What I'm Seeing Now

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Major Termite Infestation And A Really Big Queen

Sounds almost like a title for an article in Scientific American - "Major Termite Infestation and a Really Big Queen."

This house is 250 years old, a duplex, which was common then, and had been lived in by an elderly gentlemen.  A son is living there now, trying to get the house ready for sale.

Also, a common building technique in that era was a cellar.  It has been modernized over the years, with additional posts and a concrete floor, but still, it was and is a cellar.

I love historic homes and to see the building techniques.  Especially interesting is the milling of the wood - hand hewn, hand cut and fitted, and joined with nails that were NOT made in a factory.

Also common on houses that have been lived in by folks that do not do maintenance inspections is the threat and eventual infestation of termites.

The outside wall of this house has a brick sidewalk, which is settled and directing water directly toward the house.

Water enters the house right at the top edge of these joists.

And this house has been a feast for the local subterranean termites.

Many joists were so infested.

I may be the first person to critically look at this house in many years.

My client, a forensic structural engineer, is more than familiar with this problem.  He considered it a big deal. 

So did I!  But I am not the termite guy.  All I can do is point it out.

Especially surprising was this! 

Seldom is the queen of a termite colony so brazen.

This photo shows that she has her own entrance carved out for easy movement about the house.

Obviously from here she probably has a bath, and then goes into the kitchen to fix meals, and can easily get to the master closet to try on clothing.  It's said she is especially attracted to shoes.

This species, the Reticulitermes Flavipes Humongous, gets especially territorial like this, and considers the house its own.

The queen of this order, the Isoptera, of the now-accepted epifamily Termitoidae, is known to reach weights of 12-15 pounds.  Once in the kitchen, understandably, she eats a lot!  She is a big girl!

Tapping in to vibrations, she can hear when the house is vacant, the human occupants gone to work or play, and enters with impunity.  She does so by herself, with workers and soldiers waiting behind the wall.

Scientists are yet to determine how long she can live outside the colony before drying out, so it is thought that she is most attracted to the water in bathrooms before making her way elsewhere.

This looks to be a problem of the highest order.

My recommendation:  one common problem in historic homes in this area is termite infestation.  Owners have to be especially diligent as regards drainage and water control, and I'm told should consider prophylactic termite treatments.  As to these huge queens, well, if you see one please keep your distance.

 

 

Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC  

Based in Bristow, serving all of Northern Virginia.

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

www.jaymarinspect.com


Comment balloon 29 commentsJay Markanich • October 25 2012 02:35AM

Comments

Morning Jay 12-15 pounds man that is as big as my dog.  I did not know they could grow that big.  My goodness what is the owner going to do?

Posted by James Dray, Exceptional Agents, Outstanding Results (Fathom Realty AR LLC) over 6 years ago

They don't James.  It is tongue in cheek.  The species name is correct, except for my little addition of the word humongous.

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) over 6 years ago

Jay  I feel sorry that a comfortable family living arrangement will come to a close - they weren't bothering the neighbors and the elderly owner extended the hand of hospitality.  It's an uncaring world

Posted by Karen Kruschka, - "My Experience Isn't Expensive - It's PRICELESS" (RE/MAX Executives) over 6 years ago

Well, what can we say Karen?  She had the run of the place.  Too bad the new owners won't be as amenable.  She can move to the house next door!

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) over 6 years ago

Jay...

Yep...termites follow water, and require constant mitigation to preserve the wood components of a house. This one looks like it may have gone too far.

Posted by Richard Weisser, Richard Weisser Retired Real Estate Professional (Richard Weisser Realty) over 6 years ago

The termites are doing what they do best Richard.  You do realize that the second half of the post is tongue-in-cheek, right?

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) over 6 years ago

Hi Jay,

Looks like dinner has been served and eaten by the WDO'S. 

Good to have an inspection, even better to find the troubles before the sale. Good find my friend.

Have a great day inspecting in Bristow.

Best, Clint McKie

Posted by Clint Mckie, Desert Sun Home, Comm. Inspection 1-575-706-5586 (Desert Sun Home, commercial Inspections) over 6 years ago

Looks similar and sounds similar to a house I looked at about a month ago. Major termite infestation, lots of damage and the humongous queen was hiding. 

Posted by James Quarello, Connecticut Home Inspector (JRV Home Inspection Services, LLC) over 6 years ago

Ahhhh! To be queen for a day!

Posted by Charles Buell, Seattle Home Inspector (Charles Buell Inspections Inc.) over 6 years ago

Jay, our area is termite heaven. We live on a wooded lot so it pays to have an annual termite inspection. No termites, but one year got invaded by carpenter ants.

Posted by Michael Setunsky, Your Commercial Real Estate Link to Northern VA over 6 years ago

Very well-written post.  When I first read your post, I wasn't sure whether to believe your 12-15 pound queen story or not.  Stranger things have been known to happen!

