How To Look At A House
McGarry and Madsen's home inspection blog for buyers of
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I'm buying a concrete block house. Do I still need a termite inspection?
Sunday, October 21, 2018
Termites cause an estimated $11-billion in damage to wood structures every year in the United States, which exceeds even the annual damage caused by house fires. They are prevalent here in the southeastern U.S., where warm temperatures and high humidity create their favored environment.
Although concrete block construction reduces the amount of wood used in the house structure, there is still plenty of wood concealed in the attic and walls, and extending down to the floor slab for them to munch on. Vertical wood strips, called “furring,” which are installed on the inside surface of the home’s concrete block walls to provide a nailing surface for application of drywall, provide pathways for subterranean termites (the ones that live in the ground, but enter the home daily to feed on the wood) to go from the floor to the ceiling—and the wood roof trusses above that.
Drywood termites, another species that also thrive in Florida, don’t need a connection from the ground to the lumber in a house in order to begin gnawing away. While not as rapidly destructive as subterraneans, drywoods can enter the home through an attic vent during the Spring swarming season, then begin their wood-digesting activity from the attic, working downward into the walls of the home. They are also harder to detect that their ground-living cousins, which leave telltale vein-like mud tubes between the ground and the house structure.
Wood decay fungi, commonly called “wood rot,” is another cause of structural deterioration of wood members in a home, particularly in enclosed areas of high humidity or where there is water intrusion in the structure, even in a concrete block home, and is another WDO (Wood-Destroying Organism) that is noted as part of a termite inspection. Evidence of several varieties of wood-destroying beetles are also looked for as part of the inspection.
You will likely hear the termite inspection referred to as a “WDO” inspection by people in the real estate and pest control industries. WDO inspections are regulated by the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (DACS), and inspectors must be state-licensed and use the DACS-approved form when submitting a report.
All new homes constructed in Florida are required by the building code to have the ground under the structure treated with a liquid termiticide before construction begins. The treatment provides approximately 8 to 10-years of resistance to termite infestation, but by subterranean termites ONLY.
So, the gist of all this is: a termite inspection is always a sensible part of your due-diligence when purchasing a home, even a concrete block one.
Also, see our blog post How do termites infest a house and remain hidden while doing major damage?
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