Unfortunately, so do the termites.
We have two types of termites here (and other wood-destroying pests too), drywood termites and subterranean termites.
The subterranean termites, or ˜subs as they are called, can be identified by the mud tubes they build from the ground or floor up the side of a wall. As their name implies, they live underground, and build the tubes as they go. Pest Control operators will remove the tubes and treat the area, injecting chemicals underground at spaced intervals, to exterminate them.
Drywood termites, or drywoods, may live anywhere in the the home where theres wood to eat. If they are found only in one area, or perhaps two, a licensed pest control company may do a ˜local treat. The difficulty with local treatments is that drywood termites also may be lurking in places that cannot be seen, such as between the walls. For that reason, the standard recommendation is to fumigate (or ˜tent or ˜fume) the structure.
Perhaps the biggest problem with termites here in Silicon Valley, or most of California for that matter, is that they come back. A home may be tented and treated and issued a Section One Clearance (no active infestation of wood destroying pests or organisms), but theres no way to really keep the termites from coming back. The fume doesnt keep them out – it just kills the ones that were there the day the tent went on.
So how often should a homeowner have a pest control company come out and inspect for termites and other pests? A few months ago, I interviewed Janet Thrasher of Thrasher Termite and Pest Control for my Live in Los Gatos blog, asking her ˜How Often Should You Get a Termite or Pest Inspection? She said that every 2-3 years is about right, and reminded me that a good termite inspection will include areas where most homeowners dont go, such as the crawl space and the attic.
Janet and I also discussed Choosing a Termite and Pest Company. She had some great advice about that which you can read on my Live in Los Gatos blog. I would add this: there are some large, national pest control companies that do NOT go into the crawl space, so do not hire them to do this inspection! Ask when you phone the termite companies whether this is standard or not. In some areas, theyll do the crawl space but will charge extra. In San Jose, that would be a ripoff! So make sure you are getting the full inspection. In some homes, it may not be possible for the inspector to ˜do the crawl because of small spaces, ductwork in the way, or moisture under the house. And in some homes, theres so much insulation in the attic that the inspector cannot safely go there either. But generally, these areas should be able to be inspected.
Most pest or termite reports are ˜separated reports, which means they separate the findings into a couple of different categories: section 1, section 2, unknown further inspection, and information item.
Section 1 means that theres an active infestation. (Envision termites, fungus, boring beetles, dry rot, or other pests or organisms actively eating or destroying your house.) In the purchase of a house, condo, townhome, sellers will frequently pay to have the section 1 work done.
Section 2 means theres a situation that is going to cause an active infestation if you dont do something about it. This might include cellulose debris (wood chips, for instance) under the house, or water near or touching wood members (will invite dry rot and fungus). These are items that should be done. In a home sale, though, sellers usually do not pay to have section 2 work done.
Sometimes theres a hint that something might be amiss. Lets say the floor in the bathroom has a little stain near the tub or toilet. It might be nothing, but it might mean that theres been a water leak and the floor is not just discolored, but actively infested with dry rot, for instance. This might be an ˜unknown further inspection because to really see whats going on, the owner would need to authorize the pest company to remove the vinyl flooring and check the condition underneath. In some cases, pest control operators freely use the ˜unknown further inspection category simply to cover themselves, but the better companies will not overuse this classification of what theyve found.
Information items are simply that – items that the pest inspector noted that should be of interest to the homeowner even if not relevant to a pest inspection.
If its been awhile since youve had an inspection done, I would suggest doing it soon, especially since the weather is good. (Rainy days are not ideal for doing a termite inspection.) There are many fine, reputable companies in Santa Clara County, but there are also a few which have a terrible reputation among Realtors and other pest operators. You dont pay more for a good inspection! (By the way, beware the ˜free inspection as those folks often dont do the crawl space and are paid for finding things to do in your home.) My preferred company is Thrasher Termite & Pest Control in Los Gatos (contact: 408 354-9944 or email firstname.lastname@example.org). I have worked with them for 15 years, and they treat my house too. There are other good ones too. If youd like a longer list of San Jose area termite companies, please call or email me and I will give you a list of reputable ones which I would trust.