Jay Turner gives his advice on how to execute a professional termite inspection, every time.
Although there are key elements and processes we all should follow as part of a termite inspection carried out to Australia standards 3660.2, we all probably have our own way of doing things. To get you thinking, here are my tips for a successful termite inspection.
1. Get a feel for the house
Your inspection should start from the moment you arrive at the house. I like to take a moment to sit in my car and look at the surrounding area? Are there any nearby trees that scream “termites”? How is the house constructed, is it a suspended floor or slab on ground – or possibly both? Is it a sloping block? Does the house step up with the block or does it cut into the block? What is the pitch of the roof like and am I going to have good access? What age is the house – was it built in the organochlorine days or during those years of turmoil between changes to the Building Code? My next step is typically to locate the electric meter box, and of course hopefully find any durable notices.
2. Get the low down
Before I officially start my inspection I like to ask the owner what can they tell me about the house. How long have they had it? Have they done any extensions or major renovations? Are there any previous termite issues that they are aware of or know of any previous leaks or moisture issues? I check to see if they are concerned about any particular areas, something I even ask vendors when performing prior-to-purchase inspections.
3. Have a system
I like to start on the outside and then work my up, so subfloor – if it has one – then internals, then roof space. When I start the internals I like to work my way anticlockwise through the house. It’s not a big deal which order you do it in, but developing a habit will reduce the chance of missing somewhere and will make your inspection more fluid as you won’t have to think about what you are going to do next.
4. Be thorough
Unfortunately some inspectors take the term ‘visual’ a bit too literally; they go through the house with their donger, bang and tap any skirting or architraves that are easily accessible and give it the thumbs up! Termites aren’t always that obvious and it’s the extra attention to detail that will help you detect termite activity where others won’t. Open up the doors to inspect those door jambs, pull up those blinds or curtains to inspect the window reveals, shine your torch inside those sliding door cavities. Termites aren’t always visible from a standing position, so get down on your knees. Look under the bed, the underside of those bottom shelves, and that window architrave. But don’t forget to look up, too – it’s easy to get into a bad habit of focusing your attention at ground level, looking for those dripping overflow pipes, timbers in contact with the soil and of course the visual inspection zone. Remember to look up for that fungal decayed fascia board or rusted guttering.
5. Be suspicious
Look for any replaced skirting board. If one skirting board has a completely different profile to the rest, ask yourself why.
6. Light it up
How we ever did inspections without Dolphin torches, I will never know (they’re not very good). Get a good torch with a clear quality beam (without any filament shadow) and use it. Light up that wall, look for any patched walls, look for those drill holes above or in the skirting board from a previous live activity treatment.
7. Stay focused
I will be the first to admit that at times this is what I struggle with the most, especially with repeat annual inspections. It’s easy to go through the motions of doing an inspection but are you really concentrating on what you are doing?
8. Take photos
Take them, whether you choose to include them in your report or not. It’s your only physical proof of the claim ‘at the time of the inspection’. I also find photos help me describe issues, and their locations, to clients over the phone and by email.
9. Communicate with your client
One of my pet hates is owners who have absolutely no idea what kind of termite management system they have in place, despite having had previous termite inspections. Put simply, previous termite inspectors haven’t taken the time to explain what they have in place and the positives and negatives of their system. Too many inspectors issue a report and that’s it (and let’s face it, very few clients read the report!). Take the time to verbally explain to your client what you have found and what you recommend. Establishing a relationship will go a long way towards your client remaining amicable should an issue arise after the inspection.
10. Have it in writing
Finally, make sure your report is accurate and concise. Be sure to cover the four W’s: What is the issue? Where is the issue? Why is it an issue? What is your recommendation? A lot of termite inspectors have come unstuck simply due to poor paperwork.
Jay Turner, Laguna Pest Control. Pest Manager of the Year 2017