Let me start this post by making it clear that nothing can replace a pest inspection conducted by a well-trained and experienced professional inspector. Still, there are some things every homeowner can do to periodically check for pests on their own.
When I use the term “pests” as an inspector, I am primarily referring to wood-destroying insects (WDI) that can potentially damage structure. Other pests can certainly be a nuisance, but they will not slowly but surely destroy your home. Wood-destroying insects, such as termites, carpenter ants, carpenter bees, and powderpost beetles, on the other hand, can (and do) cause substantial damage that amounts to a lot of money in repair work each year.
For starters, be sure that no wood is against the exterior of your house. People often place piles of firewood against their houses, but this is an inviting area for wood-destroying insects and should be avoided. Likewise, vegetation should not be right up against the structure because it, too, is an ideal environment for pests. So, step one is making sure that the conditions around your house are not conducive for WDI.
Next, you can check your window and door sills for any insect parts, like wings. Certain wood-destroying insects swarm (fly away to create new colonies) and their wings are often found after swarming has occurred. Tap on the wood trim around windows and doors, baseboards, and so on, and see if you can hear a buzzing sound from a group of insects. If you come across any areas of soft wood, it may be an indication of WDI damage. If you see mud tubes, which look just like they sound, you know you have a current or previous problem.
A can of compressed air is a very useful tool for checking for pests of all kinds. Place the narrow tube into the nozzle on the can and spray any areas where insects are most likely to be (the bottom of siding, trim, electrical and plumbing penetrations, etc. Use a mirror with an extendable neck to see behind hard-to-reach areas. Check areas where dampness may be an issue (under sink cabinets, in the basement and attic, and so forth) to ensure there are no signs of WDI.
If you thoroughly evaluate your home with these steps, you will have completed a pretty thorough pest inspection on your own. If you do come across any wood-destroying insects or suspect you may have, be sure to contact a qualified exterminator for immediate treatment.
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