In the last issue we looked at why every property investor should become a DIY pest inspector and where you should look for signs of termites. To read Part 1 click here.
Now we take a close look at exactly what it is you that you are looking at and the sure signs that you have, or have had, termites!
Termite tracks (paths). Sounds simple but as previously stated termites do not like to show themselves so their tracks are largely hidden. This is why an inspector hits timber with a termite wand when inspecting a dwelling – they are listening for a hollow sound that may indicate termite infestation. Tracks will mainly be found in cracks in both masonry and timber. Start at the ground and work up (naturally). The tracks may look like collections of dust, imprints in the timber or a line of mud.
We had the benefit of a dark post here, so it was easy to see where the termites had tracked up the crack in the timber.
Where termites cannot get into cracks they will build a mud tunnel (aka mud pack) to get to where they want to go (they are very clever creatures!). These are often very visible on brick walls.
This mud pack (going vertically in the approximate centre of the photo) was located in about 1.2m of head height in a dark area under a house. A cursory glance would not have picked up this mud pack... look how well it blends in with the brown bricks.
Look for pinholes in the underside of flooring (in particular pine). These are caused by borers and are their exit holes. Trouble is the damage is far worse inside the timber than it appears on the surface and by the time you see these holes it is too late.
Nests are often concealed, but they can also be visible. Again look for mud packs. Unfortunately sometimes the mud can look like a natural build up. The best thing to do is knock the mud off (often dry) and see if there are active termites or damage underneath.
You never have to see one of these and wonder what it is again... it is a termite nest! These are regularly hidden behind walls, which make them very difficult to spot.
If you find evidence of termites in the sub-floor of the house, try to follow their trail and have a very hard look in the areas above. Likewise if you find internal damage, track this back to the point of entry. It is not uncommon for large sections of a house to be damaged with only one tiny location where termites have managed to sneak in.
Look for any parts of a dwelling that don’t seem to match the rest of the dwelling. This may indicate past termite activity that has been repaired or worse, concealed. Look for things like a stump, bearer or joist that has been painted where the rest of them have not. Another one is a second bearer or joist attached to an existing bearer or joist. This may be to add strength to a damaged member. Look for different finishes internally such as new or different VJ’s, one wall that is different from all the others or a different style of window sill.
The unpainted VJ's in this bedroom sent alarm bells ringing. Sure enough, these are repairs to old termite damage. The good news is that they were no longer active and the repairs were all done, other than the painting, which added to the poor appearance of the structurally sound dwelling and helped us to buy it for less.
Look carefully in moist areas and even dig around earth that is currently moist, especially if there is evidence of termites nearby... you may well be surprised at what you find! Termites love moisture and it is for this reason that when looking for termites, we concentrate most of our energy around plumbing fixtures, moist soils and garden beds built up to the Southern side of a dwelling.
Look for pinprick to small holes going up vertical surfaces such as plaster or architraves. These holes will often have signs of mud if you look closely.
Initially the marks above this shower (and indeed around the rest of the bathroom) looked like mould, but once you stepped inside it became apparent that termites resided there!
Look for blistering or soft painted surfaces, this could indicate a hollow area underneath.
Here we are in the same bathroom as above. Notice the blistering paint? Touch it lightly and it flexed in your hand. We wouldn't be surprised if it was the paint holding up this bathroom!
Remember that nothing will ever replace a qualified expert who has years of experience, lots of training and specialised equipment such as a thermal imaging device. This article isn’t trying to educate you so that you can avoid using these professionals, but rather, it is trying to prevent you from going to contract and wasting time and money on a property that clearly had an infestation.
Also remember that having termites or termite damage isn’t necessarily the end of the world. The damage could be old and the termites no longer active. The damage could be minimal or superficial. The pests could be easily treated and monitored and above all, you could negotiate a better deal on your purchase!
“A termite walks into a bar and says, “Is the bar tender here?”.
Investigate Property are professional buyer’s agents in Brisbane. In addition to locating good quality investment property and negotiating a better deal, they also use their years of experience to look for both positives and negatives in every property they inspect. Investigate Property also has a qualified town planner who is able to quickly and easily determine the future potential of a property. For more information on becoming a client click here.
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