By Bruce Cathcart
A friend of mine called me the other day and said he thought his wife might be going crazy. I quickly put on my amateur psychiatrist hat and asked, “What seems to be the problem?” He told me that his wife kept waking him up in the middle of the night and telling him that she could hear termites in their attic eating away their wooden rafters! He said, “That’s crazy, right? We don’t have termites here in the desert, do we?” It is a common misconception that just because we never see a whole house “tented” to fumigate for termites (like on “Breaking Bad”) that we do not have termites here in the Coachella Valley… because we do!
Without getting too scientific here, there are basically two types of termites. They are Drywood termites and Subterranean termites. We have both here in the Coachella Valley however the Drywood termites are rather rare whereas the Subterranean termites are quite common. Drywood termites live in the wood structure within your home and in order to eradicate them it requires the very expensive and time consuming process of “tenting” and filling the home with a gas that is poison to termites. This gas permeates through the walls and into the wooden structure of the home to kill the termites. Subterranean termites, as their name implies, live in the ground and make daily visits up into your home to dine on your wooden structure. Fortunately the eradication process is easier than tenting and much less costly. It usually involves drilling through the concrete slab and injecting poison into the ground both through the slab and around the perimeter of the house. A full treatment seldom exceeds $1,000.00 and is money well spent.
When a home is purchased today it is common practice for the buyer to ask the seller to furnish them with a “clear” termite/pest report. We are fortunate here in the Coachella Valley to have several qualified, professional termite inspection companies who for about $125.00 (or less) will perform a complete inspection of your home and provide a report that will outline their findings. These findings are broken down into two classifications, Section I and Section II. Section I findings are “Active Infestation”; in other words, termites currently engaged in eating your house! Section II findings are “conditions that could lead to active infestation”. Since we are dealing with termites that live in the ground underneath your home the idea here is to eliminate easy access for them to enter your home. The most common Section II items are faulty grade and earth to wood contact. Faulty grade is where the dirt in your yard is higher than your concrete slab. This situation obviously provides direct access for the termites right into your wooden studs. An example of earth to wood contact would be a wooden fence post that is attached to your home and provides a direct freeway for the termites from the ground into your home. While obtaining a termite report is negotiable in your purchase contract it is common practice for the seller to pay for Section I items and eliminate any active infestation (which is required by lenders when a loan is used to purchase a home); and it is the buyer’s responsibility to pay for Section II items, at their option (since it is generally not required by the lender when using a loan to purchase a home).
In order for Subterranean termites to get from the ground into your home they usually have to build little mud tubes about the size of a piece of string from the ground up along the side of your concrete slab and into the wooden sill plate of your home. You can do your own inspection by looking for these little mud tubes and checking around the outside of your home at the slab line. You should also check inside your garage between your garage slab and the concrete stem wall. Ignore the fine piles of dirt or sand, as these are usually the work of ants not termites. If you see any mud tubes do not hesitate to contact a local termite company.
As for my friend who called, the good news is that while his wife may be a little crazy for actually thinking that she could hear termites eating away her rafters, the bad news is that more than likely what she was actually hearing in the attic were Norwegian Fruit Rats which are also quite common here in the desert and can also do considerable damage if not removed.
Real Estate Tip of the week: When purchasing a home always insist upon getting a termite/pest report. If it has been several years since you purchased your home or since your last inspection it may be a good idea to get a termite/pest report done just to be sure that you do not have termites. It should be considered part of your regular home maintenance.
Bruce Cathcart is the Broker/Co-Owner of La Quinta Palms Realty, “Your Friendly Professionals” and can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit his website at www.laquintapalmsrealty.com.