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Hidden Termite Problems and Slabs and Termites

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Slabs and Termites

Geetha's questions....

Dear Sir,

I recently signed a contract to purchase a house.  There was no disclosure about termites.  During home Inspection the inspector noticed damage to the beam in the attached garage which he is sure is caused by termites.  I am worried because this is my first home and I dont know what I am going in for.

The entire house has wood panels and the basement is fully finished.  How do I know there is no structural damage?  The house is 50 years old.  Can I accept the house if the seller agrees to treat it?  Please respond immediately so that I can decide what to do.  I can still withdraw my offer.

Geetha A.

And my reply.....

Hello Geetha:

First of all, you should make sure that your inspector is a qualified termite inspector.  Many "home inspectors" are not.  Actually, MOST of them are not qualified to inspect for termites.   A qualified termite inspector would KNOW if the damaged beam in the garage was caused by termites.

The fact that this house has a finished basement means that you cannot see the sub structure of the house to determine if there are indeed any termite problems.

Unless you have a qualified inspector examine the house I would advise you not to purchase.  You should insist on this no matter what kind of house you buy.  Especially those with finished basements.

Hope this helps.  Let me know how you make out and get back to me if you have more questions!


Geetha wrote back to say.......

Dear John,

Thanks for your immediate response.  I am making arrangements to withdraw my offer because the seller does not want to do anything.  In addition I got the radon gas results. 4.4 pcl.   I will keep in touch.  The world is a better lace to live because of people like you.  Thanks again.


And then I replied.....

Geetha, it's always better to buy a house with a basement or crawl.  NO SLABS! And if you get one with a basement, you're better off buying it UNFINISHED.  If it's finished, you can't see the substructure of the house.  Better to see it.

Thanks for your compliment.



Concrete slabs and Termites

And then, later, Geetha wrote in about slabs and termites, mentioned just above....

Dear John,

I have found a house with an unfinished basement and waiting to close. In the meantime I was talking to my boss who is also hunting for a house. When I mentioned to her that you had advised me not to go for slab foundation (she was going to look at one) she wondered why.  Can you please explain it to me?


And I wrote back with....

Hello again, Geetha:

Well, the one biggest problem is that if a house with a slab needs termite control, the treatment can be very expensive.  So by the time any slab structure reaches the age of about 20 years, the termites will, by then, have found their way into the structure.  Might happen before 20 years, might happen after - you can never tell for sure.  And if the heat vents are cast into the slab (vents in the floor rather than the wall) proper termite treatment might be impossible.  It is VERY difficult to treat a house, with heat in the slab, for termites.

Not only that, but there are many practical reasons too.  First of all, it is much harder to care for the utilities in a slab house (plumbing, electric, etc) whereas a house with a basement or a crawl space you have access to all of these things.  Also, the floor level of a slab house is usually only inches from the ground and this makes it much easier for any kind of bug to enter.  A basement or crawl space is a "buffer" for all these things.  

It is much cheaper for a builder to build a house with a slab because he then doesn't have to worry about the substructure - the slab is the substructure.  Additionally, concrete slabs ALWAYS crack somewhere - look at a sidewalk or a garage floor - you almost always see a crack (or cracks) somewhere.  The more cracks you have, the more chance there is for things to come out of those cracks.  I have a lot of customers with slabs that have constant problems with pavement ants coming up - pavement ants live under all concrete slabs, and if there's a crack they'll come up.  You can see this happen in the winter too - don't forget, the slab is heated - something that pavement ants (and termites) appreciate!

As far as I'm concerned, a basement gives you extra space to store your stuff.  It's free space - if it's a full basement, you have added that much area to your house already.  I'm usually against finishing off basements also.   If you finish a basement, you've covered the substructure and you can't see what's going on.  If you have to have the plumber or electrician in, you might pay a premium for his services.  Not only that, but he might have to tear into your finished areas, making a simple repair quite expensive.

Houses with unfinished basements are not usually any more expensive than houses without one - unless you're buying a new house or having one built.  Even then it is better to spring for the extra money to get the basement.  Depending on the area where you live, a basement (usually) adds less than 5% to the total cost of the house - sometimes less.

Nice to hear from you.  Hope this helps.  Get back to me if you have more questions!


(Geetha sent me another nice Thank You Note!)

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