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Wood Destroying Insect Inspections

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Many home buyers in Northern Utah are under the false impression that termites and other wood destroying insects are not a concern in the area because of the cold winter weather. Pest Inspections provide extremely valuable information to buyers of both older and newer homes. The following newspaper article was originally printed in the Provo Daily Herald Home Magazine.

Termites are Alive and Well in Utah County Homes

Out-of-state home buyers in Utah County regularly ask about the need for termite inspections. Many states require pest inspections in the sale of homes, yet in Utah we have no such requirements. This doesn't mean that we don't have termites, because we do. Many of our county's homes are slowly being damaged by termites.

Many areas of the country have dry wood termites that are very destructive. Their destruction is quick and usually widespread. Dry wood termite infestations will usually require that the entire home be draped with an enclosed tarp that will allow complete fumigation at a relatively high financial expense to the homeowner.

In Northern Utah, we have a different kind of termite called the subterranean termite. The subterranean termite lives in the ground and loves to slowly eat tree roots. He lives with about 4-5,000 other termites forming a colony. As a worker, he heads out through the underground tunnel systems they have created to look for wood fibers and other cellulose products. He then returns back and forth with food for the colony. Subterranean termites live up to 15 feet underground and can travel in tunnels as long as 300 feet. They eat very slowly at the rate of 1/8th board feet per year, but they keep busy 24 hours a day.

In comparison, the dry wood termite, which is prevalent in California, lives in the wood structure of the home. They don't take the time to dig long tunnels in the dirt because they are too busy eating the structure. Their family size is in the millions and they devour wood at the incredible rate of 13 to 17 board feet a year.

Utah County provides the ideal environment for the subterranean termite because this area used to be a thriving orchard community. With the removal of orchards and the construction of houses, many termites have had to change their lifestyles. They are constantly searching for wood products and have found homes provide the perfect meal. Entrance to the structure can be gained through tiny cracks in concrete, mortar or wood as small as 1/64th of an inch. If entry cracks can't be found under the ground, then they will build mud tubes rising out of the ground and up the foundation in search of entry. Once inside, they begin to feast upon wood and drywall.

Homeowners can try to self-inspect for termites by looking closely at the exterior and interior of their home. On the exterior, one should try to locate any small cracks in the foundation that might provide entry. Also look for mud tubes in the form of 1/4" brown lines on the foundation. Subterranean termites love moist ground so look behind bushes and shrubs, or where sprinklers and rain gutters splash against the foundation.

On the interior, special attention should be given to the exterior walls below the ground level. I have seen many instances of what appears to be a worm trail right below the surface of the paint in the drywall. Sometimes patches of paint will fall off exposing the termite's tunnel. The damage area is not limited to the basement because termites will travel up the walls to the upper floors.

Although the homeowner might have some luck identifying termite infestation, the inspection is best left to the professional. Home Inspectors and Pest Control Operators look for any evidence or conducive conditions that may indicate infestation by wood destroying insects. If any evidence is found, then the inspector will recommend further evaluation by a licensed Pest Control Operator so that mitigation can be performed.

One local pest control operator reports that between 30 - 40% of the homes in Utah County suffer from some termite damage. The cities that are hardest hit are Orem first, with American Fork, Springville and Pleasant Grove in a close tie for second. Typical termite damage ranges from superficial to about a $2,000. If damage is suspected, the professional pest control operator should be immediately called.

I have seen many homes with termite infestation. One home in Mapleton had an unfinished basement door frame that was completely deteriorated. It was odd because there was no other damage to the walls and absolutely no evidence of termite tubes leading to the foundation. Further review was recommended by a licensed Pest Control Operator.

I later found out that the termites had entered the home directly through the floor slab by way of a tiny crack underneath the door frame. They ate all of the frame and then decided they didn't like the surrounding wood so they left the home. There was no other evidence of damage and the damage that was there was probably over 10 years old.

Several lawsuits have originated from disgruntled home buyers that discovered termite damage that was not disclosed to them by the sellers of the property. Unfortunately, local judges do not generally rule in the buyer's favor. Utah is a "buyer beware state," therefore it is the buyer's responsibility to have the home inspected for termites and pests before they close on the home.

Once termites are discovered, their pathway into the home must be interrupted. This is performed by injecting a special termiticide into the soil. This is done both on the interior and exterior of the home. The termiticide forms a protective barrier around the home preventing the termites migration. The termites inside the home die while those outside stay away.

Full termiticide treatments usually run from $800-$1,400. Most pest control companies guarantee their work. Many will include a 1-year guarantee with an option to renew the coverage yearly. The guarantee should cover the repair and treatment of any further termite damage.

(Michael Leavitt is a Certified Home Inspector and owner of Michael Leavitt & Co Home Inspections serving all of Utah County and beyond. Column suggestions or inspection questions are welcomed by calling his office at 801-636-6816)


(Excerpted from the National Pest Control Association's Field Guide to Structural Pests)

If you suspect that your home has termites, you have reason to be concerned...

More than 365,000 homes will need the fire department this year. But over 2 million homes will require termite treatment.

Homeowners insurance will help recover losses from fires, storms and earthquakes, but it is almost impossible to carry insurance against termite infestation. This is why many homeowners purchase a contract for annual inspections and treatment as necessary by a professional pest control firm.

