I just had a home inspection and the pest guy said there’s evidence of termites in the basement. How bad is that? He told me it’d be 770 to treat it, but is that the end of it? Is it guaranteed to kill them, assuming he’s reliable? Will I need this again ever six months or something?

To summarize, how much of a problem is this?

Warning. Warning. My con-man alarm is flashing.

First thing to do is get some evidence of actual termites: ask him to show you the live termites. There are a lot of disreputable operators out there and “evidence” is a meaningless term. "Evidence’ could mean that he found a peice of firewood that got chewed by temites befor eit was cut.

Be very careful “evidence of temrites” =/= “termites”. Before you spend big bucks make sure you actually have a termite infestaion, and not just “evidence”. The guy may be gebuine, but many are not. Do not take his word for this. At the very least get another firm to do an inspection and do not tell them in advance what the previous operator claims to have found.


If it’s a wood frame house and the termites have been there for 10 years they could already have done enough damage to require th ehouse be demolished. OTOH they may have done only minor damage.

The point is that you don’t want to let the sit there for another 10 years so they can destroy the house.


Find out what species they are. At the very least you need to know whether you are delaing with drywood or subterranean termites. If they are subterranean termites find out what water source they are using.

Find out what treatment he proposes to use.

Once we have that information we can tell you how effective the treatment is likely to be. Without that information we can tell you absolutely nothing.

Sorry I can’t be more help, but you really haven’t given enough information even for an educated guess. The answers run from “Get your stuff out, burn the house down and rebuild” to “Pay your 800 bucks and be rid of the probelm forever in two days time”.

I don’t own the place. I’m looking to buy it. I’m wondering if I should just run for the hills or still give it a shot. As far as them actually existing, he showed me the holes in the wood and the half-dirt/half-sawdust stuff collected around the outside of each hole. It looks exactly like what I’d think digested wood would look like after a tiny critter burrowed into it.

In that case, you should get the seller to pay for it.

Speaking as someone with several years experience doing termite inspections and treatments, at this stage you have three sensible options:

  1. Get the seller to obtain a comprehensive building report from a suitably qualified and licenced inspector, whether that be an engineer, builder or building inspector depending on local regulations. Ensure the inspector has full insurance and make damn sure the inspection report is made out in your name, not the seller’s name. Without the insurance and your name on the report it’s worthless if the house falls down in 6 months time. The report must specify the extent of infestation and all damage done so far. If that is clear of substantial damage then the seller can arrange and pay for for fumigation treatment. Once again this has to be from a fully insured operator and the treatment has be done in your name. If not it’s worthless.

  2. If the seller won’t do that then only buy if you can get the house for at least 20 grand less than the original price. It’s a substantial risk and ultimately only worth the hassles if you are talking big savings on price.

  3. Walk away. The true extent of termite damage is impossible to assess without crawling into every acess area and pulling of wall panels. It takes hours and costs >$500 for a worthwhile inspection, and it’s only wortwhile if the inspector knows construction as well as termites. Unless you are either very certain the damage is minimal and treatment is complete or else it’s a wonderful bargain then it’s not worth the risk. Find somewhere else.

That tells us we’re dealing with drywood termites at least. Subterranean termites smear their faeces on the walls. Literally.

The next question is which species, and how does he intend to treat.

The bad news is that the only truly effective treatment for drywood termites is fumigation. That means covering the whole house in a tent and pumping it full of poison gas. Since he only quoted $800 dollars that isn’t the method he intends to use, fumigation costs ~$3, 000 for the average house.

Other cheaper methods give only limited control. You might get lucky but odds are you will require an inspection and re-treatment every year or two for the rest of the building’s life.

Once again the exact degree of risk is dependant on knowing precisely what species we are dealing with, what the extent of the infestation is and how much damage they have already done.

Judging from some internet research, I think it’s actually subterranean termites. The pest report mentions shelter tubes, so doesn’t that mean they’re sub-t?

No. Termites build their own tubes across solid surfaces to get to the next meal or nesting site.

Shelter tubes do indicate the subterranean variety. Although I’m not a termitologist, I’ve never heard of “drywood” termites in PA. Termites, powder post beetles, carpenter bees, and carpenter ants are the major wood destroyers in the mid-atlantic.

They used to use Chlordane, and it killed the colonies, as well as setting up a barrier. Send an email to Davew0071, who does insect control work for a living. Good guy-he will give you the Straight Dope.

I’m a contractor, and over 20+ years, have seen minor damage, had to sister a few floor joists, and on one occasion set up a system of house jacks so part of the rear wall framing of a two story colonial could be removed and replaced. Get a proper evaluation of the degree of damage before signing.

Good luck.

Also, here’s a weblink with some useful info regarding termites and their IDing.

No, what it means is that the person who did the inspection is talking out his ass.

Drywood termites and only drywood termites produce frass ie the “half-dirt/half-sawdust stuff collected around the outside of each hole.”

Subterranean termites and only subterranean termites produce mud tubes, ie shelter tubes that they use to move from place to place.

There is a simple reason for this. As I noted above subterranean termites collect their faecal material in their mouths and use it to construct the walls of the shelter tubes, thus there is absolutely no loose frass availble to accumulate as “sawdust” around their holes. Drywood termite sjust kick their faecesout of the nearest exit hole, where it accumulates as “sawdust”. It is impossible for a species to both construct tubes with their faces and dsicard it at hole exits. Check out the link danceswithcats provided for more details.

The guy doing your inspection is claiming to have found both. Either you have two different species of termites simultaneously infesting your house or he doesn’t know what he’s looking at, much less what he’s looking for.

If option one then you are going to need two completely different treatments. That will be very expensive.

If option two then you have no idea what the actual state of this house is. At this point you ned to get the guy to tell you excatly what he saw, what it was he showed you and precisly what species you are dealing with.

Chlordane will only kill a colony if you can locate the primarty nesting gallery and inject straight into it. It isn’t transported by the workers. For that you need arsenic or one of the new generation anti-termiticides. Chlordane does make a good barrier though.

Sounds like what we call woodworm. Walk away, rapidly. Woodworm eggs are remarkably resilient and can stay dormant for years despite treatment. Then they resurface.

Rentokil’s website.

Can you afford to wait a few years for success? I doubt it. Walk away.