It’s one of the most dreaded diagnoses a home inspector can give you: Termite damage. It can often mean extensive damage and expensive repairs, which no homeowner wants to deal with.
This is especially true if you’re getting ready to sell your home, or you’ve just bought a new one. As a seller, an inspector finding termites can cut into your net profit on the home big time – and as a buyer, it’s only not a huge issue if you made sure to have a thorough inspection done before you closed the sale.
So how can you avoid this problem? It is difficult, but one of the best ways is to know what signs to look for, especially on vulnerable areas of your home, so you can catch it early and stop it before it turns into a full-fledged infestation.
Here are some of the best ways to spot termite damage.
Signs of Termites Outside Your House
The first and easiest way to look for termites is to check for signs outside, around your home. If you catch them before they invade, you can save yourself a lot of money and anguish.
Look for Mud Structures
Termites like to stay moist, and for burrowing species of termites, this means creating tubes out of mud for them to crawl through safely. If you notice these tube-like structures in your garden or in the dirt around your home, it could be time to call a professional for a consultation.
Keep an eye out for Pellets or Droppings
Termites are actually notoriously clean creatures, and they don’t like to leave their droppings in the same space they work. They’ll actually gather up their droppings and take them to one or two different places, so you should look for groupings of droppings to indicate a colony.
Look for small pellets all gathered together – they probably look like coffee grounds or sawdust, depending on the color of the wood they’re eating through. If you see these groupings inside or around your home, a consultation is advisable.
Signs of Termites in Your Home
The easiest place to spot termite damage is inside your home itself. If you see any of these signs, call an exterminator right away – if they’re already in your home, you have no other way of knowing how bad the infestation is, and every day you wait is more potential damage to the property.
When termites infest your home, they live just underneath the surface of the wooden structures and panels on your walls and floors. This often causes wood to bulge and paint to bubble, which is not a good sign.
There’s a chance, if this happens to you, that it could also be water damage, but either way, you’re going to want to get it looked at. Rule out water damage (a more common problem) before assuming it’s termites, though.
If you suspect your home has a termite infestation, the easiest way to tell is to go around and knock on the solid wood structures around the house. If they sound hollow, or punctured, you’ll know immediately.
Often, if you hear this and the cause IS termites, you’ll be able to see evidence in the surface of the wood; either cracks, or, you might see tunnels or “galleries” parallel to the grain. (If you see these galleries, call your exterminator ASAP: This is often a sign of a serious infestation.
Another sign of termites? A sort of clicking or even munching sound in your walls. It won’t be the same sound as mice scurrying or natural structure settling – if you put your ear up to the wall and listen, it will be a distinct sound.
Termite bodies are often mistaken for ants: They’re roughly the same size, have similar looking wings to flying ants, and often the damage that can be done by carpenter ants can be mistaken for termite damage, and vice versa.
Some telltale differences: Ants are never white, while termites often are. Additionally, ants have segmented bodies – termites do not. Rule of thumb, if you think you might be seeing termite bodies, definitely call an exterminator – bodies usually begin to appear after the colony has already settled in.
Be Extra Careful in Spring
Springtime is when termites swarm to mate, which makes them easier to find. If you recognize any of these signs in springtime, you’ll want to move fast – swarming and mating means more termites, and also means they’ll likely want to nest nearby – if they haven’t already.
Look for Termite Wings
In the spring, termites swarm and shed their wings, leaving scattered piles of them everywhere. You may notice they look similar to winged ants’ wings, but these will be all roughly the same size, and will all be dropped near a warm, well-lit area.
Keep an Eye Out for Swarms
Termite swarms occur during their mating season, in the spring, and are fairly easy to spot – the long-winged insects will pile together in warm, bright areas. If you see one outside your home, you might want to get ahead of the game and call pest control right away. If you see more than one, it’s possible that you already have an infestation problem.