For this interview my guest is Bob Owens, a termite expert. They discuss the importance of termite inspections and treatments, as well as other wood-damaging organisms. Bob shares his personal story and background in the termite industry. He explains the licensing requirements for termite professionals and the continuing education needed to maintain a license. Bob also discusses the different types of termites and beetles that can damage wood, as well as the best ways to prevent and treat infestations. He emphasizes the importance of maintaining wood and keeping it sealed to prevent termite damage. Bob also addresses common concerns about fumigation chemicals and explains how they work to eliminate pests. He offers advice on maintaining decks and other wooden structures. The episode concludes with a discussion on the cost of termite inspections and fumigations, as well as the importance of choosing a reputable termite professional.
I’m very pleased to have Bob Owens as my guest, who’s Bob? Bob is my termite guy. Bob’s the guy that I call whenever I need a termite inspection performed on a property in or around Santa Cruz County. Bob has a company, it’s called O two Termite. They do termite inspections and termite treatments, but it’s more than just termites, of course. It’s really anything which can damage wood. Most homes around here are made out of wood, and so it is critical to keep your wood in good condition because if you don’t, it can lead to serious problems with your property. Nobody wants that, especially when you consider that your property is probably your biggest asset. Lord knows, I know my house is my biggest asset. Termite inspections are actually really critically important. I always say it’s the best money you will spend when you’re preparing your house for sale, or as a buyer when you’re buying a house, to make sure that you’re getting a sound product that isn’t going to have a lot of problems for you down the road. So without any further ado, please sit back, relax, and listen to what Bob Owens has to say.
Hey Bob, how are you doing? I’m doing great, so thank you. Alright
Man. Look, I’m very excited to have you on the podcast here today,
As you know, I like to start out my podcast by asking my guests if they have a little story they can share so we can get a feeling for
Who you are
And what you’re about.
Well, I’m like most people. I like to
Think I’m hardworking
Maybe 12 hours a day. Some people may call me a slacker for only working 12 hours. I’m very dedicated to what I do. Right on.
Alright, so Bob, where did you grow up exactly?
I grew up as a poor white boy in Chicago, in the city of Chicago outside of city. A lot of
People say I’m from Chicago. They’re
Not from Chicago, they’re from, that’s correct. No, I am a inner city boy. Really? Yes.
So Chicago has the west, east, south. Which side or did you
Come from? I was born on the south side and then we moved to the north side, so that’s where we live for, and mostly in the same neighborhood for over 20 years. That was our neighborhood. That’s our little hometown. That neighborhood was
And everybody knows you. Right.
Are you a Bears fan then, I guess?
Of course. I’m a Bears fan since, since 1961. Absolutely Right. Okay.
So what was your childhood like? What’s it like growing up in Chicago?
It was fantastic, really, or not? Yes, all of us. I have four brothers. We all did pretty good in school despite public education. We all got good jobs, good educations. We always had fun. We’d drive to trains when we were kids. We would go to candy stores and buy candy, then take it downtown on the train and sell it on Saturday and Sunday to make extra.
Really? Yes. Really? Okay, very good. And so what’s the pizza like in Chicago
Is that any good?
I ask these New Yorkers, they say it sucks, but no,
It’s regional though. So if you’re from New York, of course you’re going to like Brooklyn Pizza, but if you’re from Chicago or that area, you’re going to like the deep dish pizza, which I like in moderation though, because it’s really thick. It’s really heavy, but there’s plenty of great other pizza places that just make a fantastic pie.
And how about the Braw, right? I mean Chicago’s also famous for hot dogs, right? Or Brotts or Polish dogs? Lot of Polish people in Chicago, right?
Well, Vienna hotdog don’t mean to plug Vienna too much, but if you ask me, those are the best hot dogs in the world. So if you want a true Chicago dog, it has to be a Vienna hotdog.
Vienna hotdog. And can I buy those at Costco or where do they sell ’em at?
You could buy ’em online now. Online? Yes.
A hotdog kit and they’ll
Send it to you because my kid loves hot dogs, so I’m going to go order some
Hotdog and see what he likes. But
There’s one cardinal rule with a Chicago dog.
Interesting. That is against the law in Chicago.
Really? So I can be mustard. How about onions? Is that okay?
Oh, it’s the traditional toppings, mustard, onions, green relish, a little celery salt, a slice of tomato, a kosher pickle, and hot sport peppers.
This sounds a lot like the Chicago dogs they sell over there at Home Depot. Have you been there? That little hotdog stand they have?
Yeah, they call it the mob dog, right? The
It’s close, but
No cigar. It’s no
Right? It’s not made with a Vienna sausage. No,
It’s not a
Vienna hot dog. There you go. Okay. Hey, so what’d you do after high school? There you go. You have the idyllic Chicago kids’ life and then it’s time to go to the next phase of your life. You’re 18. What’d you do after you graduated high school?
