Buying a House? Look for These Pest-Related Problems
By Chris Williams on May 16, 2016.
My wife and I are looking to buy a fixer-upper house but we’re very worried about ending up with a house that has major moisture or pest problems, like termites, that can’t be seen until later when you open things up. Are there any things we should be looking for as we home hunt? L. B., Henniker, NH
Below are some of the basic things that I would recommend you look for as you check out various homes. Two things that attract termites and other wood-damaging pests are (1) moisture or water-damaged wood and (2) construction gaps that will let them into the structure. Of course you should always ask about recent termite treatments at the property.
Look for Maintenance Problems
- Does the house generally look well-maintained? Poor maintenance means more conducive conditions that favor wood-infesting pests.
- Is the paint in good shape or discolored and peeling? Paint peels from wood that keeps getting wet. Poor paint in general suggests high moisture levels, which in turn favor termites, wood rot and other fungi, wood-boring beetles, and carpenter ants.
Look for Construction Faults
- How old is the house? Older houses are generally at higher risk of wood-infesting pests. Has there been a recent addition or a homeowner renovation? Changes invite termites inside and do-it-yourself or low-bid general contractor additions are notoriously susceptible to termite attack, even if the new construction has been treated for termites.
- Do you see any settling in the structure? Are walls out of alignment or badly out of square, are there cracks in brick or block walls, bulging or separated parging, eave line distortion, or a sagging roof ridge? This kind of damage opens routes for termites and other pests.
Look for Moisture Problems
- Do you see evidence of moisture problems on the outside? Look for mildewed, blistered, or peeling paint, stained or rotting fascia boards or soffits, and moss or lichens growing on the roof. Insect pests and wood-destroying fungi are more likely to infest leaky, water-damaged structures.
- Is drainage around the house adequate? If it were raining, where would the rainwater go? Are the gutters and downspouts in good shape, and does the drainage system take the water away from the house? Does the ground slope towards the house or away? A lot should be graded so that water runs away from the house during rains rather than puddling against the foundation to cause interior moisture problems.