Timer pest inspectors should have a mental checklist to help them identify buildings where timber pest attack is likely. 

When carrying out a timber pest inspection, apart from the obvious – identifying any active timber pests (termites, borers, fungal decay) and timber damage – identifying and recording the conditions conducive to timber pest attack is vital. Not only does this provide an indication of a likely timber pest attack in the future, it provides a list of corrective actions the homeowner should take. Failure to spot such conditions or record and communicate them accurately can leave inspectors open to potential legal action should there be timber pest damage in the future.

When conducting a timber pest inspection, it is important to ascertain if the site and construction of the house are highly conducive to timber pest damage. Here’s a bit of a checklist, a reminder of some of the elements to consider.

Knowledge of construction types and an understanding of their intrinsic risk to undetected termite entry is a fundamental requirement for inspections. For example, is is it a cut and fill slab where one or more of the sides of the building are below soil level? Such a property would be at high risk of a termite attack.

Inspectors need to be aware of the appropriate termite management systems that should be in place to protect the construction type under review. Is there an appropriate system installed and is a durable notice in place with owner documentation to support the installation?

Has an extension or renovation been carried out? Look for joins in the property or areas where there is clearly a difference between new and old. Often these renovations and their addition to the existing property have not been protected appropriately, especially if the renovation has been carried out by the owner. That said, builders also take shortcuts, so understanding the common potential flaws in each construction type will allow potential risks to be identified – unprotected joins in concrete slab being a common issue.

The majority of timber pests require suitable food and moisture. The age of the building and timber types used in the construction both impact the susceptibility of timbers to wood borer attack and fungal decay (as well as termite attack). Is there additional timber food source around
and under the building? Are there any areas of excessive moisture? Drainage issues around and under the building, as well as internal leaks, are considered highly conducive conditions for termite activity.

Not being able to carry out a full and comprehensive inspection itself means there could be undetected conducive conditions. Lack of complete access to all areas of the property and insufficient inspection zones means there could be hidden problems.

Not only is it imperative that you identify all conditions conducive to timber pest and any limitations in respect to the construction type, but it’s vital that these conditions are reported and clear recommendations on further expert advice, follow-up inspections or rectification work specified.

There are a number of good reference tools to refresh on the conducive conditions for termite pest attack:

  • Report Systems Australia Handbook Standard Timber Pest Detection Reports, Uniform Inspection Guidelines for Timber Pest Detection Consultants. Fourth Edition, November 2010
  • Australian Standard, AS 4349.3-2010, Inspection of Buildings, Part 3: Timber Pest Inspections
  • Australian Standard, AS 3660.2: 2017, Termite Management In and Around Existing Buildings.

James Wallace, Director, Wallace Risk Solutions