Well, I was doing graphic arts. I was making restaurant menus, printing restaurant menus. What year is this? What year did you graduate high school? That 79, but so 76 to 79. I was doing offset printing for a small mom and pop print shop.
Right, okay. So this wasn’t PageMaker or Cork Express you’re working on here?
No, this is old school, the mono
School, old school offset offset printing and envelopes and office supplies and letterhead and stuff like that. And then I also worked in a TV part shop back in the day
Back when TVs had parts. That’s
Repairable, but that’s not the
Now. They’re disposable. So I used to sell TV parts.
Right on. So there you are, you’re selling TV parts and doing offset printing after high school. What came next after that?
That’s when I started really thinking about joining the Air Force. Why did you start thinking
About joining the Air Force?
Well, opportunities at the time to get a good job. I couldn’t get into the private college I wanted, so I thought, well, I always wanted to join the Air Force since I was a kid, so I just went and did it.
How old were you when you joined up?
I was 19.
19. Alright, very good. So how long were you in the Air Force for?
20 years, 11 months and five days.
Holy crap. That’s a long time. 20 years
It flew by. It was like three weeks.
Really? Wow. Where all did you serve when you were in the Air Force?
I originally went to what I call the garden spot of the United States, Wichita, Kansas. And then we moved over to Turkey for a few years, came back stateside, went to Rapid City, South Dakota. And in between that I had been to Germany, England, desert Storm. I was already there in Turkey for that. And then I finally ended up near Raleigh, North Carolina, Goldsboro Air Force Base.
Wow, that’s quite a lot. Where was your favorite place to be stationed in all that 20 years and change?
I think where I had the most fun was in Rapid City, South Dakota.
Yeah. It’s absolutely beautiful there. Winters can be really mild or brutal, so you get what you get. And I really did have the most fun. I really enjoyed what I was doing there.
Right. So what were you doing there in Rapid Cities at the car?
I was the designated aircraft maintenance supervisor for fuel cell maintenance on transient B 52 aircraft
Fuel cell maintenance. So when you say fuel cell, I think of the hydrogen fuel cell that they’re now putting into Toyota Maura. Is that
Similar? It’s a cell, but you put jet fuel in it and they leak, especially in B 52 that was built in 1963. So they never leaked that bad or that often, but they needed somebody there to maintain them. I was the very first person to ever be designated to do that in Rapid City.
Is there a picture of you on the wall?
No. No. I am not famous like that. But no, I just went there and did my job.
So what else did you work on? What other kind of machines did you work on besides B 50 twos,
F sixteens, occasional C five, FB one elevens, C one Thirty’s on occasion, KC one 30 fives are probably my favorite plane. It’s a refueling plane,
Right? Yes. That’s your favorite plane because why?
Easy to fix? Basically. I just know more about those than most guys would ever dream about knowing about ’em.
Right. So it sounds like after 20 years of working on this, you must’ve been basically like an expert in aircraft maintenance. So I would think that after you get out of the Air Force, you would get some high powered job with Boeing or United or
I did consider that until one day an Air Force buddy of mine said, Hey, I’m going to Santa Cruz, California and help my brother out for a week or so. Do you want to tag along? And I said, sure. And he goes, we’ll go help him with his company and he’ll pay us. And I said, fine, I’ll take a little vacation, make a few bucks. That’s how I got to Santa Cruz.
You got sucked in and you never left. You didn’t mention California and the list of places you had worked.
Was that your first trip to California?
That was my very first trip to California.
Wow, really? Okay. So what year was that?
That was in 1999. I was still active duty Air Force. I still had over a year and a half left on active duty and then one day I just magically got offered to come out here.
Right, okay. Wow. So that’s not that long ago. Really? That’s only 20 years ago by Santa Cruz standards. You’re just a newbie here. So that was a termite company or what was that?
Yeah, it was a local termite company. The owner offered me a job. I was trying to get jobs, otherwhere maybe in my field of aircraft maintenance that wasn’t working out to my satisfaction. So I asked the family, Hey, you want to take a chance and move to California? And they said yes.
So you were already married by that time?
Oh, I was married. Yeah, I’ve been married for 33 years now.
Oh really? Okay.
Yeah, my wife and I are priest. We’ve been married at that time for about 15 years.
And you had kids with you when you came here?
Yes. They were younger, middle school age.
Okay. So they went to school in Scotts Valley and graduated high school there and then we’ve been here ever since.
Oh, right on. Very good. So you started working at a to company. What were you doing? Were you doing repairs? Were you inspecting?
Well, originally I was just basically a laborer and then in training.
Right, okay. Alright.
