It is extremely important that the parameters of the inspection and the roles of the various professionals involved in the real estate transaction are keenly aware of the potential problems associated with termites.


It is estimated that termites cause over one hundred million dollars in damages each year in Hawaii. Subterranean termites nest in the ground and go up to find food and the dry wood termites nest in the cavities of the house or forest. The subterranean termites are by far much more destructive. The most destructive and the most aggressive of all the termites is the Formosan subterranean. The other species are: West Indian drywood, Western drywood, Indo-Malaysian drywood and Pacific dampwood.

Termites are very aggressive and yet very secretive and will hide their works of destruction to the naked eye until the homeowner sees a sag in the floor, leaking roof, warped walls, depression in wood, discolored or blistered paint, moist areas, short circuit or sees termite droppings on the ground. The termite colonies average two million individual termites with large colonies exceeding ten million termites.

Termites form their colonies by swarming. Major swarms of subterranean termites occurs in May and June on very calm and muggy nights and you can see thousands of termites flying all over the place. The termites fly a short distance and will drop their wings after it lands. They are attracted to lights and will land near the lights. The termites will pair off and move about in tandem, searching for a place to nest. The nesting place must contain food, moisture and shelter. The shelter cannot be bare and smooth. The swarming couple needs a nail hole, crack or a crevice that they can seal and have a mating chamber. A queen termite develops into an egg laying machine capable of laying 2,000 eggs a day. The queen develops a huge abdomen and a small head and she cannot walk and must be fed by the worker termites. The queen is 1" long and ΒΌ" in diameter. The queen and king can live for almost 20 years. The king's abdomen will also enlarge and produce the sperm needed to fertilize the large number of eggs laid by the queen.


Some of the causes for termite damage are:

Less residual soil pesticides - Chlordane was banned in 1987 and far less efficient biodegradable pesticides are now used in the control of ground termites.
Repellant remedial pesticides are designed to chase the termites away and not designed to kill the termites.
Architectural designs may be conducive for termites to nest.
Construction practices by contractors are not as vigilant in denying access to termites getting into the house.
Landscapers plant trees too close to the house and have water sprinklers hitting the house.
Areas that are conducive to termite infestation - water, food and shelter.
Contact with wood in the ground from the concrete forms being left in the ground, framing lumber left under the house.
Trash and rubbish left under the house.
Sprinklers spray toward the house, land is sloped toward the house and the water flows toward the house.
If an area has no retaining wall and the dirt collapses over time onto the side of the house, it could create a passageway for termites.
Grass is planted right to the edge of the house.
Stucco cannot go into the ground and termites can hide behind the stucco to get into the house.
Plumbing pipes open into the ground and the openings are not caulked..

Purchase Contract

The section on termites in the purchase contract must be explained to the buyers very carefully to avoid any misunderstandings and unattainable expectations. The seller normally pays for the Termite Inspection Report (TIR). The repairs to termite damage is negotiated between buyer and seller. It is highly recommended that the buyer be present when the termite inspector inspects the house so that the buyer can ask any questions that they may have and the inspector can explain the problems that are present or that may arise. The instructions for the inspection should include all improvements that are to be inspected, i.e., gazebo, wood fences, garage, house, etc. The buyer should have the right to cancel the contract subject to review of the TIR. The seller must disclose all repairs that have been performed on the property. Even if a seller is selling the property "as is", the seller needs to disclose all material facts. It is suggested that a TIR should be done on a home that has warranties. There may be live infestations arise since the last inspection.

In order to minimize risk and avoid litigations, it may be helpful for the buyer to know the following points:
Teach the buyer what is to be expected in a TIR and in buying a house.
The TIR should be done as early as possible in the transaction so that the buyer and seller can negotiate the repairs to the house and the buyer has time to cancel the purchase contract if the report is very negative.
The inspector should look for flight slits in the lumber where reproductive termites fly out of the wood member in search of their mate. The inspector will also look for termite mud tunnels.
The inspector will be looking for visible evidence of infestation.
The color of the termite droppings is dependent on the color of the wood that the termites ate and not the age of the droppings.
The inspector must list all areas that are inaccessible and not subject to the inspection. Inaccessible areas may include areas behind the faucets, bathrooms, under the carpet, in between the walls, etc.
Retaining walls are great entry points for termites. A crack of 1/16" is sufficient for termites to invade the house.
When there are additions and repairs being made to the house, the contractor must be diligent in preventing termite entry points.
The TIR that says there are no current live infestation is not guaranteeing that there will be no future infestations.
The disclosure statement by the seller should be given to the termite inspector before he starts his inspection.
Have the buyers hire the termite inspector even if the seller is paying for the inspection.
Seller should disclose when the last treatment was performed and get the seller to approve the release of the treatment to the buyer.
Ask for a current TIR, do not use older or even recent reports.
Premys is a termicide that has a 3 year effective life. The repellant properties fade after that time has lapsed.
Ground treatment should be done even if there are no termites visible.
HIBOR treated lumber does not need to have the cut ends treated with termicide.
Slabs that have post tension cable need special treatment when the termite treatment requires holes to be drilled into the slab. The drill could cut the cable and the slab could crack. The tension cables are spaced 5 feet apart.
There is no TIR for trees.
All plants are edible and make for great food for termites.
Termites are blind and must forage for food.
Aerial nesting by termites have been found in high rise condominiums.
Spacing for Sentricon is 8 to 10 feet apart. The spacing may be too far apart to get hits from foraging termites.
The nests could go as deep as 40 feet or more for subterranean termites.
Termites are virtually indestructible and we have to co-exist with them if we can't get rid of them.