Nothing can quite ruin your day like finding out that your house has some sort of pest infestation. Not only is there the problem of having to eliminate the pests, there is the potential that some structural damage may have been done. Although it is virtually impossible to prevent pests from inhabiting your house, a well coordinated inspection plan can lessen the possibility and curb the severity of any infestation that may occur. Vigilance on your own is helpful and can speed up the process of pest detection, but there really is no substitute for a professional inspection, usually on an annual basis.
Probably the most dangerous uninvited insect “house guest” is the subterranean termite. According to Orkin Pest Control, these very efficient wood destroyers do more damage to homes in North America than fires and storms combined! Left unchecked, these termites can literally destroy the framing of your house, compromising its support structure.
Subterranean termites thrive in a moist environment. Houses with poor or improper drainage, or houses that allow moisture to thrive, are especially inviting to these pests. Your first line of defense is to keep all areas of your house as dry as possible. This means making certain that gutters and down spouts are full operational (not clogged or leaking anywhere along their lengths). Downspouts should lead to splash blocks that carry water away from the house. Low areas that hold water against the foundation must be modified to keep the flow of rainwater away from the house instead of toward it.
Houses with crawl spaces are extra susceptible, since, unlike homes with basements that are frequently used, a homeowner could conceivably go several years without entering the crawl space–more than enough time for termites to get a firm hold. In addition, crawl spaces, since in most cases there is only open soil at their base, should have a vapor barrier installed. A vapor barrier is nothing more than sheets of plastic (available at any home supply store) that cover all exposed areas, keeping moisture and dampness at the ground level instead of infiltrating the crawl space.
In addition to a professional inspection of your house, it is a good idea to keep your eyes open for evidence of termite activity. For subterranean termites, mud tunnels or tubes that extend from the ground upward toward the house framing are sure signs of active or past infestation. Don’t do what some homeowners do, though, and simply scrape the mud tubes off the foundation, thinking they have alleviated the problem. If activity is detected, there could literally be hundreds and hundreds of thousands of termites in the ground (as well as in the framework of your house). Get professional help immediately!