Steven L. Smith, Bellingham, WA Home Inspector (King of the House)


Bellingham Home Inspector (King of the House): Analysis Of An Invasion -- Carpenter Ants

 A pest that we see often in the wooded Pacific Northwest is the carpenter ant. Carpenter ants are not all exactly the same size or color.  In fact there are many different species but they get their name, as a group, because of the way the ants categorized as carpenter ants chew the wood and build galleries. I have said it before but, to say it again, carpenter ants are not eating the wood, they are building in it. They spit it out again as "frass" which is like fine sawdust. They will work in sound wood but, much more often than not, they get started in moist, decayed wood. I went through my photos of a classic carpenter ant infestation and have posted some pictures that, step by step, depict the causes and symptoms of the infestation. If you realize that they like moist, decaying wood, it is obvious why they moved into this house. These photos at the exterior and in the crawl space are what, in Washington State, we refer to as conducive conditions.

To set the mood, before we go on the virtual inspection, I want to share with you a tune that will get you in the mood. This is a trick that super Seattle inspector Charles Buell uses to stay high energy as he descends into that abyss that is sometimes dark and foreboding and known as the crawl space. He puts this classic ant-themed rhythm and blues number on the walkman, turns it up full-blast and look out wood destroying organisms, your days are numbered. We start at the exterior and then go down below. The short captions under the photos explain the various conducive conditions and problems. I hope this virtual WDO (wood destroying organism) inspection is informative for you.


Blocked vents: no air circulates                  Water dumps against the foundation


Crawl Space: No vapor barrier, moist          Standing water in crawl space from downspouts


Wood to earth contact, rot                        30% moisture in joist, rot possible at 20%


Chewing damage, the fine sawdust is classic carpenter ant frass

Caught in the act. Live carpenter ants inside the joist.

Thanks for checking out my ant farm. For other blogs I have written on this insect, please click here.


Steven L. Smith

Bellingham Home Inspector


Steven L. Smith

If you enjoy nostalgia and music of yesteryear, click on Elvis' gold record to visit This Day In History. To explore The Stories Behind The Music blog posts click on the electric guitar. 







Comment balloon 3 commentsSteven L. Smith • January 27 2008 03:23PM


I would be interested in seeing how Steve does on this "Ant Test"




Posted by Charles Buell, Seattle Home Inspector (Charles Buell Inspections Inc.) almost 12 years ago
Steven - These are some very frightening photos!
Posted by Marlene Bridges, Laguna Homes|Laguna Condos|Laguna Real Estate (Village Real Estate Services, Inc.) almost 12 years ago


They are even more frightening if you have to get your wallet or purse out to pay for repairs.

Posted by Steven L. Smith, Bellingham WA Home Inspector (King of the House Home Inspection, Inc.) almost 12 years ago