We’re all moved in, and the kitchen is unpacked. After two hours on my feet unpacking 20 cabinets worth of stuff in the hard, tiled kitchen on Sunday, I decided it was time for a bath.
And then, this happened.
What? No, I did not spill coffee grounds behind our toilet. So what looks like coffee grounds but is much more consistently shaped, less yummy, and more costly?
To be more specific, termite poo.
So, here’s your lesson of the day. If you start seeing coffee in weird places in your house, don’t ignore it. Even if you just recently (like, three weeks ago) had a termite inspection that declared you termite-free.
The only reason I even knew what these were was because we had them in our last rental. The company that came to eradicate them pointed the droppings out to us and told us to be aware of them. Last time around, we were alerted to the presence of termites in a slightly more shocking way, though — Mister Mister feeling something on his neck, looking over at our living room lamp as we watched “Dog Day Afternoon” one evening, and seeing a black coat of larvae on our lampshade.
Oh, and lots of these pretty much all over the place.
See all those cloudy teardrop things? Wings. Tiny little termite wings of doom.
Drywood termites are way too common down here. An inspection uncovering that your house was previously treated is not all that uncommon, and didn’t strike any undue fear in my heart. But it’s swarm season, folks, which means all these blind little monsters are looking for new buffets, flocking to light sources, and shedding their wings all over your stuff.
Termite sign #1:
– Wings, little wingless, footless bugs crawling on your lampshades, and something that looks like ants with long wings flying around all your lightbulbs.
Termite sign #2:
– Piles of coffee ground poo in strange areas throughout your house (How considerate and well-trained were they that they did their duty in the bathroom, though?)
Termite sign #3:
– Kickholes (We can’t distinguish between kickholes — the holes termites bore in walls and baseboards to kick their poo out of — and regular holes in our sorta-sloppily-remodeled home, but I’m pretty sure I found one right above the bathroom pile)
Termite sign #4:
– Bubbly walls (Termites eat from the inside out, leaving a thin layer of veneer or paint over just total destruction, giving a bubbly appearance), rotted wood, splinters and shards — thankfully, it hadn’t gotten that bad for us.
Now, these are all specific to drywood termites, which live whereever they want as long as there’s food. They can come in through fixtures, openings, attics, whatevs. Then there are the slightly more sinister — and far more costly in terms of treating — subterranean termites, which build colonies underground and eat your shizz from the bottom up. Signs include “mud tubes” on your exterior walls, muddy holes, and all manner of total annihilation.
You may be asking, “But didn’t you say you had a termite inspection before moving in, and it was all clear?” Why yes — yes, I did. I got a little bent out of shape about this yesterday, after our pest control company left an invoice for $899 for their 6-hour Timbor-and-Termidor treatment to be performed today. I called our realtor, who called the inspection company, who called us offering to come back and take a look. I may or may not have told them that they can take a look at my ass, and that we have no confidence in them so thanks but no thanks. Harsh? Perhaps. But only slightly more harsh was our realtor — who was so accommodating before we bought the house — telling me that there’s no way the inspection company would have missed this, the $899 sounds too expensive, who the heck is this company you’re using anyway because I’ve never heard of them, and that I need to understand it’s swarm season and that they probably weren’t there three weeks ago.
Thank you for completely mishandling my situation and making me feel like I’m crazy for SEEING TERMITES WITH MY OWN TWO EYES LAST NIGHT.
After a bit of research, it seems this kind of thing *does* happen. Inspectors can’t see through walls, and they can’t see what’s not there. Sure, there may have been some chompers happily munching on wood, but if their dining area was inaccessible or they just happened to be really chill about their activity, our inspector could have totally missed it. Which is precisely why they have a clause in their report that states, “The results of this inspection do not constitute a guarantee that there are no termites/no structural damage, only that we didn’t see any that day.” Or something like that. So of course I get all ballistic, screaming “THEN WHY HAVE A TERMITE INSPECTION IF A TERMITE INSPECTION DOESN’T GUARANTEE YOU HAVE NO TERMITES.” But really, ballistic is just my default emotion. That, and sheer sobbing panic.
Thankfully, we have a really awesome pest control company that referred a really awesome termite company to us. We pay that $899, and we’re protected for a year (they’ll come out unlimited times for free to retreat if needed throughout the year but they shouldn’t have to), and then we pay $150 per year for the same benefits on a renewal basis. Really not shabby for a home in a state that attracts pretty much every pest known to man.
So, if you’re nervous about termites, you might want to spring for a second inspection before buying your home. Or, get another one after you move in. The termite business is a mighty costly racket… but I mean, so is the contracting business, and the foreclosure business, and the bankruptcy business.