Meaning doing repairs or
Yes. Helping with that. Learning the business,
Learning about wood rot.
Right. And construction, which is actually the most important thing about termite work. Right,
Okay. Alright, great. So it was all OJT, right? On the job training. You didn’t go to a school?
No. You’d go to school too? I took some correspondence courses and then I also took a couple classes too. Lectured classes.
Where does one go for classes?
Pretty easy if you want to work in pest control. A lot of the big chemical providers, suppliers, they offer training in classes for pest control operators.
Really? So you have to go to
Or Salinas and you take a eight hour course in class and then you take a couple of those and then you take some correspondence courses. Ultimately, if you’re doing well enough, you go and take the test and you get your license.
Yeah. So speaking of licensing, what are the licensing requirements? I mean,
For my buddy Jeremy here, it’s two years of field work, 1600 hours of field work training, plus passing the test and taking all the courses ahead of time. Then your employer approves you and fills out an application for you and we send it to the state and they review your application. And if you meet all the requirements, the education, proven ability and training in the field, then they’ll award a license to you. So
I’ve got a question. So these guys that I don’t know, big box, let’s just say big box termite companies,
Have these people come over you telling me that these guys that they send out are also 1600 hours? Or is it the company’s licensed and they’re just employees or
No, they are. Anyone that goes to a home to do an inspection offer an opinion about any kind of wood destroying organism. You’re required to have a field rep’s license as a minimum,
And that requires 1600 hours.
And then if you want to run your own company, that’s an operator’s license and that’s 4,800 hours.
Well, that’s a lot of experience, right?
That’s four years.
That’s four years, yes. That’s a tremendous amount of time it takes to
Get, yeah. So you have to be dedicated to this and you have to put the work in to get awarded your license. And our license is not even ours. It belongs to the state. They just let you use it basically.
Right, right. Okay.
We surrender it when they ask for it.
And so is there continuing education requirements to maintain your license? Absolutely.
Every three years for an operator or a field rep, it’s a minimum 22 hours of continuing ed.
So is that like every three years you do that with the internet or you got to go to Vegas
For, you can take a class, a sit down class, a lecture, or you could do CEUs correspondent courses.
So it seems to me like the termite business is kind of a good business, right? Because they’re not going to outsource that to China. I mean it all has to be done. Can’t really be done by robots yet.
No, absolutely not. Right. So
Do you find a lot of people trying to get into this trade and is there a lot of competition in this space? I mean, from a new entrance coming into,
I have a story about a young man that worked with a fumigation company and he wanted to break into this. After about three crawls, he decided crawling under the house three times, he decided he didn’t want to do this. So what he thought was he could just get a field rep’s license and then start doing his own thing. I had to break it to him that it takes about four years for you to be able to do that on your own.
But the field rep has crawling our houses. Right. And that is correct. That’s a big part of the job. That is
Is why you love slab foundation so much. That’s correct.
Yeah, absolutely. It’s
Slab inspection is a good day.
It’s a good day. Right, exactly. It’s like Is that on this lap? Yes. Alright. Okay.
I had a client the other day who looked over a termite report and they’re like, Hey, is this even in the scope of
Because they mentioned a lot of stuff from rot and fungus and stuff like that. And so I think there’s a, people don’t understand what exactly a termite report is and it’s not even called a termite report. Right. It’s called a wood destroying pess and organism inspection report, right? That’s correct. So all exactly, do you look for what goes on that report?
I think people don’t look at ’em correctly for what they’re supposed to be. The worst wood destroying organism for your home is water.
And why do they consider that an organism? There’s organisms in the water.
No, it’s just part of the scope of what we look at. What’s going to damage your home worse than anything else in the shortest amount of time. It’s water damage. People are kind of hypersensitive to molds and mildews and unknown conditions. So it’s really important to inspector keys in potential moisture problems. Termites are kind of secondary. It’s the water damage that’s going to do far worse damage to your home.
It’s the water damage. But you also, aside from doing water damage, right, there’s fungus, right? I mean what other kinds of stuff do you go on there?
Well, the fungus goes with the water intrusion and moisture. So the water gets into the home and then the fungus starts to set in to eat the wood and rot the wood.
But then you also have beetles, right?
Yeah. There’s several wood boring beetles in this area that destroy wood
And there’s dry wood termites,
Three different types of dry wood termites in this area.
And then there’s damp wood termites,
Damp wood termites, dry wood termites, subterranean term. What’s
The difference between dry wood, damp wood and subterranean termites?
They all eat wood of course. So that’s a given. It’s how they get to the wood, what the conditions of the wood need to be in order for them to eat it. So if you go by the name, a damp wood termite only eats wood that’s wet. If you go by dry wood termite, they only eat wood that is dry. And then subterranean termites live in the soil. They need a little bit of soil moisture in the soil, but basically they’ll eat anything.
