Frequently Asked Questions About Our Pest Control Services

How do I select the right professional?

Keep in mind that professionalism and quality of work are never determined by a company's size or its advertising budget. You will often get more personalized service at a better price by selecting a reputable local independent operator.
The best way to choose any professional is to check his/her credentials. You should ask at least these questions:

  • How long have you been doing this kind of work?
  • Is termite control your specialty, or is it a sideline?
  • Are you licensed, bonded, and insured?
  • How is your record with the Department of Consumer Affairs? (You can check this out at the Structural Pest Control Board's website on our Links page.)
  • Do you belong to the local Better Business Bureau?
  • Are you a member of any other trade organizations?
  • Is this work going to be guaranteed? What are the terms of the guarantee? Is this guarantee renewable?
  • How will I know if you've controlled the termites? Will you do a no-charge follow-up inspection at the end of the guarantee period?
  • Is the price you are giving me a firm quote based on the size of my house or a ballpark estimate?

A good termite pro should be willing to address these questions for you squarely and honestly. If his answers to any of these questions leave you feeling uncomfortable or uncertain, keep shopping.
Ask yourself if the procedures that the professional is recommending make sense to you. If they don't make sense, don't sign a contract. If you don't understand what you are buying, you may be in store for disappointment or hard feelings.
If the company does not include a follow-up service (at least an inspection at the end of the guarantee period), it may be difficult to know if their work actually controlled the termites.

Is it really necessary to hire a professional, or can I control termites myself?

In almost all situations, if you have a termite problem, it will be necessary to hire a professional. We've seen very few successful do-it-yourself termite control jobs.

Termite control isn't as simple as having an untrained person spray some chemical purchased at the hardware store. But if you want to try it anyway, go for it! This is still America, and it is your house! But if you do try to do-it-yourself termite control please remember to read and carefully follow all label instructions. Purchase and use all recommended safety equipment and dispose of your empty containers responsibly and according to label instructions and local ordinances.

A successful termite control program must begin with a well-established strategy. The steps in this strategy will be based on a positive identification of the target species, a thorough understanding of the nature of construction of the structure as it relates to controlling the termites, and a thorough understanding of the tools and materials required to control the infestation. Simply spraying a pesticide labeled for termites on the affected wood members will probably do no good at all.

A termite control professional possesses an understanding of the insects and their behavior, a thorough understanding of building construction and treatment techniques, and access to the very best materials and the knowledge to make a proper selection. He/she also has the necessary tools which are often highly specialized and very expensive. In California, that professional must demonstrate the required skills through successfully passing the license exam given by the Structural Pest Control Board and then must maintain that license through on-going continuing education. And, for your protection, state law requires that a professional termite control operator is bonded and insured.

Even with all our training, experience, and professional tools and products working for us, termite control pros don't always stop termites with the first treatment. We all do callbacks on jobs occasionally. That's why a professional job should always include a solid guarantee with follow-up inspections with additional treatment at no cost whenever needed.

Is fumigation the only option for drywood termite control?

I asked Dr. Vernard Lewis from U.C Berkeley once about his opinion concerning the best drywood termite control product available. His answer was, "There are a lot of products that will kill drywood termites. The trick is finding them."

This brings out the main difficulty when dealing with drywood termites. We don't have diagnostic tools available that will allow us to look inside the walls to find termites that might be there. Often this concern about "what might be there" prompts termite companies ignore all other options and insist on structural fumigation any time they find evidence of drywood termites. The problem with this is that the infestation you found might have been the only one in the building. While a fumigation gives everyone involved some peace of mind, in some cases it may be overkill.

There have been several localized treatment techniques for drywood termite control introduced in recent years.  These techniques run the gamut from localized heating, to localized freezing, use of electrical shock and even microwaves.  Not all of these techniques are available in all market areas of the state.  None of these treatments offer any form of long-term effectiveness since the treatment leaves no residual in the area(s) treated.

Localized treatments with residual termite management products such as Termidor® foam, can provide excellent control.  This is because the product not only kills the insects on contact but the residual properties of the product inside the wall will continue to kill termites for many years following the treatment.   But localized treatments also have their disadvantages. Localized treatments are never to be considered at whole-structure treatment.  A localized treatment of one colony will not kill any hidden colonies. If they are discovered later, they will need to be treated. This additional cost is usually offset by the fact that two or three local treatments are usually far less expensive than one fumigation.

