What I'm Seeing Now


Termites, Please Come To My House!


These days, when you buy a brick house, it is not built the same way as was a brick house 40 years ago, or so.

In "the olden days" the brick work was structural.  The wood framing inside the house was attached into the brick walls.

In today's construction the structure of the house is the wood framing, with a brick facade on the outside.  And this brick is separated from the wood framing by an inch or two of space to allow for moisture removal.  It is attached to the house with small straps which are nailed onto the studs and anchored between the courses of bricks.

Thus endeth the lesson.

Often these brick facades begin on top of wood forms.  And sometimes, when they back fill around the house, they leave these forms in place.

How do I know this?  Because one or two years later, after the poorly compacted and back filled soil has settled, these forms are revealed.  And not being of pressure-treated wood, they are termite invitations!  Right to the edge of the house!

On this new construction many forms were still in place.  Wanting to make sure they were removed I pointed this potential problem out to my clients.  Of course the supervisors always say that they remove these forms.  And maybe they intend to.  But sometimes not!

A termite does not need much of a crack to get into a house.  Depending on the termite specie, a gap of 1/32" to 1/64" is enough to get them inside!

My recommendation:  It sounds like a little thing, but probably it is not.  If you are building a new house, or have a client that is, check for wood left attached to the house, or even lying around, and make sure it is removed.

Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC  

Based in Bristow, serving all of Northern Virginia.

Office (703) 330-6388   Cell (703) 585-7560


Comment balloon 62 commentsJay Markanich • March 16 2010 05:13AM


OR....build it in the frozen tundra of the north and the termites can't survive here...no such thing as ice bugs....

Posted by Sally K. & David L. Hanson, WI Real Estate Agents - Luxury - Divorce (EXP Realty 414-525-0563) over 10 years ago

That's true Sally!  No termites there.  But there is fungi and you could have a crop of poisonous mushrooms grow right around the foundation!  I guess...

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) over 10 years ago

Good article.  With so many new homes going up so fast in our area, this is an easy to understand matter for home owners to think about. 

Good photo too. 

Posted by Lenn Harley, Real Estate Broker - Virginia & Maryland (Lenn Harley, Homefinders.com, MD & VA Homes and Real Estate) over 10 years ago

Yeah this just goes to show they don't build anything like they used to....  I am not supposed to pos links on comments but my husband watched this really interesting conspiracy theory on you tube "the Story of Stuff"  It is wild!

Posted by Barbara Kornegay, Wilmington NC Real Estate, Homes (REMAX Essential) over 10 years ago

Hi Lenn - I see this on virtually every new construction I see.  The supervisor nearly always says the same thing, "Yeah, that's already on my list..."  I would hope so, but why do I see so many buried forms years later!?

Barbara - I'll bet that is an interesting show.  Are the shows always about conspiracies?

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) over 10 years ago

Thanks very much for this information...very important Jay.  For termites, this is a NEON "I am open for business sign"

Posted by Yvette Chisholm, Associate Broker - Rockville, MD 301-758-9500 (Long & Foster Real Estate, Inc.) over 10 years ago


Good information, there is usually always extra wood lying around construction sites that doe snot get cleaned up and just gets burried.  I never thought of that as a breeding place for termites but it makes  a lot of sense.

Posted by Cherry Wings Realty, Your Traverse City Michigan Realtor (Cherry Wings Realty) over 10 years ago

Yvette - I describe it to my clients as an invitation card!

Christine - termites cannot live inside the house.  They must come and go.  If there is a lot of food elsewhere, like an old stump, they may be less encouraged to the house.  But there are so many of them that any food source is just that!

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) over 10 years ago

Hi Jay, excellent post on termites. Thank you for the education and I'm going to re-blog this. :)

Posted by Jackie Connelly-Fornuff, "Moving at The Speed of YOU!" (Douglas Elliman Real Estate in Babylon NY) over 10 years ago

Well done post. Thanks for sharing. I will re-blog this information as a localism in Maryland.