Right. Okay. So we have several flavors of termites, several flavors of beetle. We got rot, we got fungus once upon a time. I saw carpenter bees, but they don’t really eat wood, do they?
On occasion, we come across carpenter bees. They’re pretty prevalent around here and they’re very territorial. And then they also, if they’re in a structure offspring are going to continue to come back to that same structure until you break the cycle.
Okay, but do they eat a lot of wood? Do they damage wood or
No, I have not seen any real appreciable carpenter
Damaged in the 20 years. It may look like they damaged the wood, but it’s never structural. So they just dig out some wood and make a gallery in the wood so they can set up housekeeping basically to make it simple.
Okay. Alright. Anything else? Are there any other organisms that you routinely report on?
Yes. Carpenter ants are pretty prevalent around here, this area too. So on occasion we do come across those.
Alright. Okay. And that’s it though. Nothing else. That’s
Basically it. Yeah. But the carpenter ants and the carpenter bees do not eat food, eat wood as a food source. They just dig into wood just to make a nest.
Right. Now, speaking of eating wood, I’ve been told maybe this is an old wives tale, that these really old houses that have original old growth redwood, the bugs don’t eat that. Is that true or is that not true?
It’s true to some degree they will eat it because the key word is wood. But old growth first cut redwood, it’s very dense. It’s very hard. I kind of equate it to drive a termite trying to eat concrete. I have seen homes around here that they may have nibble down that a little bit, but they’ll actually go for the pine flooring and the floor joists before they get to an old redwood girder. What kind
Of wood do these pests really like? I see these old Doug fur floors. Those are an appetizer for these things. I
Call Doug fur, like apple pie to a drive. Termite and redwood’s kind like broccoli. If all you have to eat is broccoli, you’re going to eat it. But if you’ve got a lot of apple pie laying around, you’re going to like that a lot better.
So pine is a big one. And Doug fur, any other kind of wood that’s especially susceptible to termites?
Some cedars, maybe older cedars where the aromatics are gone out of it. Newer cuts of redwood that aren’t really old, there’s not a lot of tannin in that. So I am starting to find a lot of dry wood termites getting into newer cut of redwood for decking and things like that.
So the termite report
Is always divided into two sections, right? It’s not three sections, right? There’s no third section I haven’t seen yet. It’s only one and two. Right?
Well let’s call it categories. So there’s section one items which are active infestations of a wood destroying organism. And then section two items are items that could lead to a section one item, we’ll call ’em maintenance items. Section two items could lead to a section one item in the future, if not maintained. Then of course on every home there’s further inspection items we can’t see in the walls. We don’t pull out insulation off the floor or the attics or things like that. So basically we see about 35, 40% of a structure when we do an inspection.
Right. Okay. So section one is damage that has already, and section two is basically items that should be taken care of, like caulking. Perfect example,
Caulking painting. Any exposed wood on your structure should be caulked and painted to keep it sealed. Termites will not eat through paint or stain or anything like that to get to the wood. They have to in won’t raw wood
So if you keep your structure maintained and watertight, it will help prevent termite infestations.
Interesting. Really. So they don’t go through the paint, so that’s interesting. But if there’s even a little tiny crack they’ll get in there.
Absolutely. The crack size of the piece of paper they can get in.
Really? Wow. Okay. That’s very important to know. I did not realize that they could not go through paint. Good to know. Good to know. Alright, so when you do one of these reports, you have to file it with a structural pest control board. So could I call up the structural pest control board and it’s like get copies of reports for any house that I
Yes you can. But we’re in the agent computer, so I’m the termite company to file these reports and keep ’em ready to go if the structural pest control board calls you. So current way we do this is we report the address, the type of inspection we did on the home, or if we did any work on the home. So if someone wants that public record, they contact the structural pest control board and the structural pest control board will contact the company that issued that document and then we provide it back to the structural pest control board.
So you don’t actually submit the whole report to them?
No, it’s just the address, the type of report. And then if we did any work on the home,
Is this publicly accessible online? For instance,
A realtor, there’s a search engine on a structural pest control board website where you can look up an address to see if there’s anything current.
Well, that’s good to know because sometimes I work with buyers who buy these foreclosed homes and many times there’s been a string of other buyers for you ask the agent for reports, they say, oh, I’ve got no reports. Right. But then I come to find out that there’s actually several sets of reports that the agent pretends not to know anything about. So you’re saying that if I go to the structural pest controller board website, I can see if it has been any reports filed?
Right. And we’re required to keep a copy of the report for three years.
So does it say who the operator was or the inspector was?
Yes, it does.
So if I see that, if it says oh two termite on there, I can just call you up and are you allowed to give me a copy because it’s registered with the public or no?
