What You Need to Know About Pest Inspections

a man doing a pest inspection while a woman homeowner lucks on
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Licensed professionals perform pest inspections of building structures to determine damage or possibility of damage from insects, bugs, termites, or dry rot conditions. Many people never give a second thought to pest inspections unless they are buying or selling a home.

Common concerns that can plague homeowners and homebuyers alike include determining who pays for an inspection, who to hire, and how to exterminate any pests that are discovered.

Why You Should Hire a Professional

Professional pest inspectors can distinguish between mounds of dirt generated by earthworms in the soil and scraps from chewing wood swarms of termites leave behind. The piles look alike to untrained eyes and serve as an example of the kind of expertise needed when assessing whether or not a home has a pest infestation.

Common pests inspectors target include wood-boring invaders such as termites or powder post beetles and insects such as cockroaches or carpenter ants.

Inspectors examine the exteriors of homes, including foundations and around windows and rooflines, including rafters. If they find a soft spot, they will be able to poke a hole in the wood easily with a probing device they use. This is a normal part of an inspection and should not upset homeowners. If an inspector can poke a hole in the wood, that simply serves as evidence of a problem far greater that one small hole.

Pest Reports

Pest reports identify areas of concern and list a pest company's recommendations to cure any problems, including repairing decaying wood.

Some reports identify areas for further investigation, such as inaccessible spots that might require, for example, ripping tile from a shower wall or digging a trench to wiggle further under a house in a tight crawl space.

Ask neighbors for referrals and do thorough background checks on any inspectors or exterminators you hire. If an inspector identifies damage from an infestation, it's sometimes a good idea to hire a separate company to handle the extermination. This deters inspectors from overstating a problem in order to secure extermination work.

When problems are identified, inspectors typically will photograph them to help illustrate the issue and the evidence leading to their conclusions.

Paying for Pest Inspections

Whether or not a pest inspection is required depends on state and local requirements, so be sure to verify what is necessary where you live. Even an inspection is not required where you live, there are times when it is a good idea to pay for one whether you are the buyer or the seller.

Sellers may want to pay for an inspection to assure potential buyers that the home has no infestations. This can boost the home's appeal and perhaps attract more offers. It's also a good idea to pay for an inspection if it is an older home otherwise in need of repairs or upgrades.

In general, buyers should pay for an inspection any time sellers have not already done so. This is especially true if a home is older or looks like decaying wood may be an issue. It's simply best to have a professional check for pests and make the results a contingency of any offer.

How Companies Exterminate Pests

Many of the products used by pest companies today are effective without a tenting process as long as the infested areas are adequately discovered and identified. The chemicals are touted as environmentally safer and less harmful, but precautions still must be taken until a recommended period of time has passed.

Gone are the days when tenting a home was the sole option for destroying pest infestations. Although effective, the chemicals used to tent a home often are toxic and unsafe, so owners have to move out when the tenting process is being performed. It involves just what you would expect—a huge circus-type tent placed over the entire house and then filled with chemicals that kill pests.

Decaying parts of the wood are removed to cure dry rot. This involves tearing out overhangs, parts of roof extensions, window sills, support beams for patios, joists under a house, or even wood siding.

There is often no requirement that a pest company removes an entire piece of wood siding if only the bottom is rotted. Sometimes they will cut off only the bottom portion off, so be sure to ask how much they are removing and replacing.