Home Inspection FYI

Providing Help, Knowledge and Other Useful Information To Home Owners Everywhere

Home Inspection FYI - Providing Help, Knowledge and Other Useful Information To Home Owners Everywhere

Inspecting for Ants

Ants are among the most prevalent pests in households, restaurants, hospitals, offices, warehouses, and virtually all buildings where food and water can be found. While mostly harmless to humans, ants (especially carpenter ants) can cause considerable building damage.antdamage Inspecting For Ants  Inspectors can expand their knowledge base by being able to identify some of the telltale signs of ant infestation.

Ant Behavior

Ants are social insects that live in colonies divided into three castes: queens, males and workers. Most of the ants you may observe, which are responsible for gathering food, are sterile female workers. Winged males and females will leave the nest to mate, and to find suitable locations for new colonies. After mating, the males die and the impregnated females (queens) shed their wings and lay eggs that will hatch into the legless, grub-like larvae. The queen takes care of these larvae as they develop until they finally become pupae. Within a few weeks, adult worker ants emerge from these pupae and take over the job of tending the young.

Distinguishing Ants from Termites

Winged ants are often mistaken for winged termites, which also leave their nests to mate. These insects can be distinguished from one another by three main characteristics:

  • The ant’s body is constricted, giving it the appearance of having a thin waist, while the termite’s body is not constricted.
  • The ant’s hind wings are smaller than its front wings, while the termite’s front and hind wings are about the same size. Wings might not always be present, however, as both species eventually lose them.anttermite Inspecting For Ants
  • Winged female and worker ants have elbowed antennae, while the termite’s antennae are not elbowed.

Termites and ants both construct nests in moist wood, but ant nests are typically smoother and lack mud structures commonly found in termite nests. Also, termites actually subsist on wood, so the structural damage they leave it their wake is generally more severe than that caused by ants, which merely tunnel through wood.


Carpenter ants nest in both moist and dry wood, but they prefer moist wood. Accordingly, nests are more likely to be found in wood dampened by water leaks, such as wood around bathtubs and sinks, poorly sealed windows and door frames, roof leaks and poorly flashed chimneys. Nests are especially common in moist, hollow spaces, such as the wall void behind a dishwasher and in a hollow deck column. As there will often be no external signs of damage, probing the wood with a screwdriver helps reveal the excavated “galleries.” Another technique for locating hidden nests is to tap along baseboards and other wood surfaces with the blunt end of a screwdriver while listening for the hollow sound of tunneled wood. If a nest is nearby, carpenter ants often will respond by making a rustling sound within the nest.


The following clues are evidence that a building is host to an ant infestation:

  • long trails of ants, perhaps numbering in the hundreds or thousands. Ants assemble in long trails along structural elements, such as wires and pipes, and frequently use them to enter and travel within a structure to their destination. Follow the trail to locate their nest or their entry point, such as an electrical outlet, or gap along a baseboard or around a water pipe;ants Inspecting For Ants
  • a few straggler ants. These are scouts in search of food and nesting sites. They, too, may be followed back to the nest to betray their family;
  • holes or cracks in walls or foundations, especially where pipes enter the building, and around windows and doors. These can provide entry points for ants and other insects. Kitchens are other food storage and preparation areas are particular problem areas;
  • frass deposits. Frass is the fine sawdust produced after galleries are carved out of the wood. If you suspect that a piece of woodwork hosts a gallery, you can tap on it with a screwdriver tip and see if any dust falls away;
  • a distinctive rustling sound similar to the crinkling of cellophane. Ants are small, but nests are large enough to produce perceptible noise; and
  • outside, inspect for nests in mulch and vegetation next to the foundation. Check under potted plants, patio blocks, stepping stones, in piles of rocks, lumber and firewood.
Exclusion Practices

A number of steps can be taken by homeowners to reduce the potential for future ant problems, such as:

  • Store food items that attract ants, such as sugar, syrup, honey, and pet food in closed containers. Wash them to remove residues from outer surfaces.
  • Rinse out empty soft drink containers or remove them from the building.
  • Thoroughly clean up grease and spills.
  • Remove garbage from buildings daily and change liners frequently.
  • Correct roof and plumbing leaks and other moisture problems that will attract ants.
  • Eliminate wood-to-ground contact, such as where landscaping has pushed soil or mulch up against the wood siding of a home.
  • Clip back tree limbs and vegetation touching the roof or siding of the house. Limbs and branches serve as bridges between tree limb nests and the structure.
  • Seal cracks and openings in the foundation, especially where utility pipes and wires enter from the outside.
  • Stack firewood away from the foundation, and elevate it off the ground. Never store firewood in the garage or other areas of the home, as firewood is a major ant nesting area.

Ants are complex creatures that create structural defects in buildings. Inspection and exclusion techniques should be practiced.

Flood Damaged Buildings

Flood damaged homes and buildings are subject to hazards that include the risks of the following;

 Flooded house 150x100 Flood Damaged Buildings
  • growth of large mold colonies;
  • septic system collapse;
  • trip-and-fall injuries;
  • structural collapse;
  • fire and explosions;
  • toxic sludge and materials containing waterborne bacteria; and
  • electrical shock hazards.