Really? So if I say, Hey Bob, I know you did a report on x, Y, Z house. Can I have the report?
As far as I know, these reports are not exclusive to the person that paid for it. It’s public record with the structural pest control board. So that means anybody can have a copy of it.
Wow. You know what? I’m going to go out,
Going to start looking around my neighborhood to see it’s
Three years old or less.
Right. Well, for my purposes, that’s good enough. So speaking of three years old or less, how often should people have their homes inspected for termites?
I believe around every five years is good enough. Now of course, that’s on the homeowner too. So if your roof starts leaking, you need to call somebody about it. Or if you got a plumbing leak, you need to call somebody. And then if you suspect that you see some termite activity or wood destroying organism activity, at any point in the year, you should call a professional to have it identified. And then that leads us to the problem of when termite swarm around here. So a lot of people call and they think they have a termite infestation just because termite swarmed around their property.
So is there a time of year when termites swarm around properties?
Yes. Dry wood termites usually swarm August, September timeframe, sometimes a little later. It just depends. And then after the first rain, subterranean termites usually swarm in November, early December. Then we’ve had a lot of rain this year. We’ve had several subterranean termite swarms, but I think that’s not over yet this year. So I think we’re going to get some more rain into April. So I think the end of April we’ll have another subterranean, termite swarm.
All right. Okay. So this is maybe a little bit off topic, but eight years ago you inspected my own house, and when you inspected my house, you said there is, I forget what it was. It was either beetles or subterranean termites in my crawl space. And you suggested a chemical treatment? That’s correct. I didn’t do the chemical treatment because I had guys working under there and they were like, can you please not do the chemical treatment until we’re done working under there
Then they were working under there for a couple of months. I forget all about it. So eight years later, what does this mean for? What does this mean for the wood underneath my house? I mean, if it’s dry wood or beetles, how fast do they act to eat your joists or whatever?
It’s different with dry wood, termites and beetles. In my experience, dry wood termites eat very slow, so don’t panic about that.
And then beetles, if the moisture content is correct in the wood, their lifecycle is normal and they could eat more and reinst more. So it’s still not a situation where you would panic, but certainly if you had forgot to do something like that, you would want to get another inspection. That’s where I go back to the five year rule
Inspection. I should probably have you come back. It’s eight. Eight.
Get an inspection about every five years. Even with wood boring beetles, you shouldn’t have that much appreciable damage after five years, maybe some more infestation.
So speaking of beetles, I had a client who there was a term report said, oh, there’s some beetle damage here on your wood. Like, hey, you got to replace this wood and beetles. If anybody doesn’t know, they create little pinholes in the wood. And there was one pinhole in the wood, that was it. And so who calls for all the wood to be replaced versus just filling a beetle hole? Why?
Well, if I find just one beetle hole in a given piece of lumber on a structure, I would probably call for further inspection, especially if there’s no dust coming out of that hole. Beetle larvae, when they poop, they poop wood dust, it kind of looks like talcum powder. And then some beetles emit pellets, like a death watch beetle, they’ll have little pellets.
Death watch beetle. Huh.
So you have to be educated and know what you’re looking at. But then again, you have to be practical. If you got one hole with nothing coming out of it, it’s prudent to just to say, keep an eye on that so it doesn’t get out of hand. Now, 3, 4, 5, 6 months later, you got multiple holes showing up that would indicate you actually have some activity going on.
Do beetles eat through paint like termites do? Don’t.
No, no. It’s raw wood.
Go through paint. That’s why in this area, frequently what you’ll find, and there’s got to be a higher moisture content in the air in wood versus dry wood termites too. You got to know the condition of the home you’re looking at. And then they’re also kind of territorial. So if you’re in a given neighborhood where you’ve found beetles before, that would be one of the pest that you would key in on right away. So
Around here, there’s a lot of cabins in the woods that are not painted. They’re basically raw wood or they’re stained or whatever. And there’s also shingle sided houses. Is that a big neon sign or do they not?
No, not necessarily. We have a lot of old growth constructed cabins. It’s stained on the exterior that’s just as good as paint. Oh, is it really? Absolutely. It’s not raw to them anymore if they’re trying to get into it. Other older structures, it just depends on the neighborhood they’re in. Some neighborhoods don’t even have a lot of termite activity, so it’s just basically territorial.
Okay. So now how about Dex? Dex is like a big thing. Decks.
Decks are a huge problem for owners. So basically, I don’t like decks. No, it’s, it’s really difficult to tell a homeowner that their 35, 40 year old deck can’t be saved.
Right. Well that’s
A long time. And it’s a huge expense.
It’s a huge expense.
And I just try to reason with ’em and tell ’em it’s 30 years old, 40 years old, you got your money’s worked out of it.
And so now you got all this lumber sitting out in the rain for 30 to 40 years. Logically it’s going to rot.