Posted by Roy Kelley (Realty Group Referrals) over 10 years ago

Solid advice.  I'm just glad that I don't have to worry about termites here in Minnesota.  It's too cold.  I've heard of termites here, but I've never seen them.

Posted by Reuben Saltzman, Delivering the Unbiased Truth. (Structure Tech Home Inspections) over 10 years ago

We get such good information from our Home Inspectors - thank you!

Posted by Pam Turner, REALTOR®, e-PRO®, SFR (Century 21 Belk Realtors Dalton GA) over 10 years ago

Jackie - sometimes what I think are the simplest or most basic posts get really, really well received!

Roy - glad you liked it!  I'm sure this goes on where you are too.

Reuben - I thought you were above the termite zone.  If there, they must be really hearty.

Pam - we do try, Pam, we do try...

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) over 10 years ago

Great post.  When I first started selling real estate in Maryland I didn't know anything about termites.  Where I moved from we didn't have termites at all and I had never even seen one.  Now, I know more than I care to and when I'm selling new construction I always ask if the builder has treated the ground and the area around the house for termites prior to construction.  When I did my own rehab recently I just went ahead and had the house treated for termites even though it didn't need it, but you can never be too safe. 

Posted by June Piper-Brandon, Piecing Dreams One Home at a Time (Houwzer Inc) over 10 years ago

Excellent article!  Many still believe that if they buy a brick house, termites cannot hurt them.

Posted by Home Design, Home Design and Real Estate over 10 years ago

June - the builders are supposed to treat the soil.  With what or with how much I do not know.  But there are some good prophylactic methods out there to protect your home.

Jennifer - you are right!  Not so, as we know.

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) over 10 years ago

Good info. I remember 25 years ago my new construction brick house had termites within a year - and the soil was treated!

Posted by Gary L. Waters Broker Associate, Bucci Realty, Fifteen Years Experience in Brevard County (Bucci Realty, Inc.) over 10 years ago

Gary - I have heard that before!  Like I said, who knows with what or how much builders treat the soil.

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) over 10 years ago

It's true -- "They don't build 'em like they used to."  Regardless of construction type, if there is any wood framing I always tell my buyers to look into an annual termite treatment contract. 

Posted by Richard Strahm, Lansdale and North Penn Real Estate (American Foursquare Realty) over 10 years ago

Excellent post Jay.  Very true around here also with Concrete Block construction.  I'll re-blog this one.

Posted by Gabe Sanders, Stuart Florida Real Estate (Real Estate of Florida specializing in Martin County Residential Homes, Condos and Land Sales) over 10 years ago

Jay, Thanks so much for the information and the lesson. The more we know the better we can take care of our home.

Posted by Diane Williams over 10 years ago

Jay -- This is excellent info. Most people do not think too much about termites until they HAVE to -- when they find all the damage or a pile of wings on the floor.   Begin educated and taking preventative measures sure helps to keep those nasty critters away. 

Posted by Barbara Altieri, REALTOR-Fairfield County CT Homes/Condos For Sale (Kinard Realty Group Fairfield and New Haven County CT Real Estate) over 10 years ago

Hi Jay, I remember watching houses being built like this up in NJ and PA.  I can't forget thinking how horrendous it was on the second floors of these very expensive homes to have particle board on top of studs, then finished with vinyl siding.  On the inside was insulation, but what was holding everything up(?) I used to think to myself!

It's very different down here, but I'm sure there are slackers in FL, too.  Everything I see being built here is concrete foundations with CBS block on top, many even including the second floors.  It's a relief.  It reminds me of the story of the 3 Little Pigs;  straw, wood and brick.  They really build them to last down here because of the hurricanes.

Great post of yours.


