Although termites are ecologically beneficial in that they break down detritus to add nutrients to soil, the same feeding behaviors that prove helpful to the ecosystem can cause severe damage to human homes. Because termites feed primarily on wood, they are capable of compromising the strength and safety of an infested structure. Termite damage can render structures unlivable until expensive repairs are conducted.
Places Termites Like to Hide
- Mud tubes. Subterranean termites will often make their nest in the soil (moisture source) and then build highways called "mud tubes" that run vertically or otherwise to connect the nest to a wooden food source. Mud tubes are a definite sign of termite infestation, but the absence of mud tubes does not mean that no infestations exist, since there are other ways that termites reach food sources.
- Damaged wood. Wood with sustained termite damage might look "crushed" at structural joints. If you tap the damaged wood with the end of the screwdriver or knife, you will hear a dull thud. Wood suspected of termite damage can be further inspected by probing the surface with the screwdriver or pocket knife to expose tunnels. Subterranean termites excavate tunnels that run parallel to the grain.
- Piles of wings. Before swarmers enter the next stage of development, they will shed their wings which are often left in scattered piles near windows or light sources.
- Buckling or bubbling paint or brittle drywall.
Potential Problem Areas
These are the areas you will need to inspect very closely for signs of termite infestation. Keep in mind that termites are typically found at or near ground level.
- Wooden elements of construction in basements and crawl spaces
- Window sills and frames (particularly in the basement), support posts, sub floors, supporting piers, joists, and wooden decks or porches.
- Areas where concrete elements meet wood, such as in steps, slabs, or porches
- Cracks in brick construction, expansion joints, or cement where termites might have gained entry
- Wood piles and debris near the foundation including tree stumps, exterior basement window and door frames, and fence posts.
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