Inspection Tips:

  • Inspect the building exterior for downed power lines and gas leaks. Gas leaks will smell like rotten eggs. If you suspect a gas leak, contact the utility company immediately.
  • While entering the building, see if the door sticks at the top. If it does, this could mean that the ceiling is ready to collapse. After you open the door, stand outside the doorway, clear of any falling debris.
  • Wear sturdy, treaded boots. According to the American Red Cross, the most common injury following a disaster is cut feet. Broken bottles, nails, glass, and other dangerous debris may litter the floor, and stairs may be very slippery.
  • Once you are inside the home, check for gas leaks again. If you smell gas or hear a blowing or hissing noise, open a window and quickly leave the building. Turn off the gas at the outside main valve, if you can, and call the gas company from a neighbor’s home. If you turn off the gas for any reason, a professional must turn it back on. Never use an open flame inside of a flood-damaged house unless you know that the gas has been turned off and the house is ventilated. To inspect for damage, use a battery-powered lantern or flashlight, and not an open flame or electrical fixture in the house.
  • Do not use appliances that may have gotten wet unless you know they have been dismantled, cleaned and dried.
  • Do not work by yourself. If you are injured, it might take a long time before you receive assistance. If you must work alone, bring a cell phone or radio so you may call for assistance, if the need arises.
  • Bring a HEPA-rated respirator to use in case you detect extensive mold. If you are asthmatic or otherwise at heightened risk to mold exposure, leave the mold destroyed Flood Damaged Buildingsbuilding. Other inspector-safety equipment, such as gloves and coveralls, may also prevent contact with mold and other contaminants.
  • Examine doors, walls, windows, floors and staircases to make sure that the building shows no signs of potential collapse. Inspect for loose plaster, drywall, and ceilings that may fall. Also, inspect the foundation for evidence of cracks and other structural damage that may render the building uninhabitable.
  • Inspect for fire hazards, such as broken and leaking gas lines, flooded electrical circuits, and submerged furnaces and electrical appliances. Flammable and explosive materials may travel from upstream. Be aware that fire is the most frequent hazard in homes following floods.
  • Inspect for electrical system damage, such as broken and frayed wires, and burned insulation. You can turn off the electricity at the main fuse box or circuit breaker. If you have to step in water to get to the fuse box or circuit breaker, call an electrician first for advice. Electrical equipment should be inspected by a qualified professional and dried before being returned to service.
  • Inspect for sewage and water supply-line damage. If you suspect sewage lines have been damaged, avoid using the toilets and instruct the client to call a plumber. If water pipes are damaged, instruct the client to contact the water utility company and avoid operating the tap.
  • Use caution while inspecting crawlspaces for a variety of reasons, such as the presence of mold, sewage, asbestos, chemicals, rodents, and the risk of structural collapse.
  • Watch out for animals, especially poisonous snakes, which may have been washed into the building during the flood. You can use a stick to poke through debris to check for dangerous critters.

Advice for Homeowners of flood damaged homes :

  • Food that has come into contact with floodwater may be contaminated and it must be thrown away.  Canned food may be salvageable if the can is not dented or damaged.
  • Sterilize water if it is of questionable purity. One easy way to do this is to boil it for at least five minutes. Water wells that may have been affected by floodwater should be pumped out and the water tested for purity before drinking.
  • Have exposed wires replaced by a qualified professional.
  • As much as possible, remove the mud and silt that has entered the home, both by shoveling and hosing the house down. Mud and silt contain sewage and chemicals from farms, factories, roads and buildings. Discard items, such as mattresses and wallboard, that may be contaminated by mud or silt.
  • Turn off the house’s electricity. Do this even if the power company has turned off electricity to the area.
  • Take pictures of the building and its contents for insurance purposes.

Inspectors should be prepared for the unique dangers posed by a flood damaged house.

Green Lumber

“Green lumber” is another term for wet lumber, which is wood used in construction that has a moisture content of more than 19%.

Moisture Content of Green lumber

Green lumber is more commonly used in arid regions of the United States, such as Arizona and parts of California, because the wood will dry more quickly. Damper regions often require kiln-dried wood, which must have a moisture content of 19% or less. The additional expense of kiln-dried lumber is the reason it is used in only a small portion of construction.

How Wood Loses Moisture

Freshly cut wood will gradually lose moisture until it reaches equilibrium with its surroundings, which is referred to as its “equilibrium moisture content” (EMC). As it
wood 300x224 Green Lumberdries, the wood will shrink in size. Wood will continue to lose moisture until it reaches EMC, at which point it’s said to have reached its “in-service condition.”

The water that fills wood cells in lumber is known as “free water,” which accounts for most of the water weight of a tree. Cell walls also contain water, which is known as “bound water.” The weight of the water can account for more than half the mass of a tree in some species when it is cut down. Ideally, the lapse between the time the tree is first cut until the tree’s wood is used in construction will allow for most or all of the free water to evaporate, but this does not always happen. Shortly after wood is processed in lumber mills, it is bundled and wrapped in plastic, which retards evaporation. The wood has little chance to dry until the bundle is unwrapped and the framing process begins at the construction site.

Why is green lumber used?

  • Green lumber is relatively inexpensive.
  • Green lumber is softer than seasoned wood. It can be cut more easily, is not as likely to split, and nails can be driven into it more easily.

Problems associated with the use of green lumber:Fix Drywall Pops af Green Lumber

    • nail pops. Where wood frame members shrink, a gap is created between the nail and the drywall. If the drywall and nail are pushed together, the nail may force the drywall surface to elevate. A common place for nail pops to occur is at the base of vaulted ceilings near external walls. Although unsightly, they usually do not affect the building’s structural integrity. Homeowners who wish to fix this problem can simply push the nail further into the wall;
    • mold. Mold can begin to grow on green lumber before it is even used in construction. Airborne mold spores are found almost everywhere, and they can easily cause mold growth on wet lumber surfaces, especially while it is being transported long distances by train;
    • difficult to paint or stain. Low-permeability paint can prevent water vapor from exiting the wood, resulting in bubbling of the painted surface;
    • sap.  Sap and other liquid substances within the wood’s interior can ooze out and cause discoloration.
    • gaps in exterior trim can be created during shrinkage. This is especially true at the fascia