All our talk about staying on good terms with your neighbors -- it's not for nothing. That advice will be critical if you ever get hit with one of the worst pests known to townhouses: The dreaded termite.
Termites seem like they've been around about as long as the world itself, they can be found almost anywhere there's land and wood and they're able to survive in most climates and weather conditions. Their social structure and living conditions are similar to ants and honeybees, but they're far more destructive. They eat wood, build colonies in wood and destroy wood by nonstop chewing of little tunnels. In termites' defense, wood is wood, whether it's an abandoned campfire or someone's prized log cabin. They don't discriminate. Your challenge? Making sure your home's structure is as unappealing as possible.
Don't assume you can rid yourself of a termite problem by selling your townhouse. Home inspectors know that townhouses' conditions (basically, a lot of wood framing) make them especially attractive to termites, and they know to look for signs of damage. Termite damage is difficult and expensive to repair, because it goes deep into the depths of the structure, and it's hard to estimate the extent of the damage before actually digging in.
And then, there's the actual termites themselves to contend with. One sign of infestation usually means the whole complex needs to be treated, because it's unlikely the termite sighting is the only damage in the structure. Even if it's a small, single site, there's no way to confirm it and no way to isolate it. The termites can just do what they do and burrow on...down there, underground, they don't know or care if they've moved on to a different street address. It'll take the cooperation of the entire building to consult with an exterminator and go through the proper process to combat a termite infestation, which involves a multi-tiered approach of baits and specific insecticides that must be left in place for long periods of time. A few cans of insecticide simply won't cut it.
In other words, you don't want to live in a home with a termite infestation (even though they won't really harm you). And any prospective buyer will run screaming if the home inspector drops the t-bomb (yes, that's "termite" bomb). And there go the property values...on your entire complex.
When it comes to battling the big enemies with toxic chemicals, make friends with your neighbors...but make sure the termites know they're not welcome.
Author's Note: 5 Methods to Keep Pests out of Your Townhome
I live in a condo that's been known to have some nasty creatures. It's in a densely populated urban area alongside a dirty river and adjacent to a bunch of long-term "renewal" projects. The building also has pretty high turnover, so there's always new neighbors who might be bringing in new things.
I'll spare you more details. I don't really want to think about it myself. And I'm glad I've (so far) escaped a lot of the experiences described in this article. But my homeowners association meetings should be on YouTube, they're so amusing. Like a parody of a reality show. Since they're not, I can assert first hand that petty bickering can put a stop to a lot of potential progress. Fortunately, unlike some townhouse complexes, owner consent is not required to treat pest infestations.
Nevertheless, my point holds true. If you're buying a condo or a townhouse, take a good luck around for evidence of pest damage. And maybe sit in on an HOA meeting (or two) to get a better sense of the place. You can get rid of pests more easily than you can get rid of your neighbors.
- Alliance for Healthy Homes. "Housing and Building Codes: Pest-Free." (July 24, 2012) http://www.afhh.org/pol/pol_housing_codes_pest-free.htm
- Cowleys Termite and Pest Services. "Pest Control for Property Managers NJ." (July 24, 2012) http://www.cowleys.com/multi-family-condominiums-townhomes
- Eden Advanced Pest Technologies. "Dorm Room Pest Control and Prevention." Sept. 14, 2011. (July 31, 2012) http://www.edenpest.com/blog/post/bed-bug-pest-control-pests-to-look-for-in-dorm-room
- Illinois Department of Public Health. "House Mouse Prevention and Control." (July 24, 2012) http://www.idph.state.il.us/envhealth/pchousemouse.htm
- Warner, Jennifer. "Foggers No Match For Bedbugs." WebMD. June 3, 2012. (June 24, 2012) http://www.webmd.com/skin-problems-and-treatments/news/20120603/foggers-no-match-for-bedbugs
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