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How To Tell If You Have Termite Damage

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Author Image Written by Brenda Woods Updated 04/19/2024

Termite infestations are much easier and more affordable to treat if you catch them early. Unfortunately, this can be difficult to do, since signs of termite damage aren’t always obvious. Knowing what to look for can help you identify the problem and call a professional pest control company at the right time.

A pest control technician will perform a detailed termite inspection to confirm the problem and create a detailed plan to solve it. We’ll outline how to detect termites based on their behavior and damage patterns and recommend the best pest control companies to call.

The video below shows what massive termite damage looks like, and outlines how to prevent these pests in the first place.

There are two main types of termites that plague homes all over the country. Subterranean termites, the most destructive kind, live in the soil and tunnel to their food source—your home—while drywood termites actually make their nests in the wood itself. Both can cause incredible amounts of damage. Here are the telltale signs termites are taking over.

Subterranean termites create a network of highways out of soil and wood. These “mud tubes” are about the diameter of a pencil and connect the termites’ nest to their food source. They also protect termites from predators and keep moisture in. They’re often found on the walls of a house’s foundation leading up from the ground.

Sometimes mud tubes are left behind from previous infestations that are no longer active. If you want to see if termites are still crawling into your home, break off a small piece of the mud tube. If the tube is repaired in a few days, that means the termites are still present and using the tunnels.

Note that drywood termites do not make mud tubes, so an absence of mud tubes is not proof that you do not have termites.

Termites tunnel through the interior of pieces of wood, so you can’t always see the damage until the termite infestation is severe. However, you can compare different areas of wood in your home to see if there are any key differences. Tap on wooden surface and listen for hollow sounds, or press the tip of a screwdriver against the surface to probe for damage.

Subterranean termites can cause issues that look a lot like water damage. If the termites are feasting on wood right beneath your flooring, your floors may blister or swell. Paint, drywall, wallpaper, and sheetrock can also show signs of bubbling, rippling, or sinking if there is termite damage behind it.

If drywood termites are eating your home, you may find frass—their droppings, which are little pellets of wood. Mounds of them look similar to sawdust and are often found out in the open. Drywood termites create galleries, or tunnels, when they nest. The termites will push the droppings out of the tunnels to keep the area clean.

In the springtime, both drywood and subterranean swarmers—reproductive termites—emerge from the nest to mate and create a new colony. You may see swarmers themselves flying, but it’s more likely you’ll see discarded clumps of wings near closed doors and windows. Termites shed their wings once they land, because they no longer need them.

Subterranean termites signal danger to other termites by banging their heads against the walls or shaking their bodies. This creates a rustling or rattling sound that is very faint, but you may be able to hear it in quiet environments.

Professional Pest Control

Even if you’ve only found a few of these signs, it’s time to call in a professional pest control company for a termite inspection. Companies like Orkin, Terminix, and Aptive offer targeted, in-depth termite control treatment plans. They will eliminate the termites and take preventative measures to keep them from coming back.

Our Conclusion

Termite damage can seriously compromise the structure and value of your home, so we don’t recommend DIY treatment. Pest control experts will be able to identify the type of termites and the extent of the infestation. We always recommend reaching out to multiple companies to get at least three quotes before making your final decision.

FAQ about Termite Damage

What does the start of termite damage look like?

Unfortunately, since termite damage occurs in the interior of pieces of wood, it is difficult to spot early. If the wood appears to be buckling or swelling or if it sounds hollow when tapped, it may be damaged by termites.

How quickly can termites damage a house?

The speed at which termites cause damage depends on the size of the colony and the type of termite. Formosan subterranean termites tend to have the largest and most aggressively destructive colonies.

Does most homeowners insurance cover termite damage?

Insurance companies consider termite and other insect damage preventable, so homeowners insurance will not typically cover repairs for this type of damage.

Our Rating Methodology

We back up our pest control recommendations with a detailed rating methodology that we use to objectively score each provider. We review pest control plans, navigate the provider website, speak with customer service representatives by phone and online chat (if available), request quotes, and analyze customer reviews for each provider. We then score the provider against our review standards for plans and services, reputation and customer responses, customer service offerings, workmanship guarantees, financing, and availability to arrive at a final score on a 5-point rating scale.

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