Homeowner’s Guide to Termite InspectionsSubterranean termites are one of the worst structural pests to encounter, causing approximately $5 billion in damage annually in the United States. A thorough, professional annual inspection is the best method for cutting down the costs of termite control and repair. But what if you don’t want to allow someone in your home during the stay-at-home orders that are in place across our country?
Homeowners can get a jump start this termite season by performing an inspection of their home with this handy guide. So, grab a flashlight and a screwdriver and keep your eyes open for evidence of subterranean termites.
Signs of Evidence
Mud tubes, damaged wood, blistered appearance on wood or drywall, and piles of wings are all tell-tale signs of a termite infestation.
Begin in the basement and work your way up, room by room, to the top floor. Subterranean termites live underground and prefer moist, dark environments. They feed on cellulose material, like wood, so the kitchen isn’t as likely to host a subterranean termite infestation as a cellar. Because of these preferences, the basement is the most likely place to find evidence of an infestation. Examine all wood beams, window sills, door frames, and walls. Look closely at any areas where wood may be in contact with soil. Again, follow the pattern of starting at the bottom of an area and working upwards. Unfinished basements are easiest to inspect, while basements with drywall and other build-out’s present the same challenge as upper floors – we can’t see behind walls! If you have a moisture meter, use it to detect areas of high moisture content which will draw subterranean termites.
As you work through your house, pay close attention to areas of high moisture content, areas that had water damage, and any areas where wood may be in contact or close contact to the soil. Subterranean termites like high moisture and will likely target these areas first before working their way into the rest of the home.
As you inspect, look for the following:
- Mud tubes - If you see brown, bumpy lines running up your wall, it’s a sure sign of termites. These mud tubes shelter subterranean termites on their travels, keeping their body moisture high and protecting them from predators. By breaking open the tubes, you will either see worker termites scrambling around during an active infestation, or nothing if it is inactive. Remember, just because a mud tube is inactive doesn’t mean the termites gone, they may be elsewhere in the house or outside soil.
- Damaged wood - If any wood looks damaged, blistered, or crushed, use the end of a screwdriver or similar tool to tap on it and listen for a dull, hollow thud. Probing the wood can expose active damage that runs parallel to the grains, the highways that worker termites use to bring food back to their colony. If you find sawdust with insect parts or tiny sawdust pellets below openings in the wood instead, you may have a carpenter ant or powder post beetle problem rather than a termite problem.
- Wings - Termite wings are an obvious sign of an infestation. They are easy to identify as they all look to be the same size and width and have a prismatic sheen under a light. You will likely find them near windows or sources of light, as swarming termites are attracted to lights. While this means they were unable to get out and start a new colony underground, it also means that they are likely somewhere inside your home. Search carefully around the room you encountered the wings for any damaged wood or mud-covered holes.