Wood Damage From Termites and More
“By looking at a single termite, it certainly doesn’t look dangerous or menacing, but a whole colony of them can inflict serious structural damage on a home in a fairly short period of time.”
That's from National Pest Management Association (NPMA), a non-profit organization that provides a vast amount of free information on pest management. Here's their article:
We've all hear of termites. And we all know that they can damage wood. Here we'll focus on termites, but there are actually several common sources of wood damage, the others being carpenter ants and powder post beetles. The industry term is wood-destroying insects (WDI). But how serious is the problem, and how does it affect your home inspection (and possibly loan) process?
According to information from the VA and HUD, Massachusetts (along with most of the country) is in a zone categorized as “moderate to heavy” for termites, which is the second highest of four levels. The farther north you go the lower the levels. Florida, parts of California, and much of the deep south are in the “heavy” zone*.
[Side note: In a similar way, the EPA publishes a map of the country showing reported levels of radon. See this article for more information about radon.]
VA loans require a termite inspection report and, in most states, including Massachusetts, the buyer is not allowed to pay for the termite inspection. That’s why Kensa will provide a termite inspection report at no additional cost if you are pursuing VA financing. We use the standard NPMA-33 form required by the VA.
That's just one way Kensa makes the inspection process as easy as possible.
The photos in this article were all taken by Kensa founder Ken Ray during actual client inspections.
Spot the live termites below:
They are rather small, and look like grains of rice from a distance. Like mice or ants, there is never just one. It’s somewhat unusual to see live termites, especially in colder months. However, it’s common to see the damage they leave behind, which can be extensive.
Your Kensa inspector always looks for signs of WDI
Here’s an example of powder post beetle damage. It is rarely this extensive and so easy to see. In this case it was found throughout the basement framing of a 110 year-old home.
And here is some general damage to a joist which is rather extensive and will require a licensed construction contractor to repair properly.
This one isn’t actually insect damage, it’s dry rot. The name is misleading – it’s not rot from water, it’s from a fungus. Either way, the damage can be just as serious. This section of framing is basically gone.
Here's a classic "mud tub" which termites build to travel above ground.
Here's some rather obscure termite damage to a floor joist in a basement. When I saw a small spot of damage I knew there might be a problem. This area needs further investigation and repair by a licensed construction contractor.
Carpenter bees love soft wood, and they also seem to favor fascia boards, as in the photo below. In this case they were returning every year. A bee eats into the wood and creates a tunnel to lay their eggs.
The evidence in the photo below should be easy to spot from inside. The problem was that the curtains were usually closed, so the problem went unnoticed for some time.
Okay, not an insect, but a common source of wood damage outside is our pal the pesky woodpecker. They are really hard to get rid of, unless you know the foolproof secret. Just ask Ken at your next inspection how he got rid of his very own woodpeckers; it's a true story.
Although the most common problem you may hear about is termite damage, there are multiple sources to look for, each with different signs. Those are some common examples of the types of wood damage that Kensa looks for inside and out. Most problems are found in the basement. It’s just one of the reasons we usually spend the most time in that part of the home during a typical inspection.
Even if there are no signs WDI, we always recommend ongoing proactive pest treatments. Protect your investment!
A final note: The examples in the photos above are unusual, and this article is NOT meant to scare you! There isn't always WDI damage to be found, but we always look. And that sets Kensa apart from other inspectors who don't check. It gives you very important information about the structure of your future home, bringing even more peace of mind to your home buying decision.
*Tracking down the source of this information isn’t easy or clear. It appears that the VA and HUDi nformation is based on a report from the Council of American Building Officials from 1998. Below is a page from a VA memo dated 2005 that includes the map by reference. That information is here: https://www.benefits.va.gov/stpaul/images/rlc_memo_05_06.pdf