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Who’s Responsible for Insect Damage to Wood in New Home?

By Chris Williams on May 4, 2016.

I am so angry at our builder. We just moved into our new home two years ago. In the last couple of days we have been finding tiny holes and piles of sawdust in our wooden stairs. Some insect must be eating our house. I don’t know if we have termites or wood beetles, or what. The builder says it’s not his problem. H. J., Boston, MA

It doesn’t sound like you have carpenter ants since they don’t leave round holes and termites don’t leave sawdust piles. You probably have some type of wood-infesting beetle. You need a professional pest control inspection. And you definitely need answers to the questions below before you (or your lawyer) can begin to assign blame for the infestation or talk about restitution. You might also need the services of a building inspector and you might want to involve the pertinent building or flooring contractors.

You Need Answers to These Key Questions

  1. Which wood-damaging insect is causing the problem?
  2. How much damage can that insect cause, and how quickly?
  3. How much of the stairs or other wood is infested?
  4. Could anything else in my home become infested?
  5. What will I have to do to get rid of the infestation?
  6. How much will the control cost?
  7. Why do I have this problem?
  8. Whose fault is it? Builder? Flooring contractor? Seller? Me?

These are the kind of questions that a professional exterminator should be able to answer for you—with the possible exception of #8.

A professional will conduct a thorough inspection, identifying the pest and checking other areas for evidence of the same pest or conditions that could be attracting that pest. A moisture meter will help in determining whether other areas of your home are susceptible to attack. A professional can also discuss control options with you.

The answers to earlier questions should help determine the answer to question #8, who’s responsible. Some wood-damaging beetles can enter the wood while it is in storage, before it even reaches the job site, and they are not visible inside the wood. Different beetles infest different types of wood. Some beetles can reinfest wood in a home if moisture is high enough, while others will not reinfest after the first generation. Answering the question of responsibility may be straightforward, or not. Your resolution may come down to whether your home is still under warranty.

These Colonial blogs may provide some useful information:

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