But there are ways to maintain decks like you maintain your helm.
So these days it didn’t used to be this way,
Guess, but these days almost all the framing for a deck is done with pressure treated wood.
So termites don’t eat pressure treated wood. Is that
Correct? Now that is not true to some degree the treated side of the wood or the treated portions of the wom bird, they won’t eat through that to get into the raw wood that’s in the center. But typically there’s about 40% of the center of that. That is still raw wood. There’s rules in construction where if you cut pressure treated lumber, you’re supposed to treat the cut end and that will help deter pest protrusion.
A lot of people do not do that.
Right? Well, that’s a new one for me. I had
Idea. So I frequently see subterranean termites in fence posts, for example, because they cut the post, shove it in the ground. Now the subterranean termite eat up through the middle of it.
I got a handyman right now installing a mailbox post with a four by four pressure treated and he’s going to cut it because it comes at eight foot post.
Basically what you’re telling me is that that’s going to rot out because he is saving in concrete. The termites could get, they don’t get in the concrete or do they get in the concrete?
They can go through the concrete. A little crack. Yeah, they can find a way between the concrete to get up to the middle of that post. Interesting. And don’t ask me how they find it, but they’re the masters at finding raw wood.
So now the rest of the deck though, besides the framing parts, you said staining it is enough, right? But staining your deck is like a real hassle. I mean, you got to do it every couple of years essentially, right? To maintain the stain.
I’m not a big fan of staining it because most people don’t stain the right parts of it. The fungus grows on the underside.
To me, it’s more important to stain the underside, not the walking surface. Another good way to maintain a deck if you can get under it, is power wash underneath the deck to clean the fungus off every couple seasons.
So how about painting the deck, right? They have these heavy body stains that it’s almost like a paint
That would help if it’s UV protection with the paint, that’ll help keep the water out. But again, you got to look at the joints where the water runs through the decking to the top of the framing. So there’s always sides of that piece of lumber that don’t have any paint or stain on it. And if you want to prevent it from, you want to prolong the life of it as much as possible. All sides of the lumber need to be treated or painted. Okay.
Alright. So in your reports that you, do you usually provide a repair costs? I mean, sometimes it says see other trades or subject to further inspection or whatever, but when you can, you provide repair costs. So how do you estimate those repair costs?
Basically, I think about the time and material it takes to fix the problem. And then I provide a reasonable estimate. What I think it would take, of course, if you ask any contractor, if you ask five different contractors, you’ll get 10 different prices. It’s educating yourself on material and labor costs, and more importantly, being very fair about the estimates you provide.
Alright. So some of these insurance companies, they have these books
Say like, okay, if you’re replacing whatever in this region, it should cost about this much per square foot or whatever. Do you use any of those books or do any turbine companies use those books?
I think some may. I don’t use that. I just go off of my personal experience and more importantly, talking with other contractors on how much things should cost. And also making an occasional trip to the lumber yard. Wood is a commodity and the price fluctuates. So you have to be familiar with what the current prices of lumber are. And then current labor rates in California too,
Which I mean all that has just been skyrocketing, right? Absolutely. It is nuts
And workers’ comp,
All these guys are like, and workers’ comp, right? Yes. Yeah. I mean this amazing how much, it seems like it’s not much of an exaggeration to say the prices have doubled over the last 10 years. I mean, it seems like from the depths of the recession to now, I mean things costing twice as much as 10 years. That’s a very
Wow. Yeah, it’s just amazing. So now this is Santa Cruz, California, and there are a lot of enviro people, anti-vaxxers and all kinds of folks like that. And a lot of people are freaked out by these fumigation chemicals. They think it’s going to leave a residue or some kind of, I don’t know, toxic waste behind. So what can you tell me about the chemicals that are used in the fumigation and soil treatments and all that? The
Chemical we use for fumigation is sulfural fluoride, and it absolutely leaves nothing left when it’s gone. It’s a gas. When it’s introduced into the structure, it’s in gas form and when it dissipates, there’s nothing residual left. There’s nothing to clean up at all.
So why is it they tell you to bag your food up before you have your house mated? If there’s nothing left?
That’s just a safety issue because this gas gets into everything. For example, a refrigerator, people think that the refrigerators are airtight and in fact they’re not. The electricity stays on, so that compressor’s running and it’s circulating air, so it’s going to draw in air, ambient air from the exterior of the cabinet. The fuming get in the air, it’s going to get inside the refrigerator. So we don’t want people to come home after the fumigation and open a bottle of ketchup and get exposed to a small amount of fumigant. So that’s why we have people bag their food. It helps to keep the gas out of open. Let’s call ’em open containers.
