Why annual pest inspections matter

By: Shannon Lee , Contributing Writer
In: Old House Inspection, Old Houses, Home Improvement Tips

For many years I lived in a historic home in Tennessee. Built in 1901, the home had a good share of problems, just as any house that has stood for over a century will. I knew I lived a charmed life in that house, but I didn’t realize just how fortunate I was until the first annual inspection of my 1950’s Georgia rambler.

Termites? Check.

Carpenter ants? You bet.

Powderpost beetles? Sure. (At this point, why not?)

I was completely puzzled by the fact that all of these infestations had rained down on my house over the past year. After all, both home inspections–the one that seller conducted and the one I had hired out myself–showed a clean record. The termite inspection had turned up nothing.

So where did these creatures come from, and how did they get to work so quickly? Most importantly, what did this mean for me?


An area ripe for ant damage. Image credit: OldHouseWeb

Not-so-fun adventures in pest control

The exterminator was pretty positive about getting rid of the termites. They hadn’t had much time to set up shop and besides, termite eradication has become very good in recent years as long as it is done thoroughly and diligently. Powderpost beetles damage wood very slowly, and getting rid of a small infestation is rather easy. Sure enough, treatment for each was done and over with in a few months.

The carpenter ants? Those turned out to be a nightmare.

The big difference between carpenter ants and the other pests found in the house is simple: Location, location, location. In this case, an astounding number of locations. Carpenter ants like to invest in serious real estate, both inside and outside the house. What I thought would be a simple job of finding the nest turned out to be a nightmare of finding dozens of nests spread throughout the walls of my home.

Typical do-it-yourself treatment involves watching where the carpenter ants go (assuming you can find them in the first place), then drilling holes underneath the baseboards and puffing boric acid into those holes. This will kill the nests and any ants who come into contact with it. It works wonders at first, but when you have a multitude of nests, it can be almost impossible to get them all this way. I worked diligently at the job for six months but recently gave up the fight and called in a professional contractor to handle the job.

Even so, there are no guarantees. Just as a termite infestation can take a long time to clear up, so can the issue of carpenter ants. In the meantime, they are happily gnawing away at the very structure of the home. It’s enough to make you cringe–and worse, enough to make you a little paranoid. I’ve had more than a few nightmares about ants who tried to get revenge.

I’m glad I chose to call in the annual inspection before I moved forward with plans for my new cabinet refacing. A contractor who started work on refacing the cabinets and then found an issue with pests would have to stop the work while I called in another contractor, and that means serious hassle and a project that immediately catapults way over budget.

I will repeat what I have heard dozens of times: no matter how much of a hassle annual inspections seem to be, they are worth the time and money. It is the best way to stop pests in their tracks and take back your home.