Termite Inspections – Australia

termite inspection

“Governments and building authorities in Australia recommend that regular, professional termite inspections are carried out at least on an annual basis, but more frequent inspections are strongly recommended.”

Termites can cause significant damage in a matter of months. With termite damage not covered by most building insurance, regular termite inspections are a must for all property owners.

Property owners should have a professional termite inspection at least once a year!

Termite inspections - All you need to know!

Termites are pretty sneaky and are experts at concealing their activity, often only becoming visible once significant damage has been done. Spotting the early signs of termite activity is a job for the professional termite inspector.

If you have termites you need a termite inspection do determine the extent of the activity and the best treatment procedure.

If you think you have termites you need a termite inspection to confirm their presence and the extent of the problem.

Even if you don’t have termites you should still have regular termite inspections …

A termite inspection is not just about termite detection and finding the presence of termites and termite damage, it will also determine any construction faults or conditions around the home conducive to termite activity – vital information in preventing a termite attack.

When you think about termites you generally think about damage to the wood in your home. But there are a number of hidden dangers of termite attack including electrocution and house fires.

A termite inspection will:

  1. Determine if you have active termites on your property or in your buildings
  2. Uncover any evidence of termite damage on your property or in your buildings
  3. Specify if there are any conducive conditions in and around your property that will make a termite attack more likely
  4. Provide a report detailing the above and any recommended actions to protect your property
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The termite inspection should include a visual inspection of all timber structures, fences, trees and stumps within the property boundaries up to 50 m from the main building.
  • Every internal room of the building(s) including the garage(s)
  • Roof-void
  • Sub-floor (if there is one)
  • Exterior of the building(s)
  • Trees, stumps, fences and sheds
The inspection does not include furniture and any stored items.It is important to remember that a termite inspection is a visual inspection. If the inspector cannot access an area, it cannot be inspected and it becomes an exclusion in the report.The inspector will recommend gaining access to any obstructed areas at a later date (if it cannot be provided on the day). Note: it is not the responsibility of the inspector to move stored goods and there are strict rules about the safe access to roof void and sub-floor areas.If the inspector is suspicious of certain areas, he may recommend a further “invasive” inspection, which may involve superficial damage to an area in order to gain access to determine whether activity is present (eg. Drilling or cutting plaster to see inside a wall cavity).
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All inspectors should be using two standard pieces of equipment
  • A donger – a device for tapping wood elements and walls to see if there is hidden termite activity
  • A moisture meter – allows detection of water leaks or areas of moisture (which could be termite activity) behind walls
There are a range of termite thermal imaging and motion detection equipment that can pick up termite activity behind walls. These pieces of equipment can be very useful tools to pick up hidden termite activity.However, the quality of thermal cameras is very variable. Although the image may look very impressive, some of the cheaper thermal cameras have limited benefit. At the end of the day, it is the skill and experience of the termite inspector (not the equipment they use) that ensures a comprehensive termite inspection.

Some termite inspectors use termite detection jobs. These dogs are highly trained. Their sensitivity to termite odours means that not only can they detect termite activity, but they can also detect termite damage which the termites may have left years ago.

Although termite detection dogs are an excellent ‘piece of equipment’, the skill of the termite inspector is still the most critical element in ensuring a comprehensive termite inspection.

More information to understand how termite detection dogs are trained and used in termite inspections:

The report should detail:

  • A description of buildings and structures inspected (and not inspected)
  • Any areas of termite activity and termite species present
  • The general location and extent of any termite damage (and whether termites are present)
  • Any evidence of previous termite treatments
  • Recommendations for any further inspections to gain inaccessible / suspicious areas
  • Areas with excessive moisture due to poor drainage, leaks or poor ventilation
  • Any conditions or building faults that make a termite attack more likely
  • Possible locations of termite nests (although locating nests is rarely possible)

The termite inspection report should be a comprehensive and lengthy document. As well as the information above, it should include a range of photos to highlight the findings. This is not the same as a report or checklist that results from a free “termite check”.

The report will also include a number of legally worded statements. These statements can sound scary, but they are necessary to protect both you as the customer as well as the pest control company. If you have any questions when you receive your report it’s always worth discussing the findings with your termite inspector.

