How to Identify Termite Damage
Termites pose a hidden threat to homes and structural buildings especially when severe termite damage inevitably costs home and building owners a lot of money for repairs. Reality is every year, it is estimated that the United States spends billions of dollars to repair termite damage on homes, and for termite prevention or control. The situation may mean flourishing business for termite exterminators, but for homeowners, active termite infestation is a headache, costly, and a nuisance to comfortable living. This should be reason enough for first time homeowners to have your place checked out and inspected by termite specialists before purchasing a home and moving in. They will recommend termite treatment options if an existing infestation is found, or preventive treatment options to prevent future infestations. However, even with zero termite presence there still could be structural damage that is left unnoticed. Termite specialists cannot measure the impact of termite damage on structures. Employing a licensed engineer is the way to go in order to gain reliable assessment on structural impact of termite damage in the house or building. If there are damages found on the structure, the engineer will provide you with expense analysis for repairs which you in turn can present to the realtor and negotiate new purchase price for your dream home. True, hiring two professionals seem costly, but undetected and untreated termite infestation will slowly destroy your home and the subsequent repairs are costlier.
Knowing the Enemy
A lot of people loathe and are disgusted with termites. Who wouldn’t? At first glance, they look slimy, disgusting and they swarm! They destroy our homes and eat out our investments. But little do we know, these destructive pests are just a small portion of the huge population of termites on earth and the remaining portion actually poses no threat to our homes or furniture. The destructive termites mostly belong to the subterranean species which have great appetite for wood and could eat wood nonstop 24/7. You could expect extensive termite damage in a span of few short years at the rate that they are chowing down wood with their enormous number. Subterranean termites dwell and live in colonies deep underground and tunnels their way to all directions towards prospective food source. Unlike other species, subterranean termites can very well adapt to human surroundings as long as there is soil, enough moisture on soil and source of food.
Drywood termites, however, are different from subterranean termites but can also cause serious termite damage. Unlike subterranean termites, drywood termites nests within moisture-free wood on which they also feed on. They do not require soil and moisture to thrive and their numbers are so few, normally within a thousand that signs of termite damage are minimal and structural damage can remain unnoticed for a very long time.
Much like ants, termites live in a social caste system where there is a queen, king, soldiers, reproductives or swarmers and workers. The queen termite practically builds and grows the colony. She produces tens of thousands of eggs each day to grow the colony. This is why a mature subterranean termite colony could easily house a few hundred thousand termites to a million! The king’s role is mainly to mate with the queen periodically so that the queen can continuously lay more eggs. With their protruding jaws and armored heads, the soldier termites are responsible for protecting and defending the colony from its enemies, ants. The reproductive caste is nurtured to become new queens and build new colonies. These reproductive termites have wings which allow them to fly and look for mates when favorable conditions on the outside exist. Now, it is the worker termites that actually thrive for the entire colony. As much as eighty percent of the population of a termite colony consists of worker termites. They are born blind and are mostly pale or whitish in color, thus the nickname ‘white ants’. Worker termites are tasked to do the most important jobs such as searching, gathering and feeding food for the colony. They have specialized bacteria that aids in digesting cellulose found on wood making the task of breaking down wood much faster. They are actually the ones that we get to find swarming behind walls, beneath the floors, within the furniture doing termite damage. They are also responsible for maintaining and repairing the nest, tunnels and galleries and taking care of the king and queen.
Homeowners have every reason to look for signs of termite damage at home. It is the only way to stop termite infestation and preventing it from happening again. Because of their amazing appetite for wood, termites could compromise the strength of an infested structure which can render a home unsafe and unlivable unless repairs are made which could go to thousands of dollars. But termite infestation could remain undetected for years. Termite damage is often times discovered accidentally and the extent of damage already severe. To avoid this scenario, being on the look-out for signs of termite infestation and termite damage is the best way to go.
Signs of Termite Infestation
What makes termites different from ants is that they do not roam around in the open; instead, they traverse underground in their mud tunnels hidden from the sun or nests within drywood. This makes it difficult for unsuspecting homeowners to be aware of their existence. But still, these termites leave behind them clues that they are infesting your home.
- For subterranean termites, one clue is the presence of mud tubes. These tubes which are mostly made of soil, wood particles and other materials serve as pathways for termites while foraging for food. Since their food is wood, you would most likely find mud tubes rising from the ground to the foundations of your home. They could easily spread throughout the structure, destroying from the inside out causing extensive termite damage.
- Another clue termites leave behind are discarded wings usually found on window sills or anywhere near the foundation of your home. A mature termite colony produces termite swarmers that swarm mostly during fall or spring or during favorable weather conditions such as after a rain where there is enough moisture in the air. They are easily attracted to light which means swarms happen during the day or at night but are only found flying near fluorescent lamps or other sources of light. Their sole purpose is not to eat wood, but to mate and build new colonies. The presence of swarmers tells you that you have a mature termite infestation that needed your attention.
- On the other hand, if you could see termite damage pictures from drywood termites, you will find that they leave behind tiny droppings called frass usually after eating wood. Because they live in drywood, they usually infest furniture and other wooden structures inside your home.
Signs of Termite Damage
If you find the above clues in your home, then it is time to check for external signs of termite damage such as:
- Visible maze-like marks within the walls
- Swelling on floor and ceiling surfaces
- Wood sounds hollow when tapped or when the wood is soft when probed
- Springy floors or steps
- Blistering paint on beams, walls or ceilings
- Noticeable depressions on the wood surface
Although these signs of damage may appear insignificant, the damage within could be more serious than you could have imagined. There are many pictures of termite damage found online that prove how destructive these pests can be if left untreated
Termite Treatment, Control and Prevention
If you learn you have active termite infestation at home, addressing the problem as soon as possible is a must. You would not want to wait for time before taking action. Remember, a huge mature active infestation can do significant damage to structures in just a few short months. For the protection of your home, call in professional help as soon as you notice signs of infestation and termite damage. With active termite activity, the primary aim of termite specialists is to treat and control current termite infestation. There are various types of treatment available that your specialist will go through with you in deciding which best option to use depending on how serious the infestation is. The most commonly used treatment is the ‘trench and treat’ where liquid insecticides are injected to the trenched soil surrounding the foundations of the house. The insecticide will prevent termites from getting into the wooden foundations of the house, acting as effective barrier to their food source. Another form of treatment is the baiting system where baits are inserted deep into the ground in strategic locations. The baits contain chemicals that will slowly kill termites once eaten. Constant monitoring of different bait stations must be made in order to completely eliminate the source of infestation – the colony. Tent fumigation is also a termite treatment mostly effective to drywood termites that dwell inside the walls and furniture. Here, the whole structure will be covered and sealed in a form of a tent while the inside is sprayed with toxic gas capable of reaching within the wooden structures where drywood termites dwell. Wood treatment also helps treat wood infestation by drywood termites.
Once your home is successful treated for termites, preventing termites from coming back is your next mission. You can deter termites by having your home regularly inspected by a termite specialist. Also do not give termites an access to food and shelter by eliminating moisture in critical places, storing firewood away from the foundation of your home and keeping shrubs and landscaping away from the foundation to limit access inside your home. This way you will altogether eliminate termite presence for good and avoid termite damage.