Posted by Charlie Dresen, Steamboat Springs, CO e-Pro (Steamboat Sotheby's International Realty) over 6 years ago

Jay, anything to get 'em talking that's for sure. 12-15 lb queen? I saw one once in a discovery or National Geographic special. In Africa. In a giant mound on the savanah. 

 

Posted by Scott Seaton Jr. Bourbonnais Kankakee IL Home Inspector, The Home Inspector With a Heart! (SLS Home Inspections-Bradley Bourbonnais Kankakee Manteno) over 6 years ago

Termites are a problem for all homes, not just old ones.  Too many people do not want to spend a few dollars a year to keep up the termite bonds which will bring the pest control company out each year to inspect and retreat if activity is found.  Let it go a few years and things start to fall apart.

Posted by Robert Sole (REM Inspections LLC) over 6 years ago

YOu certainly had me questioning the 15 lb. concept, until I saw your response.  If that was the case, it would have been worth of a picture of that!  That does look like some horrific damage, and a little surprised the problem was not addressed sooner, but then again, an elderly resident might not have been fully aware...

Posted by Gary Frimann, CRS, GRI, REALTOR and Broker (Eagle Ridge Realty / Signature Homes & Estates) over 6 years ago

Give me a name of the Hollywood person to send it to Valerie!  I will, dropping your name, of course.  The 15 pound termite that ate a shoe store!  Has a ring to it...  what a concept!

Clint - that was a cellar 24/7 buffet served all over the place!

Did you check the closet Jim, maybe she was trying on shoes?  I hope people understand that last part was for fun.  That hole is a subterranean bathroom, and at the corner where a downspout discharged forever.  I expect the elderly gentleman who lived there never saw it.

What, Anti-Shadow Spiderman?  You arachnids should know!

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) over 6 years ago

Mike - I hear those buggers are a horror if you have them!  But they should be easy to eradicate, once found.

Charlie - the first two words of that scientific species name are true - the "humongous" suffix is not!

Scott - I hear those mounds can approach 30'!  And that queen - well, on Saturday night, all decked out!  A real looker!  Big black eyes - you can't miss'em!

Robert - this house was occupied by an elderly gentleman who no doubt had no idea.  Any house here, unattended or unwatched, will be eaten up quickly!

Gary - the damage is huge, but the huge queen was a joke!  The problem will be addressed now!

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) over 6 years ago

Jay - I've always been partial to older homes, but they do come with some unique problems/issues. Looks as if the exterminator may need some reinforcements.

Posted by John Mulkey, Housing Guru (TheHousingGuru.com) over 6 years ago

I would only rely on an engineer to work this repair John.  You would have to see the cellar to understand.  But, the buyer is a forensic engineer, has been all over the world, and he thought this would be a major operation.

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) over 6 years ago

Jay -- great way to keep people's interest (12-15# queen).  Hopefully they will be able to resolve this without having to replace all the major beams.

Posted by Steven Cook (No Longer Processing Mortgages.) over 6 years ago

I think a whole lot of structural work is in the future for this house Steven.

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) over 6 years ago

Yikes!  A 15 pound termite!  That's bigger than my cat!  It's almost as big as my Labradoodle!

And I had no clue that it was tongue in cheek.  I totally believed every word of it. 

Posted by Patricia Kennedy, Home in the Capital (RLAH Real Estate) over 6 years ago

Sorry Pat.  I took a hole created by a foundation crack and had some fun with it.  But you know me!

However, if I had seen a 15 pound termite, the listing agent would have said, "He's just the home inspector, not a termite expert."

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) over 6 years ago

Hey Jay, I included this post in Last Week's Favorites.  Have a great week!

Posted by Patricia Kennedy, Home in the Capital (RLAH Real Estate) over 6 years ago

Termites can really be a deal breaker. The tropics have problems with them. I always advise my sellers and buyers, to inspect, and get regular preventative treatments with contracts and guarantees.

Posted by Tanya Van Blake-Coleman, Improving the Quality of Your Life (Van Blake-Coleman Realty, St. Thomas/www.talk-to-Tanya.com) over 6 years ago

Thanks Pat!  Even though you got snookered for a minute!

Tanya - I would be that prophylactic treatments are very important there!

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) over 6 years ago

 

   I ran across a termite infestation once because I HEARD them!  (Those 15 lb. queens like to chew with their mouths open)

 

Posted by John J. Woods (Aardvark Appraisals) over 6 years ago

No doubt learning those manners at home John.  A nest can be seen inside the walls with a thermal camera.

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) over 6 years ago

You had me going as well. In the five years, I've been selling real estate, I have never come across a termite infestation. So I found it interesting that the signs here were so visible.

Posted by Tammie White, Broker, Franklin TN Homes for Sale (Franklin Homes Realty LLC) over 6 years ago

Tammie - at least previous infestation is common on very old homes, just by virtue of age.  often it is something that is not active.  In this case it was.  There is no 15 pound queen, as you probably know by now!

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) over 6 years ago

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