Everything You Need to Know About Termite Inspections

Bry'Ana Arvie
Written by Bry'Ana Arvie
Updated November 19, 2021
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Termites: They’re tiny pests that can cause tons of damage in and around your home. And since ignoring them isn’t an option, your next step is to face them head-on with a termite inspection. But what can you expect from one, anyway? This guide will tell you everything you need to know before, during, and after the process.

What Are Termites?

They’re small insects that feed on wood. And while some people might consider them white ants, they’re not even closely related to them—they’re more like distant relatives.

Termites have over 50 species in the U.S. alone, but there are mainly three types you’ll see in and around homes. Here’s a brief overview of each one.

Subterranean

Subterranean termites are the most common and destructive species in the U.S. They live in underground colonies since they need soil and moisture to survive. And to get their food source and communicate throughout their nest, they build mud tubes with soil, mud, and their saliva. 

Dampwood

This species needs wood with high moisture contents, so you’re less likely to see them invading structural wood since it’s not as moist—unless there’s water damage on your roof or siding. You’ll find these critters in almost-decayed or rotting wood that comes in direct contact with moist soil. 

Drywood

Unlike their damp counterparts, drywood termites thrive off dry wood. They don’t need soil, and their moisture requirements are much lower than other species. But you can still find them around a water source. 

What Happens During a Termite Inspection?

An inspection is a thorough examination of your home and property for termites. A pest control pro will not only look for termites themselves but any signs of them. The entire process can last between 30 minutes to 2 1/2 hours, depending on your home, property size, and the number of areas your inspector checks. 

What Should I Do Before the Inspection?

Termites can make themselves at home almost anywhere. Give your inspectors the access they need by straightening up and moving items out of their way, so the professionals have the space they need to inspect your home thoroughly instead of missing a key colony because of a wall of boxes. 

Here are a few ways you can prepare your home:

  • Move items away from the interior and exterior walls.

  • Make your basement, crawl space, and attic accessible.

  • Trim overgrown bushes, flowers, and grass.

  • Remove items from under sinks and around pipes.

What Are Termite Inspectors Looking for in My Home?

Here’s what they’ll be checking for when they come to service your home.

Signs of Termite Swarmers

One sign of a termite infestation is flying termites, also known as swarmers or alates. They’re the reproductive males and females that leave their nest in the spring and journey to a new place to start a colony. Once they’ve found one, they’ll discard their wings within minutes of arrival. They’ll typically leave them on windowsills, doors, or other entrances in your home. 

Mud Tubes

Mud tubes are soil and wood mixed with saliva, created by subterranean termites to help keep moisture in and predators and dry air out. 

Wood Damage

Damaged wood is another sign you might have wood-crazed little pests. Your local termite inspector will look for hollow-sounding wood because termites consume it from the inside-out. However, your walls will have likely sustained significant damage before a pro discovers wood damage.

They'll also look for signs of blistering or warped wood or wood that's showing signs of water damage. It could be from another source, but termite tunnels contain moisture so wood and any painted surface will react.

Droppings

Droppings, also known as frass, are a surefire way for a pest exterminator near you to see whether you have an infestation. While subterranean and dampwood termites use their frass to construct or seal their tunnels, drywood ones don’t. To keep their nest clean, drywood termites push their droppings out of their nest. So if an inspector sees piles of pellet-shaped droppings, it might mean they’ve taken up residence in your home. 

Termites

This one’s pretty obvious, but your pro will check for the insects themselves. While it sounds easy enough, it can be challenging to spot them since these bugs live underground or inside wood.

Galleries

Dampwood termites eat across the wood grain, which creates galleries, or high-humidity tunnels. Unlike subterranean termites, they don’t need contact with soil to thrive and are typically located in decaying wood or wood with high moisture levels. 

Noises

Hear something that sounds like headbanging, and you know it’s not yours? It might be termites. When they feel threatened or their colony has been disturbed, they’ll bang their head against their tunnel walls to communicate throughout their colony. The resulting noise is a dry rattling sound. 

Where Do Termite Inspectors Check?

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Since the main three termite types that could invade your home can live in your walls, soil, or high-moisture wood, an experienced pro will check all these locations before ruling them out as safe: 

  • Attics

  • Exposed wood

  • Basement or crawl space

  • Sewer and plumbing pipes

  • Hardwood floors and baseboards

  • Interior and exterior walls

  • Windows and doors

Essentially, pros are looking for anywhere in and around your home that is appealing to termites. 

When Should I Get a Termite Inspection?

So, you know inspections are essential to your home’s structure and your comfort, but when is the right time to get one? Here are a few reasons to get your home inspected:

  • Plans to sell your home

  • Plans to buy a home

  • Signs of termites

  • Infestations are common in your area

Even if you’ve never had termites and don’t live in a moist climate, getting an annual inspection can help ensure you won’t have pest problems down the line. 

How Much Does a Termite Inspection Cost?

Termites aren’t something you want to take a chance on. Like insurance, it’s better to have it and not need it than vice versa. While the total cost can depend on where you live and how big your home is, termite inspections cost around $165

If your inspector does find them during the inspection, they’ll discuss a treatment plan that’s best suited for your home. The average cost of a termite treatment is $570.

Can I DIY a Termite Inspection?

Inspecting for termites is a task that requires experience, patience, and time. Since you want to catch an infestation early, consider letting a pro handle your termite inspection. 

However, it is possible to conduct an unofficial termite inspection on your own if you feel up to the task. Check for signs of termites (or termites themselves) around and inside your home, such as looking out for damaged wood or discarded wings. 

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