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SHOULD I BUY A HOUSE WITH TERMITE DAMAGE?.

Buying a house is an exciting but also nervous time for most people. It’s also time consuming providing all the paperwork needed for pre-approved finance, scanning the Internet for real estate listings and attending open homes before your offer is accepted. On average, this process takes more than 6 months! But hang on, you’re not there yet. Most home buyers under contract nowadays seek the peace of mind provided by a reputable Building and Pest Inspection company. Buyers, vendors and agents all breathe a big sigh of relief when the pre purchase building and pest inspection goes smoothly. Unfortunately, sometimes serious concerns are raised, such as when termite damage is found.

SHOULD YOU TERMINATE THE CONTRACT STRAIGHT AWAY?  

Termites damage timber elements of the house, so now you have more questions than answers. Cool heads always prevail. Take a step back and re-evaluate your position. Ask yourself, why did you choose to buy this house? Is it the location close to schools, shops, transport and recreation or is it the only house you can afford in the local area?

If it’s the latter and this house is bargain priced, it may be because the vendor is selling after finding a termite infestation. From our experience, homeowners who find a termite infestation are highly likely to sell their property soon after the discovery mostly without repairing the termite damage and often without installing a termite barrier. Sometimes the house was previously sold only 1 to 2 years earlier when the previous owner found the termites. Ask the vendor and preferably get an answer in writing, any information relating to past termite activity to the property prior to purchase. Ask the vendor these five questions:

  1. Has the property been subject to termite attack?
  2. When were the termites found?
  3. Is there any termite damage?
  4. Has there been any termite treatment?
  5. Has any termite damage been repaired?

If the owner gives you false and misleading answers, then in the event of discovery of defects you may have action for misrepresentation. If the owner declines to provide a reasonable response to this very reasonable request, your level of alarm should increase. Trust your instinct. If you are feeling overwhelmed and your flight response is now activated, it may be best to terminate the contract. Or if you wanted this house because it ticks a lot of boxes for you, consider investigating further. Ask the vendor for written authority to conduct an invasive building inspection of the building elements in the surrounding area to the termite damage.

A pre-purchase building and pest inspection is limited to a visual inspection of all reasonably accessible building elements. The building and pest inspector is not allowed to poke holes in the wall, lift carpet or move stored items. When termite damage is found during the pre-purchase building and pest inspection, it is likely that further hidden termite damage will exist to surrounding building elements. It is also reasonably likely that live termite infestations may be found nearby through an invasive building inspection. So what’s involved, for example, in the case of a termite damaged window frame?

INVASIVE BUILDING INSPECTION PROCESS

REMOVE THE DAMAGED WINDOW FRAME: By removing the damaged window frame, the inspector can now directly look for live termite activity in the exact location where termite damage was found. Although evidence of live termites may not have been found by non-invasive means, it is only through invasive means that the inspector can be certain there are, or are not, any live termites in the area of termite damage.

LIFT ANY CARPETS: If the room near the termite damaged window frame is carpeted, lift the carpet to expose the floorboards. Signs of termite damage include hollow timber, discoloured timber and swollen timber. Timbers are testing by tapping and poking with a screwdriver.

CUT HOLES IN PLASTER WALLS: Working outwards from the location of the known activity, an invasive building inspection may involve cutting a hole in one or more plaster sections between wall studs large enough to fit a hand with a hammer to test the timbers in the wall studs and bottom plate. If the holes are cut to the size of a snap vent, the walls can be left in a reasonable condition until the plaster is repaired by the vendor or you as the new homeowner.

INSPECT THE SUB-FLOOR: Remove any stored items in the area below the termite damaged window frame to allow full access to the floor joists and bearers. Timbers are testing by tapping and poking with a screwdriver.

LIFT ROOF TILES OR ALUMINIUM SHEETS: Termites are likely to eat the top plates and roof battens which may be accessible from the roof space and/or lifting roof tiles or aluminium sheets towards the gutters.

Through these invasive means, the extent of the termite damage can be determined. Termite damage repairs consist of the cost of the replacement building materials and labour, but the scope of works may not end there.

WHY DID THE TERMITES INFEST THE HOUSE AND WHAT NEEDS TO BE DONE TO STOP IT RECURRING?

Termites require water to live. Termites get their water by consuming materials inside wet timber. Termites most commonly infest timbers that are reliably wet from a leak or less commonly, if there is enough water, termites can take the water to the timber some distance from the water source. Extensive moisture testing needs to be conducted to find evidence of high moisture from the roof, windows, plumbing or waterproofing and external site drainage should be assessed.

  • Sometimes the cause of the moisture problem is obviously missing grout to the shower or damaged sealants in wet areas.
  • If for example there is a leaking roof, an investigation by a leak detection specialist is recommended and any necessary repairs undertaken to fix the leak.
  • If there is poor site drainage, you may need a plumber to install an agi-drain to remove the water source.

TERMITE MANAGEMENT RULES

Termites cannot be controlled but they can be managed. Your peace of mind as the owner of any property is always improved if you install a termite management system, which can be categorised into chemical or baiting systems. Below are some pros and cons to consider.

Chemical termite system

A chemical termite management system involves treating the soil in direct contact to the house with a termiticide. To reach the soil to the perimeter of an established house, a termite technician needs to dig a trench (to soil sections and under pavers) or drill and inject the chemical through concrete. If the house has a sub-floor the soil abutting the internal walls and perimeter of each stump is also treated. It’s an effective but messy invasive process. To understand more about chemical termite management, refer to Termidor.

Termite baiting system

A termite bating system is less invasive and can be a highly effective termite management system. You can install DIY with Sentricon. A bait station and bait rod, where possible every 3 metres is placed in dirt around the perimeter of your house near the external walls. Create a mud map of the station locations in case they become buried and set a calendar reminder to check the bait rods every 3-6 months. The bait rods last 5 years and can then be replaced for about half the initial installation price.

Annual termite inspection

If you have an annual termite inspection, high moisture will be detected so you can avoid termite attack by carrying out maintenance such as leaky showers/roof, blocked gutters etc.

GET A BUILDING AND PEST INSPECTION YOU CAN TRUST

Building and Pest Inspection Brisbane are pre-purchase building and pest inspection specialists. Since 2010 we have helped more than 5,000 happy customers buy properties with peace of mind.

Our QBCC licensed builders are dual qualified termite specialists. We discuss our findings after the inspections and email comprehensive reports within 24 hours. If you have any questions after reading the report, the inspector is happy to discuss.

Contact our friendly team today to book your Building and Pest Inspection.

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