In many situations structural fumigation is the most cost-effective control measure available. The age of the building, the nature of construction, extent of naturally occurring termite pressure in that geographical area, and many other factors might make fumigation the most logical control strategy. If we know the building has multiple colonies of drywood termites, fumigation may be the only appropriate recommendation. In these cases, a localized treatment may be a very poor choice.

The take-away from all of these considerations is that we need to approach the problem with an open mind. In some cases, where certification for a real estate transaction is required, fumigation may be your only option.  If you have an old home and/or multiple sites of infestation, localized treatment may not be appropriate.  But if your termite company only uses one approach (be it local treatments or fumigation) it might indicate a "cookie-cutter" approach to termite control.

How much do professional pest control services cost?

Pest control work is usually very affordable. But the prices charged for pest control work are all over the chart. A recent market survey of companies in our area offered one-time services for cockroaches from $35.00 to $250.00. Some companies simply won’t do one-time services for German roaches. Monthly services can range from as little as $30 per month to $55 per month for the same 1500 sq. foot home on a standard city lot!
Common sense rules the day here. Like any other service business, good pest control work requires trained, seasoned employees who understand the products they are working with and the pests they are working to control. Good, properly maintained equipment and good materials are vital to that technician’s work. All of these costs must be paid by the pest control company and will be reflected in the prices they must charge for their services.
You are usually well-advised to stay away from any service business that tries to be the “cheapest company in town.” In our industry, these businesses usually hire the most marginal employees (to keep costs down), use as little of the cheapest products as they can get by with (to keep costs down), and defer all maintenance on equipment and vehicles as long as possible (again, to keep costs down). I, personally, would not trust this kind of operation to apply pesticides to my home or business. (Quite frankly, I probably wouldn’t want them on my property for any purpose!)
The big companies seem to occupy the other end of the price spectrum. Although the work done by the larger companies is usually adequate, their higher advertising and other overhead costs show up in higher prices. Many of the larger companies have chosen to abandon “best control” in favor of much more profitable service frequencies and styles. And, all too often with the larger companies, the customer becomes just another account number to them.
At Morse Termite and Pest Control, we strive to provide the best possible service work at the most reasonable prices. Although we are rarely the cheapest company you might call, we will never be the most expensive one, either. We take the time to do our work properly, promptly, and with a minimum of hassle for you. And we are always ready to answer any questions you may have about the pests we are working on or the services we are providing.

Can I do pest control myself?

Yes, you can. Most hardware stores and home improvement centers offer a fairly wide selection of insecticides, traps, baits, and pest control tools and application equipment. Information on how to do basic pest control work is available in books, magazines, and the internet.

The important thing to keep in mind is that pesticides are just tools. The home center also carries other tools such as welders, electrical testers, etc. Just because you can buy these things doesn’t mean you know how to use them properly.

Although almost all modern pesticides are extremely mild from a toxicity standpoint, improper use can lead to other problems. Staining of surfaces, death to non-target species, and injury to plants are just a few of the results of improper treatments. The most common result, though, is failure to control the pest problem.

If you do choose to do your own pest control work, please do so responsibly. Read the entire product label on every material you buy before you use it. Be sure you completely understand the use directions and follow those directions carefully. Obtain and use all recommended safety equipment and application precautions. Dispose of empty containers properly.

Knowledge is the most important thing a good professional brings to your home or business. If you want to get good control of the target pest, read up on them. Learn their biology and behaviors and learn how this information will help you control their populations. And be sure you understand which formulations of the products you are using will work best. Liquid sprays may work very well in one situation while granules may be far more appropriate in another. Yet in another situation, the very best control may be achieved without any pesticide application at all.

What if the pest problem persists following service?

If you are a regular customer—no problem! If we are servicing your home on a monthly service agreement, any additional service work for the pests covered in your agreement will be provided promptly and at no cost).

Which service frequency is best?

I’m afraid there isn’t one right answer to this question. The answer depends on several factors including the target pest and primary reason for wanting service, location of the structure, pressure from surrounding pest populations that might lead to re-infestation, etc. If you don’t have a clear idea of how often to service, ask your professional for recommendations.

If you are just trying to get a house cleaned up for sale, or if you are starting to work on a vacant house and don’t want to deal with a bunch of pest problems, a one-time service may be just right. If you want long-term control a routine service program might better fit your needs.

