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Know the telltale signs of termite infestation

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By James and Morris Carey
Syndicated Columnists
The annual cost of termite damage and associated preventive measures in the U.S. is estimated at $5 billion. Why discuss termites now? Because spring is typically when large numbers of winged termites (known as "swarmers") emerge inside homes.
This, along with other signs such as pinholes in walls and wood trim, bubbled paint in walls and ceilings, and sawdust on floors and window sills are a dead giveaway that termites are invading your home.
Once termites are discovered, it can be difficult to determine how long the colony has been established in the home. However, colonies typically take more than five years to grow to a size capable of causing damage. We as homeowners spend an average of $3,000 to repair termite damage.
The cost of repairs for termite damage is sometimes so slight that homeowners choose not to repair it after eliminating the infestation. In other cases, termite damage can cost the thousands of dollars previously mentioned.
It is extremely rare that a home ever has to be demolished because of termite damage. Don't fall apart if a termite contractor tells you that you have an infestation. Ninety percent of all infestations are localized and small.
Keep your eyes open. The presence of winged termites (they look very much like winged ants) inside a home almost always indicates an infestation warranting treatment.
Termite swarmers are attracted to light and often will be seen around windows, doors and light fixtures. They can be differentiated from winged ants by their straight antennae, uniform waist and wings of equal size. Ants have bent antennae, constricted waists and forewings that are longer than the hind wings.
By the way, swarming termites emerging from tree stumps, woodpiles, railroad ties and other outdoor locations are not necessarily cause for concern, and do not necessarily mean that the structure itself is infested.
Take a few precautions to prevent termites. Stack piles of wood away from the house -- not against it. Make sure that dirt around the house is at least six inches away from any wood portion of the home. When building a fence be sure to include a layer of sheetmetal flashing between the exterior wall covering and any adjacent fence or gatepost.
If you have a crawl space it is wise to inspect the foundation walls for pencil-sized tubes of mud, a sure sign of termites. Another great preventive measure is to rake the crawl space removing all cellulose debris from the surface. To a termite, sawdust is a steak dinner.
Wet wood also attracts termites. If water spills into your foundation vents, the soaking wood immediately becomes an attractant to the local termite population. Keep your crawlspace dry and be careful not to water your foundation vents with your sprinkler system. You may end up sabotaging your home.
We firmly believe that doing it yourself is a great way of saving money and becoming one with your home. Having said that, we would like to suggest that you never try to eliminate termites on your own.
If you paint a room and the paint peels you can be pretty sure you goofed in some way. If you fail to properly eliminate termites (or other structural pests) you could allow thousands of dollars in additional damage to occur before realizing that you failed at the task.
For tips from James and Morris Carey, go to or call the listener hot line, 800-737-2474, ext. 59. The Careys are also on KRKO (1380-AM) from 6 to 10 a.m. every Saturday.
Story tags » Home Improvement

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