Scott Miller, Realty Associates, Boca Raton, FL

Posted by Scott Miller, ifoundyourhome.com (Best Connections Realty) over 10 years ago

This a great tip to know !!!! Some agents don't even reccomend pest inspections !!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Posted by Michael J. Perry, Lancaster, PA Relo Specialist (KW Elite ) over 10 years ago

All builders in Oklahom have a three stage treatment during construction and a five year guarantee, it is after the five years you have to worry about. I am gald that we see very little problems in construction. Mosy builders here are concious of this, and it seems that every new home I look at has brick pillars on covered patios versus the wood that used to be used.

Posted by Joe Pryor, REALTOR® - Oklahoma Investment Properties (The Virtual Real Estate Team) over 10 years ago

Wonderful information....something I will be on the look out from now on.

Posted by Dennis Duvernay Broker/Owner (Hillview Realty) over 10 years ago

This was very well explained and easy to see the importance of how neglecting a small step can have bigger consequences in the future.  A pest inspection is probably an afterthought for many buyers but Im sure it depends on the geographic area and what could potentially be a problem.

Posted by Morgan Evans, LICENSED REAL ESTATE SALESPERSON (Douglas Elliman Real Estate) over 10 years ago

Couple that with the fact the chemicals being used today are not as good as the chemical they used 40 years ago that kept termites away for a long period of time.

Posted by Russell Benson, We'd love to close your deal at Old Republic! (Old Republic Title) over 10 years ago

A few years back I bought a home of the "former" construction, the brick structure. I had been told that there was a very low likelihood of termites if there was a good deep basement, so not to worry. The sellers had landscaped with RR ties around the house and one day I decided I did not like the rustic look and turned over the ties, to discover they were infested with termites. The pest inspector found termite tunnels in my house as well although the house did have a nice deep basement.  No real damage done to the house yet at the time so no worries except for the $700 it cost for eradication.

Posted by Kathy Fuhriman (Bear River Valley Realty) over 10 years ago

Thanks for sharing this information.  Here is another reason to always get a termite inspection on a home.

Posted by Michele Cadogan 917-861-9166, Licensed Real Estate Associate Broker - (Fillmore Real Estate 2990 Av U, Bklyn , NY 11229) over 10 years ago

I am with Scott #253.  I like block buildings.  I am dealing with termite damage in a property at this time, and It is very expensive repair.

Posted by Tere Rottink (CoastalVa Realty Inc) over 10 years ago

Good info Jay.  Also you should have vegetation or watering up against the house.  We have subterranean termites here and they love to have moisture to help them make their tubes according to an entomologist I know.

Posted by R Cho, R over 10 years ago

Jay, and with a brick veneer, if the bricks are below finish grade it is an open invitation----wood or no wood---with the weep holes right there below the ground.

Posted by Charles Buell, Seattle Home Inspector (Charles Buell Inspections Inc.) over 10 years ago

Great information.  As it has been stated they do not make them like they used to.  Back in the daay you had a builder and a few contractor.  Now it gets subbed out so much that you have no clue who is doing the work and most of the time it is half *ss  job  being done.

Posted by Sajy Mathew, Making your real estate dreams become a reality! (Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage) over 10 years ago


Yes, stucco gets a bad rap and resale, but I know Brick isn't 100% free of issues, moisture and bugs.  

All the best, Michelle

Posted by Michelle Francis, Realtor, Buckhead Atlanta Homes for Sale & Lease (Tim Francis Realty LLC) over 10 years ago


I sure miss the chemical chloradane. it sure kept the termites away.

Posted by Mike Frazier, Northwest Tennessee Realtor (Carousel Realty of Dyer County) over 10 years ago

It still amazes me how many people come here to Florida insisting on buying a cement/concrete block home thinking that this means they will be termite proof. Even older Floridians believe this. Now, in the 1960's and before there were homes whose walls interior and exterior were completely made of concrete. Try driving a nail into that! I have seen termite tubes on interior walls going up 5 feet looking for wood before giving up. Of course, these walls were pretty safe from termite attack. However, there was still wood in the rafters and in framing around cabinets, tubs, etc. But not too much food.

