It is not difficult for a layperson to inspect a home for termites when obvious signs are present. Unfortunately, mud tubes are often absent, making it very difficult to determine whether termites are present. It is even more difficult for a layperson to distinguish between old termite damage and new termite damage. For these reasons, homeowners are encouraged to consult with experienced professionals for a quality inspection.
The following are the general procedures for conducting a termite inspection. First, obtain inspection tools. A flashlight and a probing tool (garden trowel, screw driver, or ice pick) are a must. Knee pads, a hard hat, a mirror, collection bottles for specimens, and a moisture meter will help with an inspection. An inspection should focus in areas where there is high moisture and wood or other cellulose materials: window sills, the bottom of door frames, the crawl space, the basement, and foundations immediately above ground, etc. Look for mud tubes and damaged wood. Tap the exposed wood with a probing tool. A hollow sound may reveal damage beneath the wood surface. Old houses may have mud tubes from previous infestations. Gently break a small section of the mud tubes to determine whether they are moist and whether termites are currently present. Active mud tubes can be distinguished from old mud tubes by a darker color, moist soil, and presence of live termites. Use a garden trowel to examine the mulch near the foundation. If termites are found in the mulch, the structure should be very thoroughly inspected, since termites can occur in the immediate vicinity. It is a good idea to inspect the house at least once a year in the summer to detect termite activity.