Signs of termites

termite mud tubes on tree
Termite Mud Tubes
flying termites dead on ground
Flying Termites
termite damage to painted woodwork
Termite Damage
drywood termite droppings
Termite Droppings

Termite mud shelter tubes are built by termites when the move above ground. They provide protection from predators and stop them from drying out (termites need high humidity).

These mud tubes allow the termites to travel safely between their nest and foraging site. When they build these mud tubes they become easier to spot.

Common places where termite mudding can be spotted include:

  • Over external and internal walls
  • Sometimes as small spots on plasterboard walls
  • Over sub-floor and roof void structural timbers
  • Over trees and fencing

Flying termites, or more correctly called termite alates, are the reproductive termites – the new termite kings and termite queens who fly off to start new nests.

These termite kings and queens drop to the ground, shed their wings, pair off and try and find a suitable place to start a new nest.

These flying termites are released from mature termite colonies on warm humid evenings in great numbers. They don’t fly far, so if you find flying termites near your home, it means you have a large termite nest nearby and you should get a termite inspection immediately.

Typically you will see large number of these flying termites around lights in the evening. They will be a light brown colour and have two pair of wings that will readily fall off. Sometimes you don’t see the alates, but you might find a large pile of wings on the floor or by a window when you wake up in the morning.

Other than obvious structural collapse (a serious problem!) and termite mud tubes, there are some other signs that could indicate termite damage:

  • Rippled paintwork and wall coverings
  • Hard to close windows or doors
  • Spongy floors

Subterranean termites, the main pest termite species, don’t produced droppings that are readily spotted by homeowners. However, drywood termites do produce obvious droppings and are a key sign of drywood termite activity. Drywood termites produce round, six sided droppings, which accumulated in a pile.

Frequently asked questions

  • Don’t spray them with insecticide
  • Don’t break open any of the mud tubes

Such actions can temporarily frighten the termites from the area making them hard to control (they will come back later often to a different location in the building).

What to do? Call a pest professional immediately!

The length of time to carry out a comprehensive inspection will depend on the size of the house, the construction type and the size of the land. As a guide, an inspection of a standard 3-4 bedroom house on a concrete slab will take at least 1.5 hours to complete. Add in a sub-floor it can easily become 2 hours and large houses can take 3 hours or more.

A good inspection takes time and you don’t want them to rush and miss something!

The cost of a termite inspection will be driven by how long it takea – which depends on the size of the home, the construction type and the size of the property. More skilful, experienced termite inspectors will probably charge a premium for their expertise.

When it comes to termite inspections, you should chose a termite inspector you trust, rather than just finding the cheapest price. You want to make sure you get a comprehensive inspection. When you’re trying to protect your expensive home, is it worth saving a few dollars on a cheap inspection?

That said, if you combine a termite inspection with an additional pest control service, you can get a significant discount as it is very efficient for the pest manager to provide two services at the same time.

Yes. Termite protection systems are designed to prevent concealed termite entry. Termites can still find away around the protection, but they become visible and will be spotted (as long as you have regular termite inspections). For this reason termite protection systems require at least annual termite inspections to maintain any warranty.

Yes. The recommendation for regular (at least annual) termite inspections applies to all residential buildings. There are plenty of examples of termites getting into metal framed buildings to attack wooden flooring, doors and window frames. Similarly, termites can enter double brick buildings and attacking the roof timbers.

The bottom line is that if there is wood around termites will find it!

A termite check is a quick superficial check to see if there are any obvious signs of termites. This is often offered as a free service, often in combination with a general pest treatment.

Although a termite “report” or checklist maybe provided, it is not the same as the report from a comprehensive termite inspection and does not provide any legal protection for the homeowner if termites or termite damage are present (but missed).

Property homeowners should not rely on a termite check as part of their property termite management.

If you are looking for a termite inspector then the first questions to ask are are they qualified and are they insured?  Ask to see their pest licence and their insurance. Both documents should specify that they are allow to carry out termite (timber pest) work. 

Then ask how much experience the company and individual inspector have in termite inspections and check out online reviews. As mentioned above, asking how long the termite inspection will take, will give you an idea of how thorough they may be.

Whilst not wishing to scare you, here’s an example of what can happen if a poor termite inspection is carried out.

Don’t choose a termite inspector on price, after all you are protecting your most expensive asset. Choose a termite professional you trust.

We also have a number of magazine articles on termite and pest inspections and more information on termite treatments and termites, as well as pre-purchase pest inspections.

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