Right. Okay. So the gas and the reports called vi, the VI is
Like’s the trade name’s, the Dow trade name, the original Dow trade name, it’s currently from Douglas products now is the owner of VAC canine. So it’s Sal fluoride.
Sal fluoride. And so that’s the only gas you guys use? There’s not several kinds of gases. It’s basically that
One. Well for structures, yes. That is the only gas we use. Now, there’s a couple other gases that are ser fluoride, like master fume and hor, but they’re all sulfural fluoride.
So this sulfural fluoride, how does it actually work to kill all the bugs? What’s the mechanism that they die by? Is it,
What I’ve learned is it works on their digestive system,
The digestive system,
And then they don’t always die right away. I have been at homes where we’ve dismantled some termite damaged lumber off the home and there were dead termites in there. But more importantly, it does not kill the termite egg.
Doesn’t kill the termite egg, huh?
Well, this is what I tell people. All the rocket science has been done. So to eradicate your dry with termites, when we do a fumigation with sulfural fluoride, we don’t need to target the egg because termites aren’t born with the ability to digest wood. So those eggs, they hatch out, they’re going to die because they can’t eat.
So the monitor termite comes and feeds them or regurgitates?
Well, actually they’re a cast system, so the workers actually feed the new termites.
Oh, that’s so nice of them.
Yeah. I won’t describe how that’s done. So that’s how it gets done.
That’s the gas. But what about the soil treatment for subterranean or whatever
You said? Exactly. It is a soil treatment. So when you have subterranean termites, you have to target where the colony is. Current methods are to put a chemical barrier around the house and underneath the home, and then also other conduits that termites could use. Pure blocks, plumbing, things like that. There’s lots of good termites out there. I have one that I find that works the best for our soil composition here. So that’s the one I continue to use. But there’s a lot of other companies that use different products, but I tend to use what’s best for the customers around here.
And then for the fungus, that’s another product entirely. What do you use for fungus?
I use, well technical name. It’s D, sodium Octa Borate Tetra. But it’s like a borate solution and there’s salt in it. That’s a very good chemical to kill fungus. There’s a lot of other over the counter chemicals with that same solution in it, but they’re not professional grade. So homeowner can use that and you can buy it at local lumber yard and things like that. But I buy the professional ate solutions.
So how about this electro gun that some people use that thing? I mean, that sounds like a
Snake. I think that works. No, no. It will kill some termites, but there again, it’s still a local treatment. And for a lot of homes I don’t use it, but I do recommend it to a lot of people that they’re really adverse to having any kind of chemical or they’re just dead set on, not fumigating it. Unfortunately, those people, I can’t help, but I do give ’em a referral on who might be able to help ’em in. Electric gun is a good option.
Townhouses and condos that are attached structures. So you can’t fumigate those, right? Or have you ever fumigated a condo complex?
Lots of them.
Really. Everyone moves out of the condo complex for three days or whatever. And
Yes, I have a 48 unit fumigation coming up.
And then I’ve done 20 units and 30 unit buildings before.
Wow. Wow. That’s amazing. But that only happens once in a blue moon. They’re not do that every five years. Yeah,
It’s usually when it gets to worst case scenario.
Worst case scenario, right? It’s just really so bad. That’s
What you have to do.
It’s basically like a termite hotel at that point.
Or you become a termite farmer and
Right. Termite farmer,
You’re raising termites in your structure.
Right. Okay. So that only happens occasionally. So most of the time electro gunn would be appropriate for, because I’ve seen it inside condos, like termite are raining down from the rafters or whatever. And you would recommend an electro gun maybe for,
And it may take a few series of treatments to get it under control. It’s not a bad option for people that don’t want any chemical.
Right. Okay. Alright, very good. Now are there some neighborhoods around here where you see the homes that don’t really suffer much from termite damage or rot or anything like that? Where’s the good places where when you go
Report you’re like, man, that house is not clean as a whistle, but pretty good. I mean, are there any areas that people should know it’s easier to maintain a house maybe due to the climate or?
Well, if you have a sunny lot, I always find those homes to be in a little better shape than one buried in the trees where it doesn’t get any sun. It’s all about the moisture. So if the moisture content’s high, you may have more problems. So if you got a nice sunny lot where the home can dry out and your deck can dry out, you got less problems. And then there’s certain neighborhoods, Scotts Valley, for instance, I’ve been doing this for 20 years and I rarely find dry wood termite activity, but I find other things. So it’s always give and take.
So APTAs is very foggy and cold and damp.
Lots of beetle activity. They have moderate dry wood termite activity. Any structure in Northern California is susceptible to getting subterranean termites.
Right. So I sold a house in Sacramento one time and they told me that there aren’t really termites in Sacramento. Is that true, do you think? I
Would tend to agree with that. And of course it’s territory and it may be something to do with the heat.
The heat, right. So are termites, are there termites in
Chicago only Subterranean.
