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TERMITES: SILENT DESTROYERS

Friday I attended the inspection of a property in the older part of town.  The inspector found extensive damage in the crawl space of the home caused by termites.  Everything about the environment of the home pointed to an invitation to these destructive creatures.  There is no ventilation to the crawl space.  The furnace and water heater are located in the crawl space making it nice and warm even in the winter.  There were scraps of wood left on the ground in the crawl space and the exterior siding was touching the ground all around the foundation.  The National Pest Management Foundation estimates that termites cause an estimated $5 billion in property damage a year.  That beats the threat of fire, flood, or wind damage to wood-based structures. 

The owner of this home that was inspected had no idea that termites were present.  Usually termites go unnoticed until the damage is extensive.  Termites can take up residence in a home for years eating away at the structure from the inside out until the damage finally shows itself (hence the name “silent destroyers).  It is estimated that a subterranean termite colony can eat a two by four in a year.  Imagine sitting on a toilet and all of sudden having it fall through the floorboards of your bathroom!

Termites can get through the smallest crack in a foundation or footing.  Windows, vents, and roof joints are also entry points.  Older homes are more inclined to be at risk, but new homes can also have the problem if the wood is not pretreated correctly.

What can you do to prevent an infestation of these destructive bugs?  Here are some suggestions:

  • Keep moisture out of the crawl space by diverting water from rain and sprinklers away from the foundation.  Be sure you have gutters and down spouts to help with this.
  • Store firewood, wood chips, and mulch away from the home.
  • Don’t plant shrubs or other plants too close to the house.
  • Ventilate the crawl space sufficiently to reduce potential moisture.
  • Fill in gaps in attic vents, window joints, and soffits.
  • Remove old tree stumps and roots near the foundation of the house.
  • Schedule periodic inspections by a termite specialist.  They can provide wood treatments and repellants to help prevent any infestation.

Finally, you may want to research the areas of the country where termite damage is most prevalent.  The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development has a web site that would provide such information.  The address of the site is: www.hud.gov.

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