However, today, the blocks form just the outer shell. Just as vinyl siding, rock/brick veneer, clapboards do. Just inside the block are two by fours etc and above are wooden rafters. So unless you are using metal for these components, you have just about as much wood in a block home as you do in a frame home here in Florida. But we still have many buyers here that refuse to consider a frame home due to their worries about termites and their wood-eating friends. And think of all the mobile homes we sell. Those do not have block exteriors either. But of course, the buyers feel they always know what is true and we are just ignorant salespeople. Oh well.

Posted by John Elwell, You Deserve a Full-Time Agent, Not Reduced Results (CENTURY 21 Bill Nye Realty, Inc.) over 10 years ago

Jay, you just don't want to believe that a few scraps of wood strewn about then covered over could be such a problem.  I guess it's like termite hors d'oeuvres!

Posted by Kevin J. May, Serving the Treasure & Paradise Coasts of Florida (Florida Supreme Realty) over 10 years ago

Jay - And sometimes the brick veneer hides the fact that the exterior fill is above the framing line.  While many assume brick to be waterproof, as you know, it's far from it.  Brick may represent strength, but it often only conceals problems.

Posted by John Mulkey, Housing Guru (TheHousingGuru.com) over 10 years ago

Nice Post Jay.  I like reading different types of post.  It is nice to learn something new every day!

Posted by Justin Messer, Residential Loan Officer, USDA Rural Housing Loan (Supreme Lending USDA, FHA, and Conventional Loans) over 10 years ago

This is great advice....especially after a client of mine spend $5000 this year repairing termite damage to one room of thier house.

Posted by Damon Gettier, Broker/Owner ABRM, GRI, CDPE (Damon Gettier & Associates, REALTORS- Roanoke Va Short Sale Expert) over 10 years ago

Jay, it is amazing how some people consider a brick house safe from termites.

Posted by Ted Tyndall, I will help You find the Home YOU want to Buy (Davidson Realty Inc.) over 10 years ago

Richard - I know many people here who have prophylactic termite contracts.

Gabe - It's true with any kind of construction.  Thanks for the reblog!

Diane - I am happy you are happy!

Barbara - so much in life is about prevention!  And often times accidents can be prevented with a little common sense.

Scott - you are right - hurricanes do tend to encourage a different building standard.

Michael - termite inspections are required here within 30 days of settlement.

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) over 10 years ago

Joe - those three stages sound like a good plan.  I wish they had something like that here.

Glad to help Dennis!

Morgan - I would be surprised to find that they did not require them there.

Russell - I have heard that from the termite guys.  Hence the annual contracts.

Kathy - railroad ties are an absolute buffet!  I think the Warren Buffet!  Yeah, probly...

Michelle - the problem presented in this post might not become one for a year or more!

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) over 10 years ago

Tere - it is, and nationwide many billions of dollars of damage annually.

Ron - that's what they are looking for, moisture and wood!  They need a nice meal to regurgitate for the Queen.

Charlie - HA!  I see that all the time - all the weep holes are conveniently covered with mud and mulch.  I bring it up to the builder and they say something like, "You mean we need to find and uncover all the holes?" Ummm....

Sajy - my word for it is 7-11 construction!

Michelle - that stucco rap is because of bad installation.

Mike - that it did!  And the termites are taking over!

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) over 10 years ago

John - once a mental paradigm, it seems always a mental paradigm.  Getting one to shift is magic at its best.

Kevin - that and a buffet!

John M - and also concealing the space behind!

Justin - I am very glad to be able to contribute to that!

Damon - ouch!  These repairs can get very extensive and expensive!

Ted - pretty much nationwide.  I don't know why.  Geez, a 1/64" crack is pretty teeny.

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) over 10 years ago

Good to know! Thanks for the insight.