Only subterranean termites?
Yes. Not drys. It freezes there. So you tend not to have a dry wood termite concentration in an area that
Freezes. Okay. Like in Tahoe, there’s no termites really.
I’ve never been to Tahoe, but I can’t imagine that they would be able to survive. You’ve
Never been to Tahoe? No. Well, you need to take the wife out to Tahoe then Sometime.
She’s been several times.
You’re too busy working. Right. Okay. So we got to wrap this up. I know you have to go do a termite inspection here. Is there anything that I didn’t ask you that I should have asked you? I
Think we covered everything. Don’t go cheap on a termite inspection.
Don’t go cheap on the termite inspection.
No, it is true. You get what you pay for. So I mean, a good operator wants to charge you a fair fee to do a full inspection on your home. That’s a good deal. But we all do free inspections and I have no problem doing a free inspection. You
Do free inspections. How come you only charge my customers money then?
Well escrow’s different. But if a customer calls me and they just want me to come out and look at a couple things for ’em and not do a whole inspection, I usually don’t charge ’em for that. But I’m also take a good scan around the house and it might be worth it to you to get a full inspection. Right.
You’re going to crawl under anyone’s house for,
And it’s not salesmanship, it’s just being honest with ’em. If you can help ’em help, and if you can’t give them a good referral, they can’t help ’em.
Right. Speaking of money, I happen to notice that in San Jose and Silicon Valley, they charge a lot more for a termite inspection than they do over here. I’ve heard of people paying four or 500 bucks or more for a termite inspection. Why is that, Bob?
I think it’s just with the territory and what the market drives. I honestly kind of struggle to get paid for what I charge now. And it’s probably competition
There’s a lot of companies that just do the free full inspection. But my opinion, if you get a free inspection, it may not be exactly what you need for an escrow.
Right. I always tell people, if you’re going to do any inspection, do a termite inspection. Right. Because I’m just going to tell people termite inspections run two 50, give or take. Right? So that’s the best two 50 you’re ever going to spend, I think in terms of getting your house ready for sale. And if you’re a buyer buying a house, that’s certainly the best money you’re ever going to spend
Real estate is going to term. And that’s
Exactly what I tell customers about fumigating a house about every 15, 20 years.
Best termite insurance you’re ever going to get. And it’s the cheapest in the long run.
And speaking of Fumigations on the bottom of all, not that this is a commercial for O two termite or anything like that, but I want to point out that the bottom of your bids is say we will not be under bid when it comes to fumigation. And I always send, whenever I get a termite from anybody else, I always send you the report and I say, Hey Bob, what can you do on the fumigation? And you do in fact beat every fumigation bid in town. Well, in 99% of the cases, I never see the bid that someone has. I just know what a fair price should be. Right? Oh really? Yes. Interesting. I’ve always been like that. And do a good job at a fair price and people will call you. Right. And actually about the fumigation, you’re subcontracted out, right? I mean there’s like Mission City, city, there’s whatever, it’s, there’s very few of us that do our own fumes.
But you oversee it though. You have to oversee it, right? Absolutely. You have to go there. I’m responsible for it. You’re responsible for it. Right. And to be fair, if a homeowner has a termite report, they could call a fumigation company directly to get the fume. If the report’s current. Doesn’t mean you’re going to get a better price though, right? Sure. Of course not. They have wholesale prices. Right. I imagine. Because you do a lot of business with him more than likely. Yes. Right. So if you need a fume, talk to Bob and he’ll give you probably the best price you’re going to get around. I’ll do my best, but if required, I may try to talk you out of it too. Right. There you go. Exactly. Sometimes it might be overkill, it might be. Yes. Right. Alright, good to know. Alright, Bob. Well I know you got to get going.
I got to get going too. So hey man, thank you so much for taking the time to be on the podcast. Really appreciate it. My pleasure. Alright, that wraps up episode number 41 of the Beta Bay podcast. I really hope you enjoyed listening to my conversation with Bob and that you got a lot out of it. Before we wrap it up, I want to remind you that the Beta Bay Podcast is sponsored as always by the sold book.com. That’s right. Go to the sold book.com to get your free copy of my book, get It Sold. Get It Sold is all about how to sell your home quickly, easily, and for the very highest price possible and have a darn good time doing it. This is a great book. I wrote every word. It’s only about 110 pages. It’s a really quick and easy read. You can buy it on amazon.com for $13 or you can get it for free. Free if you go to the sold book.com and order it there. And hey, check this out. If you use the coupon code free ship at checkout, that’s F-R-E-E-S-H-I-P, I’ll even ship it to you for free. Can’t beat that. Alright, that is it for this episode of the Bay Debate Podcast. Stay tuned. We’ll have another episode up for you before too much longer.