Termite Guidelines

WHAT, WHERE, WHEN, WHY AND HOW

WHAT TO LOOK FOR AND WHERE

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Look for dirt trails along foundations including floor joists in crawl spaces, piers and boxed columns, interior and exterior surfaces such as walls, ceilings, doors and windows. These mud tubes can range from a ¼ inch to 1 inch in diameter. If there are active termites in a tube, you will see them if you scrape away the dirt.

Look for soft or rotting wood with no explanation, buckling wood floor boards, irregular marks or indentations in door jambs or windowsills, or unexplained small holes in sheetrock. All may be a sign of activity

Beneath raised homes, inspect cracks between the subfloor boards and look for mud tubes, or residues of a fine dirt-like material stuck between them. Probe the floor boards for soft spots. Inspect the interior piers of the structure for mud tubes.

WHAT YOU CAN DO TO REDUCE YOUR RISK

Eliminate earth-to-wood contact such as scrap wood, fence posts, trellises, shrubbery or tree branches that make contact with the structure.

Fill cracks in the building's foundation, piers or walls.

Check your roof and attic for leaks and fix them quickly. In a raised structure, check under bathrooms and kitchens. Repair leaking faucets, plumbing and air-conditioning that might create areas of moisture inside the structure or around the foundation.

Keep gutters clean and make sure that downspouts direct runoff away from the building.

Keep the area around the foundation or piers of your structure clear of wood debris; a piece of wood or a ladder leaning against the structure can provide entry.

Don't mound new dirt over treated soil or disturb it (digging, removing, etc.) next to the foundation or piers. Avoid using mulch in gardens next to the structure.

WHEN SWARMING SEASON ARRIVES

Swarming season usually begins in April and runs through July. Seeing a swarm near your home or finding a few termites inside during swarm season is very common in this area and usually only means a colony or nest is nearby. Turn out interior and exterior lights from dusk to about 9:30 p.m. as the swarmers are attracted to light.

Swarms coming from inside the house, garage or other structure are a sign of infestation.

If swarms originate from your trees or shrubs, you may want to call us to determine possible threats to structures and termite treatments for the trees.

WHAT TO DO IF YOU FIND LIVE TERMITES

If you have a contract, call us immediately.

If you don't have a contract, call us for a free estimate.

Get an estimate to repair any damage.

WHEN TO INSPECT

An annual inspection is included in your contract and more often if you suspect problems.

Have an inspection done by us at least annually in addition to doing your own checks more frequently - at least once every three months. Walk around the foundation, looking for mud trails, rotted wood and moisture problems. Rainstorms are a good time to crawl into the attic with a flashlight and check for leaks there.

DOES A CLEAN INSPECTION MEAN I'M TERMITE FREE?

Unfortunately, no. The standard inspection, the Wood Destroying Insect Report, only vouches for no "visible evidence" of termites "in readily accessible areas." For more information on the inspection report and its limitations, see "I'm Buying a Home. What should I do?''

MY STRUCTURE APPEARS TERMITE-FREE. SHOULD I HAVE IT TREATED?

Every situation is different. Ask yourself some key questions: Has the structure had an infestation before? Do I live in a neighborhood where a lot of infestations are occurring? Are swarms frequent during swarming season (April-July)? Are there trees on or near my property that are infested? Am I capable of doing my own periodic inspections? Am I willing to pay for extra peace of mind? Can I afford it?

HOW DO I CHOOSE A PEST CONTROL COMPANY?

Get four or five professional pest control companies to inspect your structure and supply you with a detailed bid in writing. If they won't put it in writing, you don't want to deal with them. Most companies offer free inspections.

Get a list of recent references in your area and check them.

Call the Better Business Bureau to check for any unresolved complaints against the company.

Compare the bids based on the amount of chemical to be used and the time the company expects to spend applying it. Beware of exceptionally low bids, which could indicate the company is cutting corners.

Make sure the company is insured for liability.

Carefully read and understand any warranties or guarantees.

HOW MUCH WILL TREATMENT COST?

That depends on the treatment, and the pest-control company. In the absence of active infestation, your options are a ground treatment, a bait system, or a combination of the two. Homeowners insurance does not pay for termite damage or treatment.

For a ground treatment on an average-sized home, expect to pay about $1,000 for the initial chemical barrier, between $85 and $300 for the annual renewal, depending on the chemical used and the size and type of structure. Various damage repair guarantees and other extras can add to the cost of the contract. The ground treatment is designed to keep termites out of the structure, but doesn't kill a colony in the ground.

