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If you suspect a termite problem in your home, you need to address it quickly. These insects feed on wooden structures and damage the structural integrity of many home components. Scheduling a termite inspection with a pest control professional is the first step in diagnosing and eliminating a termite infestation before serious damage occurs.
When to Schedule a Termite Inspection
If you see any of the following signs of termite activity in your home, you should contact a pest control professional to schedule a termite inspection.
- Damaged wood: Termites feed on wood. You may see visible signs of termite damage, such as crumbling or buckling wooden materials. Or, you may notice more subtle signs, such as squeaking floorboards or wood that sounds hollow. Termites can also feed on drywall paper and may cause bubbling or bore small holes in the material.
- Live termites: A clear indication of a termite infestation is live termite activity in or around your home. However, termites are elusive and vary in appearance depending on their colony roles. Reproducing termites have wings, while soldier termites are wingless and bear a slight resemblance to ants in shape. However, while ants have three body segments, termites have only two.
- Mud tubes: Subterranean termites live underground but build what are called “mud tubes” aboveground with wood particles and soil. Termites used mud tubes to travel to and from food sources. These tubes can be from 1/4 to 1 inch in diameter and form a network of tunnels. If you see mud tubes on your home’s foundation or walls, you may have an active termite infestation.
- Termite droppings: Finding termite droppings, also known as frass, is a good indication that you have a termite infestation. Termite droppings appear similar to a pile of light-colored coffee grounds or sawdust and are often found adjacent to colonized wooden materials. You are most likely to find frass from drywood termites.
- Termite wings: Reproductive termites, or swarmers, are responsible for reproducing and establishing new colonies. When termites swarm, they amass in large numbers to mate. You may see live termites, or you may see discarded wings. In either scenario, you should schedule a termite inspection to determine whether termites have infested your home.
What to Expect From a Termite Inspection
The goal of a termite inspection is to confirm whether your home has a termite infestation and to provide a prospective treatment plan that will resolve the issue quickly.
Here are the steps a termite inspector will take during the inspection process:
- Your termite inspector will survey several areas of your home for signs of active termite colonies and termite damage. This may include inspecting the basement or crawl space in addition to your home’s exterior and interior.
- The inspection also aims to locate termite entry points. Termites often enter homes through foundation cracks, around plumbing component entries, and in expansion joints.
- Your termite inspector will recommend a treatment and prevention plan as necessary. You then have the choice to move forward and sign a contract or decline the recommended pest control services. Depending on the severity of the infestation, your inspector may recommend a one-time treatment or an annual plan that includes follow-up inspections and treatments.
Many pest control companies offer free termite inspections, including national brands such as Terminix and Orkin. Terminix states that for providers that require an inspection fee, it usually ranges from $50 to $150.
Termite inspections are often part of the due diligence process for pending real estate transactions that involve Veterans Administration (VA) and Federal Home Administration (FHA) loans. These inspections have a wider scope, covering other wood-destroying insects, such as carpenter ants. The home seller is usually responsible for any inspection fees.
Types of Termites
Here are some of the most common types of termites known to infest homes.
Subterranean termites are the usual suspects for most residential infestations. These termites establish colonies underground where there is plentiful moisture, constructing networks of mud tubes on the surface to access food sources. They can enter your home through structural cracks and gaps and will typically feed on softer wood.
Drywood termites are rarer than subterranean termites, but they can grow into severe infestations that cause serious wood damage. One distinctive characteristic of drywood termites is that they establish colonies and tunnel networks directly inside the wooden materials they consume. True to their name, drywood termites feed on dry wood that is often in good condition.
Dampwood termites prefer to feed on wood undergoing decay due to moisture penetration inside a home. Dampwood termites do not build nests underground, satisfying most of their moisture needs from the damp and decaying wood. These termites are most common on the West Coast.
Termites are among the most destructive household pests and can cost homeowners thousands of dollars in damages. We recommend contacting a reputable pest control professional at the first sign of termite activity in or around your home. Terminix and Orkin are our top picks, and both companies offer free, no-obligation termite inspections.
Terminix established its name on termite control, offering comprehensive termite treatment and prevention services. Plus, the company provides extermination services for more than a dozen additional pests. It’s available in 45 states and offers one-time pest control services and annual plans that include ongoing inspections and treatments. We also like Terminix’s live online chat feature for convenient customer service.
Available in all states but Alaska, Orkin provides pest control treatments for termites, bedbugs, and most other common household pests. It hosts a wealth of resources on its website to educate customers about various pest problems, including guides on drywood and subterranean termites. Orkin offers a 30-day money-back guarantee for its services.
Termite Inspection FAQ
Is there a certain time of year when termites are more common?
Termites prefer warm weather, and the swarming season typically occurs in spring and summer.
What other wood-destroying insects are known to infest homes?
In addition to termites, wood-destroying insects such as carpenter ants, carpenter bees, and powderpost beetles commonly infest homes.
Is fumigation used as a treatment method for termites?
Pest control companies may recommend fumigation for drywood termite infestations. These termites can sustain severe infestations in areas of your home that are difficult to access with other conventional pest control methods.
How We Chose the Top Pest Control Companies
Our pest control research process starts with analyzing customer reviews on third-party websites such as the Better Business Bureau (BBB), Trustpilot, and Google Reviews. We then do a deep dive into each company’s website, service plans, and available cost information. We also secret shop the companies we review, reach out to representatives, and request quotes.
From there, we compile the information we’ve gathered and compare each company using our in-depth pest control methodology and review criteria. This process uses a series of factors that are important to our readers, and we score each company depending on how well they perform in each factor. For instance, companies that offer more guarantees for their service earned more points than others, and pest control plans with a larger range of covered pests earned more points than ones with fewer.
After analyzing dozens of residential and commercial pest control businesses through this process, we were able to determine the best pest control companies on the market.