How To Look At A House
McGarry and Madsen's home inspection blog for buyers of
site-built, mobile/manufactured and modular homes
I saw a little termite damage on the baseboard. Should I be concerned?
Sunday, October 21, 2018
Yes, definitely. The photo above is from an actual termite inspection for a homebuyer in Gainesville, Florida. By the time that a termite colony’s galleries (the tunnels they eat through the wood) become visible as linear cratering of the surface of the wood, they can already have done a tremendous amount of damage to the structure of the home. Because they eat the wood right up to the surface of the paint, but not through it, damage is usually first noticed as long soft areas that, when probed, collapse and drop out bits of debris, as in the photo above.
The seller’s realtor insisted that “I had my contractor look at that, and he says there is absolutely no damage to the wall.” Apparently her “contractor” had x-ray vision. We insisted that the wall be opened up, per Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services standards for termite damage findings, to verify her amazing statement.
These two photos below show what the inside of the wall above that small area of visible damage looked like. The lower photo is a close-up of one of the wall studs that has been completely destroyed by termites. Because the termite-eaten wall was a bearing wall (structural members above depended on it for support), the damage represented a threat to the structural integrity of the home. A little less than twenty feet of wall had to be replaced.
Sometimes the baseboard damage has been caulked over before repainting to sell the house, as in the photo below. Probing any repaired areas helps an inspector to determine what’s underneath.
It’s important to know that termite damage uncovered could also have been a smaller area, and that is often the case. The only way to tell for sure is further probing and evaluation.
Also, only a licensed pest control operator can verify that damage has been caused by termites, or one of several other wood-destroying organisms.
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To learn more about termites, see these other blog posts:
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