Most people have their car serviced every 6 months or so. Visits to the GP are recommended at least once a year, even for those “who never get sick”. But how often do you get your house checked out to make sure everything is in good order? Well, many homeowners don’t do anything and this can be a very costly mistake, especially with termites around.

On average in Australia, the chance that your home will be attacked by termites is 12 times greater than suffering a house fire, yet termite damage is not covered by most home insurance. With the most damaging termite species in Melbourne capable of causing significant damage in as little as 6 months, every homeowner should have a termite management plan in place to protect their most valuable asset.

A successful termite management plan is a combination of regular inspections and the installation of a suitable termite management system to protect your home. However, the annual termite inspection is the cornerstone of a termite management plan. Termite inspections are designed to pick up signs of termite activity, evidence of termite damage and identify conditions in and around the property that make the building susceptible to termite attack.

With a number of pest control companies in Melbourne providing termite inspection services (and unfortunately not all are reputable), it is important for homeowners to know what’s involved in a termite inspection, so they can check to make sure they are getting a quality inspection.

What’s involved in a termite inspection?

The termite inspection can be broken down into 5 key areas;

1)   Interior of buildings. Each room needs to be inspected in turn and wet areas (kitchen, bathroom and laundry) need to be assessed with moisture meters to detect potential leaks.

2)   Sub-floor (if present). If access to the sub-floor area is possible, the inspector needs to crawl to all corners of the sub-floor inspecting supporting structures, flooring timbers and drainage.

3)   Exterior of buildings. The inspector must pay particular attention to the areas adjacent to the house. The inspector is looking for potential termite entry points, whether the soil level or other structure is concealing potential termite entry points, are there elevated moisture levels through watering systems, leaks or drainage issues that could make it more attractive to termites, is there

4)   The land around the building needs to be assessed for conducive conditions such as trees, stumps, timber retaining walls, timber fences, garden beds and any outbuildings / structures. “Termite food” adjacent to the house in the form of plants and wood mulch?

5)   Roof space. The inspector needs to get into the roof space and where space allows, crawl from one end of the roof space to the other inspecting each timber in turn. To enter the roof space, the electricity normally needs to be turned off. If there are any safety concerns the inspector is not allowed to enter the roof space.

How long does a termite inspection take?

With all these areas to inspect (and you don’t want the inspector to rush), you can imagine that even for a “standard” house, a comprehensive termite inspection can take some time. With the size of building, construction type and any on site issues impacting the duration of an inspection, the time taken to complete a termite inspection will vary. However, typically an inspection on a standard 3 or 4 bedroom house will take at least 2 hours. Certainly if the termite inspector has completed the inspection in under an hour you should be concerned. When you are deciding on which company to choose, ask how long the inspection will take – their answer will be a good indicator as to whether they are a reputable company.

What tools does a termite inspector use?

Termite inspectors may use a range of equipment to help them with their termite inspection. Two basic tools would be a “tapper” to knock on wood to check it is sound and a knife or screwdriver to probe suspect areas. A moisture meter is a must have piece of equipment, to check for leaks and potential areas of moisture behind walls which can be a sign of termite activity. The latest equipment includes motion detectors, which can be very helpful to a good termite inspector. However, it’s important to remember that all the equipment in the world does not turn a bad inspector into a good inspector. The best equipment a termite inspector has is his experience, his knowledge and a good set of eyes. The key step is to find an inspector you can trust.

How do I know if the inspector is qualified?

When you are considering which company to choose for your termite inspection, in addition to asking about their experience, it is important to get them to confirm they are licensed to carry out termite inspections and they have the appropriate insurance. As a customer, you are perfectly within your rights to view their license and insurance documents before accepting their quote.

What’s in a termite inspection report?

Firstly, the report should confirm that the inspection has been carried out according to Australian Standard 3660.2. The report will contain a description of the property and what area have been inspected and list the areas not inspected (and reason, such as lack of access). It will list observed termite activity and record any visual termite damage. Importantly it will list conditions around the property that may be conducive to allowing a termite attack; such as high levels of moisture, leaks, construction faults, high soil levels, wood sources, poor ventilation and stored goods.

Termite inspection reports can be lengthy documents as they also contain a lot of legal wording. It is important to get the inspector to explain the results of the inspection verbally as well and any next steps you should take. Good reports will have supporting photographs to help you understand the findings.

It is important to remember that these termite inspections are visual inspections (even if motion detectors and thermal imaging cameras are used) and cannot categorically confirm that termites are behind a wall unless an invasive inspection is carried out. As such the report may include recommendations for further inspections. It will also recommend the frequency of future termite inspections and make a recommendation regarding the need for installing a termite management system, the other key component of your termite management plan.

But a termite inspection can be more than that…

A termite inspector goes to the places most homeowners fear to tread – the roof void and sub-floor. A good termite inspector may also pick up other potential issues with your property – leaking roofs, structural faults, lose wiring, poor plumbing / drainage and more – a real “health check” on your home. So termite inspections are a great investment for a few hundred dollars, one that could save you thousands! When did you last have a termite inspection?