much more readily than a section that has been cut parallel with the grain.

During the interior inspection, you should check the unfinished attic and basement or crawl space for evidence of rot. In the attic the wood members can rot as a result of water intrusion through the roof because of a faulty roof covering or leakage around the joints of roof projections. Conditions conducive to rot can also result from condensation due to inadequate attic ventilation. In the basement or crawl space, the decay fungi thrives in the wood members if the humidity is constantly high. Check the overhead wood framing and subflooring for signs of rot. Probe the wood members above and around the top of the foundation wall and base of wood posts. Vulnerable locations for decay are the wood members through which plumbing pipes pass-because of the possibility of leakage or condensation. Probe the joists and subflooring below kitchen or bathroom fixtures.

When inspecting for rot, note on your worksheet all wood-framing members that have decayed to a point where they can no longer provide structural support. These sections should be replaced or rehabilitated. If in doubt, consult a professional. If natural decay-resistant wood or preservative-treated wood is not used for the replacement of rotted sections and the source of the moisture has not been eliminated, then it will only be a matter of time before the new sections begin to decay. Rotted wood trim that serves no structural function need not be replaced except for cosmetic reasons. Once the infected wood has been dried out and the source of the wetting has been eliminated, the decay is permanently arrested.

Checkpoint summary

Subterranean termites

Exterior inspection

  • Check all exterior areas of the structure that have wood in contact with, or close proximity to, the ground.
  • Note any termite shelter tubes on the foundation walls.
  • Probe vulnerable areas such as garage door frames, basement windowsills and frames, deck posts, step stringers, and entry-door risers.
  • Probe wood-frame members adjacent to concrete-covered, earth-filled porches.
  • Inspect crawl areas under steps, porches, and so on.
  • Probe sills and headers.
  • Check wood fencing, dead tree stumps, wood debris, or stored firewood in close proximity to the house for infestation and rot.

Interior inspection

  • Inspect for shelter tubes on foundation walls and piers and around all plumbing pipes that pass through the foundation.
  • Pay particular attention to areas around the heating system.
  • Probe exposed sill plates, headers, joists, and girders.
  • Inspect wood support posts for infestation and rot.
  • If the house is built on a slab, note any soft spots in the baseboard trim.

Drywood termites

❍ Inspect property fencing for infestation.

❍ Probe exposed wood framing throughout the house, from attic to crawl space.

Carpenter ants

  • Look for small piles of sawdust below or around wood members.
  • Did you see any ants walking around in the rooms, particularly the kitchen?
  • Probe the sections of wood framing, siding, and trim that show evidence of decay or past wetting.

Powder-post beetles

  • Inspect wood framing for clusters of small round holes.
  • Newly formed holes are the color of a fresh saw cut and indicate an active infestation.
  • Probe these wood sections for deterioration.


  • Probe vulnerable areas such as wood members that are subject to periodic wetting from rain or garden sprinklers.
  • Inspect roof sheathing from the attic for decaying sections around chimney, vents, and so on.
  • Check subflooring and support joists below kitchen and bathroom fixtures and around plumbing pipes.
  • Probe sill plates, headers, and the ends of joists and girders.
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