Termites are hidden home wreckers

The owner of a home in West Hills is hoping an inspector doesn't find what he's looking for. That's because he's on the hunt for termites, those tiny insects that can cause mega damage.

"Southern California has one of the highest infestations of termites in the country. Statistics nationwide are about $5 billion a year in damage to homes and residences from termites," said Aaron Smith, Terminex.

Termite colonies are a hungry bunch. They eat 24 hours a day, seven days a week and this is their favorite time of year to binge on your house.

But termites are hidden home wreckers so you may need some help to find them. Droppings of miniature wood pellets are one sure sign of dry wood termites, but you may see other indicators like wings on a window sill.

There are several methods used to terminate termites, but only two of them really work to completely rid your home of termites.

The first is the oldest and most common, tent fumigation. That's putting a tent over the whole house and pumping a gas insecticide into the structure.

The other is heat. Hot air from propane tanks is pumped through large tubes placed throughout the home.

All other methods, such as borate and orange oil, are for spot control only, so the kill zone is limited to the area treated which may require drilling holes into the structure.

In fact, the Structural Pest Control Board at the California Department of Consumer Affairs is warning consumers about false and misleading advertising claims made about local or spot treatments.

"Companies that perform treatments and advertise them as whole house treatments with orange oil they would be in violation of rules and regulations of the state and they would be subject to disciplinary action," said Dennis Patzer, Structural Pest Control Board.

The single most important thing that homeowners can do to protect themselves is to have an inspection done at least once per year by a California state licensed inspector. Catching termites in the early stages of infestation is the only way to minimize damage to the home and the cost of tenting or repair.

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