When a termite inspector performs a thorough analysis, they evaluate the structure for visual signs of infestation and hollow sounding wood which can also indicate termite presence. In most states, an inspection for real estate requires a visual inspection and where appropriate, probing and sounding of the wood. Periodic cursory inspections not related to real estate usually do not have the same stringent requirements.
As part of the more formal real estate inspection, the inspector will probe the wood using a long rigid steel tool such as a long screwdriver or specialized tool. Beyond probing, the inspector may “sound” the wood with the butt end of the probing tool or a small hammer or similar device which creates momentum against the wood. This sounding is particularly important in slab foundation constructed homes as there is no access to inspect beneath and baseboards and similar wood components are in close proximity to the soil.
When sounding wood, the inspector will tap along vulnerable areas, listening for solid sounding wood. If the wood sounds “punky” or “hollow” the inspector will scrutinize the area further by probing and perhaps taking moisture readings. If there is no way to ascertain whether there is infestation present, the homeowner may opt to remove the baseboard or molding to examine the area further. Dismantling is not required as part of the inspection and is usually not done by the inspector.
Hollow sounding wood as a sign of termites is common in areas where termite infestation is common. The hollow sound may be from the wood that is destroyed by the termites or softer decayed wood. Also, peculiar sounding wood may be from improper nailing to the studs.
If there is any concern about the hollow sounding wood as potential signs of termite infestation, a professional pest control company should be contacted.