Your pest control operator can provide protection from termite infestation. Termites can be found in almost every state as well as Mexico and parts of Canada. They feed on wood and may also destroy cellulose products such as books, cardboard, boxes and a variety of other items. Even buildings with steel framing and masonry walls are targets because of the wooden door and window frames, cabinets and shelving within the buildings.

A termite colony is large, composed of the queen, king, winged reproductive swarmers, soldiers and workers. Worker termites are small, creamy white insects. They are the most numerous and the cause of all the termite damage. A property owner seldom sees the worker termites, but in the spring or fall he may see swarming "winged reproductives."

This form of termite can easily be confused with a winged ant.


The most common termite, the subterranean, builds its nest in the ground.

These termites construct mud tubes which are used to explore for food and connect their underground nest to that food source. They can enter a building without direct wood contact with the soil through such tubes.

Termites can enter buildings through cracks, expansion joints, hollow bricks or concrete blocks around plumbing. They can find their way into a structure through an opening as small as 1/32 of an inch.

Any building, whether constructed with slab, basement or crawl space foundations, can be targets for termite infestation.


A thorough inspection by a termite specialist is the first and most important step in protecting your property. "Experienced" eyes can locate the specific areas in your structure where termite attack is likely to occur.


Applying termiticides to soil around the exterior foundation creates a chemical treated area against the termites and is accomplished by trenching, rodding and/or drilling.





A treatment for slab construction consists of drilling through the slab floor and injecting termiticides into soil along the inside perimeters of the foundation.





Basement construction may require treatment which injects termiticides into the soil through holes drilled in the basement floor at regular intervals.





Crawl space treatment also involves trenching or rodding soil along the foundation walls and around piers and pipes, then applying termiticides to the soil.

Then the Pest Control Operator will design a treatment plan for your house that will control any current infestation and establish a chemical barrier around the structure to inhibit further termite entry.


In certain areas of the country you may encounter different types of termites, such as Formosan, dampwood, drywood, etc. If your home is infested with one of these termites, it may require different or more extensive treatment procedures including wood treatment and fumigation.


Frequently Asked Questions About Termite Treatment

What is a termiticide?

It is a type of chemical used for the control of termites. Each is extensively tested for effectiveness by the U.S. Forest Service and registered by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

Will the wood in my home be treated?

Depending on the type of construction and accessibility to wood direct treatment of the wood may be done in conjuction with soil or bait treatments. If required, there are special products available to the professional to effectively treat the wood.

Will there be an odor?

There might be a slight odor from the treatment but it should only last a short period of time.

Are termiticides a danger to my health?

Studies show that when termiticides are applied according to label directions no adverse health effects occur to persons applying the product or to occupants of the treated building.

What about baiting systems?

Several baits are available for termite control. These are placed in the ground or in the structure and termites will carry the bait material to the colony. The intent of the bait is to reduce or eliminate the colony. Some companies use baits alone or in combination with a liquid treatment.


As a member of the National Pest Management Association, I have been overwhelmed with topical information they provide. When I started inspecting homes here in Northern Utah in 1995 I had no idea what types of wood destroying insects we had here. Since that time I have gone to great lengths to take classes, read books, taken testing and received certification, as well as become friends with Pest Control Operators in our area. Having performed thousands of pest inspections I have become well versed in detecting, discovering, and identifying wood destroying insect infestations.

Pest destruction can be very costly to repair. For example, I inspected a Provo, Utah home that had lots of conducive conditions, yet the major destruction had been covered over with fiberglass insulation in the crawl space. Because the conducive conditions were identified before enterring the crawl space, we removed main floor insulation batts in those areas to reveal the concealed damage. We do not make it a practice to remove insulation batts, but when everything points to an infestation, we do it, and I'm glad we did. We accurately identified the conducive conditions, the destruction, and made the needed recommendation for further repair/evaluation by a licensed Pest Control Operator. The home owner was both surprized and angered.... but everybody else breathed huge sighs of relief. The repair bids started at $7,000.

NOTE: This same property was previously inspected by another firm that had no specific wood destroying insect training and they gave the home a clear inspection report..... This is where our experience benefits our clients.

Buyers are well advised to have a thorough Pest Inspection performed on the property they are considering to protect their investment. When you purchase a home in Utah, you also accept the true conditions of the home. We feel that it is better to know the truth before you buy, rather than find out after.


As an A.I.I.™ Certified Pest Inspector, Michael Leavitt will provide the nationally accepted Wood Destroying Insect report form. This is required by many lenders and underwriters before they will allow funding on a home. Termites have been found in homes of all ages and all areas of Utah County. We offer the most thorough Pest Inspection in Northern Utah, and since we don't get paid to rid homes of termites, we have no vested interest in the outcome of the report.

We recommend a termite inspection on every home over 1 year old.

Payment at the time of the Inspection:
  • Stand Alone WDI Pest Inspection............... $235 (Up to 5,000 Square Feet)
  • WDI Pest Inspection with Home Inspection.. $135
  • Home over 5,000 square feet are billed according to the time needed to complete the inspection.
Payment out of closing:
  • Stand Alone WDI Pest Inspection............... $285
  • WDI Pest Inspection with Home Inspection.. $185
NOTE: Out of closing payments must be received within 7 days of the home's closing in our offices or there will be an additional $50 late payment fee assessed.

Added Travel Fees:

  • Stand alone pest inspections outside of Utah County require a travel fee.
    • Salt Lake County $25
    • Heber and Park City Areas $50
    • Davis County $50 - $75
    • Beyond these areas we will bill accordingly.
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