For best long-term control and peace of mind we suggest monthly service. This is due to the longevity of the products placed around the structure. Very few modern pest management products remain effective for more than a few weeks following application.  This may be reduced to less than a week during the hottest summer months.  Consistent inspection, web removal and reapplication is necessary to maintain the best levels of control.  If the bugs persist, so will we! If you need extra service, just give us a call—we’ll be right there!

What pest control services do you offer?

We offer monthly, one time, and special service agreements.  Target pests may include ants, cockroaches, silverfish, spiders, rats, mice, fleas, ticks, earwigs, etc. We also provide some rodent exclusion services.
Monthly service provides excellent long-term and year around control of most common household pests.

How can I tell if a company is going to do a good job?

The best way to protect yourself is to do exactly what you are doing right now. The fact that you are doing research about termites and termite control indicates that you are becoming an informed consumer. Keep it up!

Before you sign any contract, ask the operator some hard questions about how he plans to do his work. He should be honest and frank with you. (If not, beware! Call someone else.) I look for several key points when deciding if a competitor knows what he's doing or not. Here they are:

  • Hole spacing - This is the very first clue. Most termiticide labels call for drill holes to be 12-18" on center. This can be stretched or tightened up for differing soil conditions but generally 12-18" means the operator is following the label and taking the time to do a good job.
  • Product choice - Termiticides may be repellent or non-repellent in their action. Repellent products are cheaper to use but they don't really kill very many of the termites. Instead, they force the termites to change their feeding patterns into areas where the soil has not been treated. I've seen a lot of "call-backs" on these jobs. Non-repellent materials (such as Termidor®) actually kill the termites and the product doesn't disrupt their feeding patterns. Although more expensive to use, Termidor® has a devastating impact on the termite colony. As a result, we have almost no call-backs with this product.

  • Clean-up and patching - A professional termite treatment should not create more problems than it solves. When finished your home should look almost exactly the same as it did before the job (with the noted exception of the drill patches in the concrete abutting the exterior). Drop cloths should be put down over your carpets to protect them while work is being done inside the home. Interior drilling should be minimized and only done where there is a good reason to drill. Then the operator should plan the work so the drill holes are difficult (or impossible) to detect. Carpets that have been lifted should be reinstalled in a neat and professional manner following treatment.

  • Beware of stand-alone baiting - This approach is heavily marketed by some major termite operations. It looks very attractive because it is done without disruption of your schedule. However, the results we have seen with this approach have left a lot to be desired. (Click this link to read our comments on baiting programs.) Stand-alone baiting programs can be very effective when dealing with Eastern Subterranean termites (r. flavipes) or Formosan subterranean termites (coptotermes). But for Western subs (r. hesperus) we rarely recommend stand-alone baiting programs
How safe are the products used to control termites and household pests?

This is the good news about pest control today. Modern chemistry has provided our industry with pest management products that are a quantum leap ahead of the materials commonly used just 15 or 20 years ago. These products have extremely low odor (or no odor at all in some cases). The active ingredient in Termidor®, our primary choice for termite control, is used in many flea control products that are applied directly to the pet's skin! And, at Morse Termite and Pest Control, we've selected only the very best of these new materials for our work.
Fumigation for drywood termites are done using a product with a very long, well-established history.
Structural Pest Control Companies are registered and regulated by the Structural Pest Control Board, and apply pesticides which are registered and approved for use by the California Department of Pesticide Regulation and the United States Environmental Protection Agency. Registration is granted when the state finds that based on existing scientific evidence there are no appreciable risks if proper use conditions are followed or that the risks are outweighed by the benefits.

Can you give me a price over the phone?

We can usually provide quotes for general pest control work over the phone. We’ll need such information as the size and location of the home as well as the pests that you are concerned about. Prices quoted over the phone are based on our current rate card. Obviously, we will have no way to know about special issues (such as outbuildings, unique construction or landscaping, or other factors that may affect the price we’ll need to charge to provide proper service. Please understand that a price given over the phone is approximate. Once our licensed technician arrives at the home, he or she will evaluate it and inform you of any price adjustment that might be necessary. Obviously, you are under no obligation to accept our revised quote and there will be no hard feelings if you choose not to.
Termite control work, however, cannot be quoted on the phone. If you believe you have a termite problem, we'll need to make an appointment to look at your building. We'll want to look at what you are concerned about, determine the nature of construction of the building, and take a few measurements. We need this information to figure out what work is required. With this information, we can usually give you a firm price quote. Further, we will usually provide this quote at no cost or obligation to you.

