Make sure that you have your own termite inspection and pay for it with your funds when purchasing an older home. Never buy a home or property without an inspection. Generally, but not always, home sellers warrant that the home and garage within the property are free of visible termites and other wood-destroying insects. They also warrant that the property is free from visible insect damage. The key term here is “visible.” We’ll get to that below. Most homeowners don’t really know whether wood destroying insects have made their way into a home unless they visibly see the damage, the insects, or have an annual termite inspection. Even when they see insects they aren’t usually qualified to make an accurate identification. What's the difference between an Ant and Termite? Most ants prefer your picnic lunch to the wood in your house. However, termites eat wood and specifically the wood near the foundation of your house. Both ants and termites are about ½ inches long and have wings. After that the similarities end. An ant has a very narrow waist, elbowed antennae, and the front wings are longer than the back wings (you’ll need a magnifying glass to see this and a curious 5 year old if you don’t like to pick up bugs). Termites have bodies like a cigar, their antennae are straight and the front and back wings are the same length. Now there you have it. For a better description, we’ve found none better than Dr. Don’s. What are the signs of termite infestation? Termites are social creatures. So their behavior is what is used to detect them. They live underground in large colonies and are pretty vulnerable creatures. You’ll seldom see them unless they are flying around at certain times of the year to reestablish another colony. This is called swarming. We are talking about thousands of termites here. To travel from the ground and into a house to dine on your aged wood, termites build mud tubes. Be on the lookout for these mud tubes. These are little highways that provide protection for the termites and they lead to food (wood) and back to the colony or termite nest. Termites are not picky. They will gladly eat wooden fences, posts and yes fire wood. As long as it is dead. Waste wood from a renovation that is near your house is like an appetizer. Dispose of it and place any firewood well away from your home or any wooden structure. What kind of damage do termites cause? Termites weaken wood by eating into it. The wood after awhile weakens and looses its strength. Depending upon how long they’ve been at it, termites can do quite a bit of damage and significantly weaken the structure of the house or other dwellings on the property. The southern U.S. is especially under attack by Formosan termites. These are the most aggressive of the 2,000 or so species. What other insects damage wood in homes? Other insects that damage wood include the infamous carpenter ant, powder post beetles. Old house borers round out the most wanted list. Carpenter ants don’t eat wood like termites. Instead, they bore into wood to build their nests and thereby weaken the wood. Carpenter ants like termites live in colonies consisting of about 3,000 to 4,000 individuals. They’re fairly large too and range between ¼” to 1 ½ inches and can be black, brown and yellow. Carpenter ants are attracted to moisture and the food that you and I eat. They also nest in old trees, the ground, and old wood piles. Even after treatment by a professional, carpenter ants may not disappear altogether. What if wood damage or termites are found? If wood-destroying insects are found, the pest inspection company will recommend a treatment program and state its cost in writing. The inspector will also have to determine the extent of the damage and estimate the cost to replace the destroyed wood. The inspection report together with the cost of any recommended treatment program and areas needing replacement and repair should be made available to the seller. The seller is responsible for paying for the treatment and repairs. The pest inspection company usually handles the repairs through contractors it normally work with. Sellers may be upset over the findings of the pest inspector, but there’s not much one can do about it. If wood-destroying insects are found and damage is found, the lender will require that the property be treated and any damage be repaired. The lender will also look for a certificate at settlement from the pest inspection company as evidence that the treatment and repairs have been made. How to select a Pest Inspector? Unlike home inspectors, most pest inspectors are licensed by the states. Ask neighbors or people at work for the names of companies that do annual inspections of their homes. Don’t rely on the Realtor’s recommendation and don’t let the Realtor call the inspector either. We strongly recommend that the home buyer select and pay for the pest inspection. In some States this is usually done by the sellers, and in others the buyer has a choice. We think the buyer should pay. This ensures the pest inspector's allegiance. We also recommend that you (the seller and buyer) accompany the pest inspector. Buyers can point out areas that you think are suspicious, and sellers may be able to shed some light on previously treated areas. Most inspectors don’t mind the company and are very reasonable about this.