Infected property or buying a house with termite damage

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So you are looking for the new house. Congratulations!

Of course you’re very afraid to be tricked by the deceiving homeowner into buying a house with lots of problems.

And termites are just one of those fears, but it’s a strong one.

When you are already investing huge money into a property, the last thing you wish to do is to spend thousands of dollars on pest treatment and damage repair.

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So, should the termites be an automatic no-deal? Can you trust if someone says the infestation is not active? How can you make sure you’re not being fooled? Here are some answers for you.

Termites – а big no?

The thing is, if you are buying a house in the area where the termites are common problem, then you have big chances that the estate you wish to buy was infested at least once before.

If it was properly treated and the damage has been repaired – than you really shouldn’t let this fact to be a deal breaker. Should I (you) buy a house with termite damage? Yes, buying a house with termite damage is a good idea in case if it is your dream house.

Photo 2You might be under the impression that only old houses can be having the current termite infestation. That is simply not true.

It doesn’t take much time to get the building infested, even if the construction was finished yesterday, the wooden structural elements can have the colonies already thriving in them.

So even if you’re investing in a completely new building – don’t skip all the necessary inspections.

Another myth is that the brick houses are more protected from the termites. Once again – not true. Brick or not, the elements of the structure of the building still contain wood and it can get infested just the same way as a full-wooden house.

Notice the signs

Usually the law obliges the previous homeowners to undisclosed the pest extermination history of the house that is on sale. Ask about it the very first time you’re visiting the place.

If everything is fine – still look around, if you can find any of the following signs in the house or outside the building:

  1. Mud tubes.
  2. Damaged wood.
  3. Frass.

The mud tubes indicate the presence or the history of the subterranean termites’ infestation. Those nasty creatures nest in the soil under the building or in the garden and only visit to have lunch in the wooden structures of the house.

The mud tubes are their corridors and entry points. Often you can see them connecting the ground with the wood. If you see one of those, try to break through it with the screwdriver – the active mud tubes are slightly humid, cause this termite needs water for life.

Learn more about subterranean termites: signs of their activity; best methods of treatment and DIY methods. Eastern subterranean termites and their tunnels and tubes with photo.

But even the dry tube might be just the abandoned one, but it’s not a clear sign of absence of alive termites in the household.

Photo 3The subterranean termites are the unpleasant problem, because such a universal solution as tenting will not help to get rid of the core of the colony.

The treatment and prevention of these pests reentering the structure might get really expensive.

Ignoring such an enemy is an absolutely horrible choice.

To give you a piece of mind – the mature colony of Formosan subterranean termite can bring the irreversible structural damage to the building in less than 6 months.

Damaged wood is a universal sign for the termite infestation, old or active. Anything can be suspicious in this case – tiny holes, buckling paint, cracked and most of all hollowed wood.

You can tap on the place where you see the signs of damage with something dull and if the sound is hollow – this piece is for sure has been eaten through.

The frass is normally a pile of something that looks like a sawdust, in the places the sawdust has no reason to be. Window and door sills, wooden framing, furniture, if any of those have the frass under – you bet there are termites eating their way through the wood.

In case of frass the infestation most likely is an active one, because otherwise the owners would already clean it away, as it’s something easy to hide.

But the frass keeps reappearing, and if you were absent for couple of days it can easily come back to the place you’ve cleaned.

I don’t want to upset you, but even an absence of any of those signs doesn’t mean that termites are not present.

If the owner is clever and vicious enough, he will repair a small damage that is visible and not reveal the real damage that was done to the structure of the house. So, trust people but keep a suspicious mind.

Learn more about drywood termites: signs of their activity; best methods of treatment: spot treatment and DIY methods; how to get rid of them in furniture?


See the most common signs of infestation on pictures below:

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Inspection is needed

When you’re buying a house in the area known by common termite problem, even if you have no reason to suspect an infestation, make sure that the home inspector you hire has an experience with termite induced damage.

Photo 4Or, even better, order a special inspection by the licensed reputable pest operation specialist.

The things you didn’t notice might be obvious to the professional, who is dealing with this kind of situations all the time.

If he is suspecting that there’s a chance of a damaged wood deeper in houses structure, the only way to check for it is to use destructive methods.

Now it’s a time to bring in you lawyers.

The contract is very important if you still want to close this deal. It should include the responsibilities of the seller towards you in case of proved fact of the termite infestation.

He should be obliged to treat for them and to pass you the warranty and a contract with the pest extermination company. The repairs of the damage should also be draining his pocket, not yours. So, do not pay for pre home buying termite inspection by yourself. However, keep in mind that even after inspection buying a home with termite damage is a risky business.

The methods

One of the best things to do for the infestation of the unknown size, is to use the structural fumigation. This method requires covering of the whole building with the huge tent and releasing the sulfuryl fluoride gas inside.

This gas leaves no trace afterwards and kills all the existing termites with a guarantee. If the termites that were inside are of the drywood species who nest in the wood itself – than your problem is solved.

In case of subterranean termites, the nest will be in the soil, so this method has to be combined with further chemical treatments of the wood and soil to prevent the repeating infestation.

Attention! Structural fumigation can be performed only by the licensed profession operator.

Here you can learn more information about effective treatment method called tenting (fumigation): dangers for termites, preparing for fumigation and cleaning after, how long does this procedure last?

What now?

You found a perfect house. You checked for the termites. You made the seller to treat the existing infestation or to repair the old damage. Perfect.

Now, something you know for sure now, is that the termites are possible threat in this neighborhood, so the clever thing you have to do now is to use all the possible prevention methods, to avoid the repetition of the infestation later.

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  1. Treat the soil to create the chemical barriers to cut off the possible underground colonies.
  2. Fix all the water leaks and repair the roof if the water accumulates on it.
  3. Make sure there’s no untreated wood in direct contact to the soil.
  4. Seal the cracks and other possible drywood termites’ entry points with the wood sealer.
  5. Treat the wooden surfaces and furniture with the chemical or natural insecticides. You can use boric acid, essential oils, orange oil, aloe vera and many other to help you make your wood unpleasant for termites.
Another important moment is to stay on the contract with a trusted pest control office. The contract will guarantee you have a regular inspection and treatment for your home. This will help you not to waste money on inspection each time you have a slight suspicion or you’ve seen a swarm on your lawn.

Useful articles

If you interested in more information of termites we recommend you to read the following articles:

Helpful video

A Professional Home Inspector identifying common problems to look for when buying a house with termite history:


Now, the only thing left to do is to enjoy your new home and keep an open eye to any possible pest problem you might have in the future.

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