Do you provide free estimates?

Yes, in most cases. The cost for a termite treatment or fumigation can usually be calculated based on a Limited Inspection. If you live within our service territory (eastern Fresno County), we will be happy to stop by at no charge and discuss your options with you.

If appropriate, we'll do a Limited Inspection and provide you with a quote for termite control treatment. If we do a Limited Inspection, you will receive a written report in the mail a few days after our visit. There will be no charge and you will be under no obligation of any kind.

Keep in mind that in some cases, a Limited Inspection simply doesn't provide enough information for us to give you an accurate and complete quote. This is common when dealing with old houses, houses that have had a lot of remodeling done, or where there are construction-related issues to be addressed. In these cases, it is necessary to do a Complete Original Inspection before we can give a quote for all the work needed. If we need to do a Complete Original Inspection, there will probably be a charge of $110.00 for that service. But you will never be charged any fees unless you have authorized them.

How much should I expect to pay for termite control work?

The cost of any work is determined by the size and complexity of the job. While a high price certainly doesn't guarantee a good job, a "too cheap" price usually indicates that some corners have been cut. I hate to see situations where a homeowner has had to buy a second termite treatment for the same problem.

  1. Subterranean termite treatment costs can vary widely. The control measures needed may range from something as simple as a change in storage practices or other no-cost solutions to complex jobs that cost thousands of dollars. A spot treatment may cost $250 or more. A complete treatment of a typical, 1500 square foot, single-family home on a slab floor might be between $650 and $1800 depending on who you hire. Assuming normal construction and floor coverings our jobs on homes this size typically run between $800 and $1300.
  2. Drywood Termite localized treatments can range from $290 up depending on what needs to be done. Sometimes the customer can save some money by doing the removal and re-installation of the siding or wallboard to provide our technician with the necessary access for treatment.
  3. Fumigation for Drywood termite control is based on the volume to be covered. Fumigation typically start at around $750 and go up from there based on the size of the job. A house with a steeply pitched roof, patio covers, and large eaves will have more volume than a low roofed house with no patio covers attached. Even with the same square footage, the tall house will be more expensive to fumigate than the low roofed house.

Keep in mind that there may be other issues that are contributing to the termite problem. These are called "conducive conditions" and might include earth to wood contacts, excessive moisture conditions, inaccessible areas, etc. These conditions must also be considered as part of an overall termite control strategy and may add to the expense of controlling the problem.

What payment options are available?

It is customary to pay for services at the time they are done. We accept cash, check, or any of the four major credit cards.

Does the law require a termite inspection if I’m selling my home?

I don't know of any law that requires a seller to get any inspections prior to the sale of a home. However, most home sales do involve various inspections. That is because these sales almost always involve a lender. The lending institutions are really the ones who are putting up the money for the purchase of the property. The lenders want to protect their investments. To do this, they generally want to know the condition of the properties for which they are lending money. As a result, most residential real estate transactions end up getting an inspection, but not because the law requires it. Rather the inspection is done because the buyer or the buyer's lender requires it.

Many real estate transactions take place without any inspections at all. Often commercial or industrial properties are sold without inspections. Large properties, such as farms, etc. are frequently sold without inspections because the value of the house (or houses) on the property is simply incidental to the much larger value of the property as a whole. Additionally, cash residential sales when no lender is involved very frequently take place without inspections (or with an inspection but without the requirement that any work be done).

What is involved in an inspection?

First, please understand that in the state of California there is really is no such thing as a "termite" inspection. The inspections done by Structural Pest Control Operators (like us) are actually Structural Pest Control Inspections. Our inspections are closely regulated by the Department of Consumer Affairs. The scope of the inspection is defined by state law.

Our inspections involve all wood destroying pests and organisms and the conditions known to be conducive to the development of these pests and organisms. Basically, that means we must inspect and report on the presence of termites (all three types), wood destroying beetles, carpenter ants, carpenter bees, and wood destroying fungi (such as brown rot, etc.). We must also report on excessive moisture conditions, cellulose debris, earth wood contacts, faulty grade levels, inaccessible areas, etc. To a limited extent, our inspections may also include the general condition of the foundations and other parts of the structure.

