Mosquitoes flying around

Top Signs of Termite Damage

August 02, 2022

By Daniel Baldwin, BCE, CCFS, CP-FS

Termites are capable of causing a lot of damage to a home’s structure. It’s important to learn the signs of termite damage so you can stop an infestation and treat any issues in the structure of your home. 

What Do Termites Eat?

Termites live in colonies that typically number in the hundreds or higher. Most species require moisture to remain alive and active, which is why they tend to nest in or near soil. 

Termites mainly consume cellulose. This organic substance is present in wood, paper, cotton fibers, and plant life. In homes, termites will find and eat cellulose by attacking the following sources:  

  • Wood
  • Plant fibers
  • Paper
  • Fabric
  • Sawdust
  • Wood chips
  • Drywall
  • Foam
  • Plastics
  • Tree roots

Termites tend to stay away from some woods, such as cedar, cypress, and redwood. They’ll also ignore pressure-treated wood and composite lumber. Drywall, or particleboard, though, is on their dietary preference list. 

How To Find Signs of Termite Damage

The signs of termite damage to your wood may not become evident for months or sometimes years after the destruction has taken place, costing hundreds or even thousands of dollars in repairs. Since termite activity can go unnoticed for long periods of time, it’s important to stay ahead of an infestation and follow these steps to look for signs.

1. Check for Physical Damage To Exterior Wood

Look for the following when determining whether you have a termite infestation that needs addressing: 

  • Physical damage to exterior wood
  • Hollow spots in exposed wood (tap a screwdriver against it)
  • Discoloration in drywall
  • Windows and doors that are hard to open and close—termites may produce moisture as they eat the wood around windows and doors, making these parts of the home warp and stiffen

2. Look for Mud Tubes

Termite mud tubes are tunnels the insects create with their saliva and use to travel from their nests to their food sources and back. The mud tubes are about as wide as a pencil, and they spread out on walls or the ground in a vein-like pattern. Look for mud tubes outside of your home as a sign of termite activity.

termites making a mud tunnel

3. Look for Droppings

The color of termite poop pellets can range from light tan to black, depending on the type of wood they’ve been consuming. If they’ve eaten different kinds of wood, the termite poop will resemble salt and pepper in color. The droppings, which look like sawdust, get left behind inside the holes where they’re feeding. 

4. Look for Discarded Wings

Swarms of flying termites will congregate to form new colonies. When males find a mate, they lose their wings. If you see a lot of wings or dead termites, it may indicate the presence of a swarm. 

Termites might swarm in your yard, near an old tree stump, or by your house because they are attracted to light near window sills. 

How To Prevent Termite Infestations

You can be proactive in preventing termites from entering your structure by doing the following:  

  • Keep the soil around your home’s foundation dry by ensuring good drainage and appropriate grading
  • Keep gutters and downspouts well maintained
  • Fill any cracks in the cement foundation and surrounding pipes and other features that pass through your walls
  • Fix any leaks inside and outside the home immediately
  • Don’t block vents with shrubs or other plantings
  • Keep firewood stacks away from the house

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