DIY Home Pest Inspections

- Use this home inspection checklist to guide your annual inspections -

Summary: Water and insect damage can significantly impact the value of your home as well as the health of the occupants. Annual inspections can alert you to problems before they become too serious. Excess moisture causes black mold and/or dry rot damage while termites and carpenter ants are the primary insect pests. Included is a free home inspection checklist you can use.

Jack DeAngelis, PhD
OSU Ext. Entomologist (ret.)

Annual, or even semi-annual, pest, mold and dry-rot inspections are important for keeping up the value of your home. Done properly, inspections will reveal potential damage before it becomes unmanageable and expensive.

Inspection for dry rot and mold

Damage by the fungus that causes dry rot is the leading cause of structural wood failure in most homes. This is not the same fungus that has made headlines as a health concern. It is the fungus that destroys the structural integrity of wood and causes wood to rot. If you are not familiar with what dry rot looks like take a look at this article.

Dry rot can occur anywhere wood remains wet for extended periods. Be sure to inspect around water pipes, water heaters and floor joists that are within 12" of bare soil in a crawlspace.

house foundation

House foundation, siding and foundation vents (black). Inspect for insect activity and water infiltration on the foundation between soil and siding. "Perimeter" treatments should be applied where the siding overlaps the foundation. Photo by JD DeAngelis.

Wood damaged by dry rot often described as "alligator skin" because of the cracked appearance of the surface. Dry rot causes weakness in the wood fibers which will eventually fail if placed under load. Rotted wood must be replaced after the source of moisture is found and eliminated. Sound wood should be treated with borate wood preservative to stop additional fungal growth.

Inspection for termites and carpenter ants

Insects pose a second concern. Carpenter ants, termites and to a lesser extent (except in coastal climates) powderpost beetles can cause significant and costly damage. Carpenter ants damage sound wood while expanding their nest cavities. Termites actually consume wood and one group, the subterranean termites, often start colonies in wood that has been buried near homes during construction. Powderpost beetles burrow in softwoods and hardwoods causing extensive structural and cosmetic damage especially in damp coastal climates.

You can use our Home Inspection Checklist to help set up a basic inspection routine for all these pests. You can do the inspections yourself or hire a home inspector or pest control company (exterminator) to do it for you. Some home inspection companies now offer a "pest and water damage only" inspection for a reasonable fee.

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