An inspection may be a full inspection (where all accessible parts of the structure are inspected), or it may be a limited inspection. To learn about the different inspections and their scope and the fees associated with them, click this link: Inspections

What documentation can I expect to get from my termite operator?

The termite control industry is regulated by the State of California (just like contractors, mechanics, beauty parlors, etc.) Under the law, a termite control professional must make an inspection and give you a written report before he/she can start any termite work on your property. There should be an inspection tag posted in the garage, attic, or subarea.

Any contract you enter with a termite operator must be in writing and the terms of any guarantees clearly stated.

The company should post a completion tag following completion of the work. And you should receive a Standard Notice of Work Completed and Not Completed. This is not a bill, but rather a legal disclosure stating which items on your inspection report were completed and which were not completed by the termite control operator. We recommend that you keep all this documentation with your other important papers.

What does Section I and Section II mean?

The Section I/Section II system is simply a way of sorting out the recommendations on an inspection report. The Structural Pest Control Act and the Rules and Regulations require that an inspection report be separated this way if the person who requested the report asks the pest control operator to issue a separated report. Many PCO's simply separate all the reports they issue. It is our policy that all the reports we issue are separated reports.

Section I conditions are conditions where there is an active infestation or infection of wood destroying organisms. Section I items also include damage done by active infestations/infections and the conducive conditions which lead to the active infestation or infection.

A Section II item is a condition that is conducive to wood decay, but where there was no evidence of an active infestation or infection present. A patio support post in direct earth contact, for example, is conducive to both termites and wood decay fungus, but if there is no wood decay in the wood, the earth contact is considered a Section II condition.

For further information on this subject, you may go to our Helpful Links page and contact the Structural Pest Control Board.

What if I don’t agree with the report or want a second opinion?

Most termite control operators are honest, hard-working folks who genuinely want to do a good job for their customers. However, as in every industry, there will always be some who are better trained and/or more experienced than others. And, regrettably, as in every industry, there will always be that element of individuals with questionable ethics.

If you don't agree with the report a pest control operator issues you should make every effort to have those concerns addressed. Our first advice is that you contact the operator who did the inspection and ask him/her to show you the conditions you are questioning. If you need to get under the house to look at it, it might be worth your while to get (or borrow) a pair of coveralls. If you're not physically able to go under the house, get a relative or trusted friend to be a set of eyes for you.

Additionally, the conditions we (PCO's) must report are clearly defined in the Structural Pest Control Act and the Rules and Regulations adopted by the Structural Pest Control Board. Ask the inspector to show you the reference in the Rules and Regulations on which he is basing his findings and recommendations. If he can't do it, I would consider it a serious "red flag.”

If you want to get a second opinion or a second quotation for work, you are absolutely entitled to do so. Keep in mind that if you are selling the property, the full disclosure requirements of the law may require you to provide a copy of both reports to the buyer. (Be sure to discuss the full disclosure requirement with your attorney and/or realtor.)

As a buyer, should I get a second opinion?

For specific information about your rights, you should consult an attorney with expertise in real estate law. Generally, though, as a buyer, you are entitled to obtain second opinions related to any reports related to a property you are considering purchasing. You will probably be required to pay for those second opinions yourself, but, considering what is at stake, an inspection fee is usually pretty insignificant.

While you are considering your options, there are a couple of things you may want to keep in mind. First, understand that a real estate agent is a salesperson who depends on commissions for their living. The seller and the seller’s real estate agent have a financial interest in minimizing the costs associated with the sale of the property. And most real estate agents know which companies to recommend to their clients, and which ones to avoid. Some termite control companies have the reputation of “working with” the realtor so they can get their deals done; while other companies are “The company to call only if you have a dispute or a fussy buyer.”

Even when dealing with honest people, there can be big differences in competency between inspectors. I have seen many situations where there were thousands of dollars difference in the work recommended on a property between two company’s reports. If you are considering paying hundreds of thousands of dollars for a property, do you want to simply rely on a company that the seller’s realtor recommended?

If you are buying an older property, it might be wise to obtain a second opinion from a company with a reputation for doing tough inspections. Even if you have to pay $75 - $125 for another report, that small investment may save you thousands of dollars in the end. Your company’s report may end up looking just like the seller’s company’s report. Or, it may look significantly different. In the first case, you have gained some peace of mind. In the second case, you may save yourself some major financial grief.


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Doug Morse