I CHOSE A PEST CONTROL COMPANY. NOW WHAT?

Read the contract.

Get everything in writing. If it's not in the contract, it can't be enforced.

Make sure the contract lists native subterranean termites (Reticulotermes flavipes) and the Formosan subterranean termites (Coptotermes formosanus Shiraki). Under Florida state law, a termite contract's warranty only covers damage by the termite named in the contract. Other insects, such as drywood termites or powder post beetles, can be added if necessary.

Check the blank called "special or additional comments," which often is on the back of the contract, for any restrictions the pest control company has included.

Be aware that the warranty can be voided if you allow conditions that might contribute to an infestation, such as stacking wood against the building, adding woodwork that connects to the ground or not fixing leaky plumbing, gutters or other sources of moisture in or around the structure.

Read the guarantees and warranties carefully. The initial contract is for one year, and is renewable for a second year. Its guarantee requires the pest control company to retreat the building within 30 days of the discovery of active termites.

Be aware that any dismantling of walls or other structures to initially treat for termites must be paid for by the building owner. Ask questions about the treatment method

Ask what chemical or chemicals will be used and the rationale behind their use. Ask for a copy of the chemical label, which describes the required procedure for their application, and the Safety Data Sheet, which gives detailed information on the chemical's potential dangers to humans. If you have questions, talk to a physician or call the National Pesticide Telecommunications Network (1-800-858-7378).

Require the precise procedures to be described in writing and look for answers to these questions: Where will the chemical be applied? How and where will holes be drilled to place chemicals under the structure, and how will the holes be sealed? What special techniques will be used in areas where floor covering is present, or in other inaccessible areas and voids? Will treatments include trees outside the structure? What procedures will be used to guarantee the safety of you and others in your home? What restrictions are there on children playing on or near treated areas outside the structure?

You or a representative should observe the application and ask questions if the treatment is not following the agreed-upon course.

I'M BUYING A NEW STRUCTURE. WHAT SHOULD I DO?

Have it inspected.

Most lenders require a Wood Destroying Insect Report before approving a loan. But the report has significant limitations, and includes this boldface warning:

"THIS REPORT IS MADE ON THE BASIS OF WHAT WAS VISIBLE AND READILY ACCESSIBLE AT THE TIME OF INSPECTION AND DOES NOT CONSTITUTE A GUARANTEE OF THE ABSENCE OF WOOD-DESTROYING ORGANISMS (WDOs) OR DAMAGE OR OTHER EVIDENCE UNLESS THIS REPORT SPECIFICALLY STATES HEREIN THE EXTENT OF SUCH GUARANTEE."

Taking that into consideration, here are some tips for getting the most out of a termite inspection:

It is the seller's responsibility to provide the termite inspection report before closing, but the buyer should negotiate to choose the inspector. Failing that, it's worth the cost to get your own inspection and compare it to the sellers. Use an established company and check references and complaints with the Better Business Bureau.

If the structure already is under contract, call the pest control company and see if the warranty is transferable.

Arrange to accompany the inspector and make notes about any possible problems and inaccessible areas that weren't inspected.

During the general inspection take note of any leaks or moisture problems and make sure your termite inspector checks them out thoroughly.

Make sure the inspector can get under a structure built on piers to check joists, supports and interior piers for signs of termites.

If there's an area of specific concern, work with the sellers on removing obstacles so that it can be more thoroughly checked.

If there is evidence of prior infestation, the buyer should ask the seller to certify that the structure has been treated by a licensed pest control company and that the infestation has been eliminated and all structural repairs were done properly. Make sure your structural inspector is aware of the reported damage and any repairs.

If you accept the seller's termite report and close on the structure, you are generally assuming the costs of any repairs or future treatments, so read the report and disclosure statements carefully.

Decide whether you want to continue with the seller's pest control company, or hire your own. The seller's company may be willing to let you assume the annual renewal payments without paying the cost of a new treatment. But a new company will want to install its own treatment system to put the structure under contract.

WHAT IF I WANT TO DO MY OWN TREATMENT?

It's doable, but difficult. Chemicals for underground barrier and spot treatments are available to homeowners, but the vast majority of barrier treatments require special equipment to drill through slabs, floors and piers, and monitoring equipment to make sure the chemical completely covers the area. Some do-it-yourself bait systems are being marketed to homeowners, but have not been authorized for sale in Florida (although the systems are sold as termite eradication devices, the instructions recommend calling a pest control company if termites are found in the baits).

Pleasant, courteous, knowledgeable, and thorough. — Dennis B.