Here it is April, the month when the termites that have been eating your house let you know that they've been eating your house. At this time of year, I feel duty-bound to warn my fellow homeowners about termites and termite-killing companies, both of which can make your life miserable.
Here in Nashville, termites (and termite exterminators) usually swarm in April. You'll know if you've been swarmed. One minute your house is normal, the next minute thousands of winged black demons come flying out of your baseboards and window trim, heading for daylight. They land in your hair, on your tables and chairs, your beds and pillows, your cats and dogs.
Termite swarmers don't bite or sting. The ones that make it outside fly away and start a new colony. The ones that get stuck in your house die from exhaustion. Just suck them up with your vacuum cleaner, and throw away the bag.
A termite swarm in your house isn't a 100 percent guarantee that termites are eating your house. But it's about a 99 percent guarantee. Usually, swarmers in your house mean that there are workers eating your floor framing, and those workers have been eating your house for at least a few years. If you get swarmers, call your bug man.
Now, with no offense meant to honest, hard-working bug men, bug women or bug dogs, you homeowners need to know: There are some bug-killing companies that will just plain rip you off. Here's how I know. After inspecting more than 5,000 houses over a 20-year span, I saw hundreds of houses that were supposedly inspected every year by licensed, qualified bug men. Yet those houses were supported by bug-eaten framing that was more termite poop than wood.
The most bug-eaten house I saw was a house that had been under a "termite contract" for 30 years. The house had gotten its regular yearly inspections, and the big inspector blessed the house each year. The cellar was readily accessible. Co-inspector Rick (who's 6-foot-4) and I could stand straight up in it. Even so, the floor framing was so chewed up, so rotten, so weak that the house was starting to fall apart. Floor tiles and wallboard were cracking all through the house.
The company that had "protected" this house was one of the biggest bug companies on earth. Truth be told, of the seriously eaten-up houses I've seen, most were under contract to high-profile, nationally known bug companies. Makes you wonder if they had some kind of side deal going with the bugs.
Maybe it's just me, but I've decided that in our little part of the world, it's best to hire a local bug company and stay away from big franchise outfits. Gullible (or maybe just trusting) folk who hire big-time bug companies often end up with "inspectors" who arrive dressed like bellmen or rent-a-cops, and are ready to recite a script of unintelligible bullshift crafted to befuddle the poor homeowner. Keep this in mind: Homeowners seldom win a fight with a big bug company. The big bug companies are infested with lawyers.
Those of you who are plagued by termites — or are about to be — stick with a good local bug outfit with good references. Crawling under houses looking for bugs and bug damage is a hellish, filthy, dangerous job. Believe me when I tell you: It's easy for a bug man to say he crawled through your crawl space. It's dang hard to do the actual crawl.
So put together a little spy kit before your bug man arrives. You'll need a fully charged big-ass flashlight and a few garbage bags. After the bug man goes through the crawl-space hatch, put the garbage bags down on the ground outside the hatch, lie down on the bags, turn on your flashlight, and watch your bug man navigate the crawl space. If you're feeling intrepid, put on some gloves, coveralls and a hard hat and crawl along beside the bug man. If your house has a basement, just follow the bug man and take pictures of the stuff he examines. That'll cut down on the chances of him telling you everything's all right when it's not all right.
While I'm thinking about it, there's one more home-improvement group you need to stay away from: the Holy Cheaters. If a tradesperson, builder or such like peppers the conversation with how much he loves the Lord, I say run like the Devil. I could fill up a Metro bus with customers of mine who got swindled by folks who swore they were heavenbound. And that's all I've got to say about that.
>>those never see the light of day<<
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