Posted by Megan Phelps (Newstream Realty) over 10 years ago

Jay, thanks for the post.  Great info.  Will you come to Florence, OR to do my home inspections for my clients?  LOL

Posted by Hope MacManus (Home Finders SVC Real Estate, Florence, OR) over 10 years ago

Megan - any little way we can contribute we will!

Hope - I would if I could!  Thank you for the compliment.

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) over 10 years ago

TERMITES...well unless they come with little sweaters we don't have them here in Alberta, Canada.

But, we all have some form of issues with critters or mold effecting houses.

We have GROW OPS - people tapping into the power before the panel box, and stealing electricity to make the plants grow under extreme lights.  All that damage and danger for some POT.

Causes fires, mold, and makes the house not fit to live in. 

Termites don't sound that bad anymore...eh?   (had to throw the eh? in for being Canadian eh?)

Great Post

Posted by Terri Stephens, REALTOR, Calgary & Airdrie 403-827-4663 (CIR REALTY ) over 10 years ago

It's kind of amazing what gets left that should be removed. But hey termites gottta eat. :)

Posted by James Quarello, Connecticut Home Inspector (JRV Home Inspection Services, LLC) over 10 years ago

Terri - I have heard, and seen TV shows, about the thousands of houses used all over Canada for growing illicit things!  Sorry to hear, but you have your termites that destroy houses and we have ours!

Jim - feed'em out in the yard!

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) over 10 years ago

the more I learn about construction, the more I realize I don't know.

Posted by An Marshall, Your St Augustine Real Estate Consultant (Berkshire Hathaway - St. Augustine) over 10 years ago

Hi Jay~  I can't believe how many people leave wood just laying under the house!  I tell them to get it out!  It serves no purpose and is, like you said, an invitation for termites!  Another thing I do not understand is why more people do not put their homes under contract with a termite company for prevention!

Posted by Vickie McCartney, Broker, Real Estate Agent Owensboro KY (Maverick Realty) over 10 years ago


Thanks for the tip. Termites are a problem here in Maryland. I can't imagine a builder not taking a form down, but I guess I shouldn't be surprised at shoddy work.


Posted by Richard Iarossi, Crofton MD Real Estate, Annapolis MD Real Estate (Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage) over 10 years ago

This is something that needs to be considered.  We don't many brick houses around Orange County.

Posted by Christine Donovan, Broker/Attorney 714-319-9751 DRE01267479 - Costa M (Donovan Blatt Realty) over 10 years ago

Yes, remove the wood debris...and any cellulose debris under or near the the home as well.

Posted by Vickie Nagy, Vickie Jean the Palm Springs Condo Queen (Coldwell Banker Residential Real Estate) over 10 years ago

Thanks for sharing Jay!

Posted by Richard Johnston (San Fernando Valley - RE/MAX Grand Central) over 10 years ago

An - I feel the same way!  We change our book every 14 or 16 months or so.  New stuff...

Vickie - it's a good idea, with a reputable company.

Richard - it is amazing how often I see the forms years later when the soil has settled.

Christine - termites are problems no matter the style of house.  But don't invite them!

Vickie - crawl spaces are another place where people leave a lot of invitations, you are right.

Richard - I will when I can!

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) over 10 years ago


This kind thing probably happens more than most imagine. That's why an inspection is a must for the average citizen. That looks like a termite buffet in the picture.

Posted by Esko Kiuru over 10 years ago

Excellent advice about not leaving a banquet out for the tiny creatures.  Just today I had an underwriting stip that read "have pest inspector reinspect and give assurance that wood in crawlspace has been removed"  Guess who will be in the crawlspace tomorrow removing wood scraps?

Posted by Connie Johns, Toledo, Ohio Area Real Estate (Transaction Realty) over 10 years ago

Esko - I am sure this is a very often occurrence.  Why feed them?

Connie - how fun is that!  I feel your pain.

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) over 10 years ago

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