Termites are one household pest that every homeowner dreads. Termites in homes are responsible for billions of dollars in property damage each year and, if you don't catch them early, they can infest your entire house, likely requiring extensive and costly repairs.
The best way to eliminate termites is to understand what they're looking for, where they nest and how to address a problem if you discover you have one. Here's what you need to know to help keep protect your home from termites.
The importance of termite inspections
Termites cause damage by burrowing into the wooden parts of your house. As they enter the wood, they start to eat the cellulose inside the wood. Over time, this can weaken the structural integrity of the wooden components inside and around your home.
Unfortunately, many homeowners aren't aware of termite infestations until the damage is extensive.
Scheduling a termite inspection with a licensed inspector is the best way to find out if their are termites in your home, whether you're buying, selling or planning on staying in the house for years to come.
When buying a home, you should request a wood infestation report, commonly referred to as a “termite letter" or “clearance report," as a condition of the sale. This will help ensure you don't inherit a costly pest problem.
Even if a termite letter isn't required, it's still a good idea to schedule an inspection. A termite infestation can cause thousands of dollars in damage and require extensive treatment.
Keep in mind that termite inspections can help tell you what condition your property is in. But it's not the only thing you need to do to keep your home safe. You need to know what types of termites your home is vulnerable to, how to spot them and how to keep them from infesting your property.
Types of termites
In the United States, there are three types of termites that most commonly damage peoples' homes and properties. These include subterranean termites, dampwood termites and drywood termites.
Subterranean termites, the most commonly found termite in homes in most areas of the country, build their colonies underground and require contact with moist soil to survive. Drywood termites live in wood present above ground and can survive without soil contact, even in dry conditions. Dampwood termites prefer damp and decaying wood, like floors damaged by water leaks, decomposing logs and areas with high moisture levels inside your house.?
The best thing you can do is to learn about the different types of termites in detail. This will help you identify which species are most common in your area and what risk factors on your property can attract these unwanted insects.
Signs of termites
Luckily, termites often leave behind signs that they're on your property or inside your house. These signs of termites can help you know when it's time to call a termite specialist to help protect your home. Signs to keep an eye out for include:
- Blisters and soft spots in wood flooring
- Damaged wood inside walls
- Hollow pieces of wood inside and outside your home
- Mud tubes where your house meets the ground
- Termite droppings in windowsills and along doorways
- Termite wings left behind on windowsills or near outside light fixtures
- A temporary swarm of winged insects in your home or in the soil around your home
- Any cracked or bubbling paint
If you notice even one of these signs, don't wait. Schedule a termite inspection as soon as you can. The sooner you do, the sooner you can implement a treatment plan to help control the pests.
How will I know if my home is infested?
By watching for the above signs, you'll be better able to catch a potential infestation before it has a chance to spread throughout your house. But the best way to know for certain if your home is infested is to schedule an inspection with a termite control specialist. As a professional, they know exactly what to look for and where to look.
During the inspection, if any signs of termite colonies or identify an active infestation are spotted, your termite control specialist will create a plan to help control the termites on your property.
Where do termites live?
The places termites typically hide in largely depend on the type of termites you have on your property. As mentioned earlier, drywood termites are most commonly found in dry pieces of wood. These include the framing of your home, flooring, furniture and even outdoor sheds.
Dampwood termites live in damp areas, as their name suggests. They prefer living trees, decomposing logs, plant debris and water-damaged wood surfaces inside your home. They can build their nests in these areas relatively quickly.
Subterranean termites build nests underground and primarily enter your home in search of food. They need the damp environment provided by natural soil. Though they may not live in your home, they can still do just as much damage as other species.
What do termites like to eat?
No matter what species of termite you have on your property, they all eat the same thing: cellulose. Cellulose is a naturally occurring plant fiber that termites consume from wood. Their digestive tracts break down the wood itself, extracting the cellulose and other nutrients from the wood.
The wood can be inside your house or elsewhere on your property. The wood can be living or harvested as long as it meets the requirements of the species you have on your property. What do termites like to eat? Cellulose is what termites like to eat.
Do termites eat anything other than wood?
Unfortunately, termites don't just go after the wood on your property. They also go after products derived from wood or that contain cellulose. This includes items like:
These items all contain or are made up of cellulose, the primary nutrient termites gain from wood. That means you may see termites in areas of your home you might not expect, so make sure to look for signs of termites everywhere.
How to avoid termites in your home
The key to preventing termites is to remove the items and areas that increase the likelihood of these insects getting into your house. That means keeping the soil near your home dry, not allowing any of the wood in your home to contact the soil, and fixing leaks before they cause water damage to the wood in your home and staying on top of pest control efforts around the property.
Get leaks fixed in your home as soon as you notice them. Stay on top of roof maintenance to reduce the risk of leaks in your attic and walls. And start taking walks around your yard to inspect the drainage areas for blockage that might attract termites to your house.
If you have mulch or plant debris close to your home's foundation, clear it away. If you have low-hanging tree branches close to your home, get them trimmed back as soon as you can.
It's also a good idea to schedule at least yearly pest control appointments with your termite control specialist. This will help keep the pests from wreaking havoc on your property.
Can I treat the house myself?
It's always tempting to try to treat your home on your own. After all, there are tons of DIY home improvement and maintenance projects that you can easily handle by yourself.
Unfortunately, pest control — and more specifically, termite control — is not one of those tasks. You should always leave the termite inspections and treatments to the professionals.
Remember, termites can be very difficult to spot and, if you're not absolutely sure of what to look for, you risk missing the early warning signs of an infestation. Professionals know what to look for and can better assess the treatment needs of your specific property.
Once they identify your risk factors, they'll put together a comprehensive treatment plan to reduce your home's risk of termite damage in the long run.
Protect your home from termites
If you're worried about termites on your property or notice any of the warning signs of an infestation, contact Terminix®; to schedule an inspection with a professional termite control specialist. They'll assess your home's condition and can help make sure termites aren't doing damage to your house. If they find the signs of an infestation, they'll be able to help you identify the appropriate treatment plan to address the problem. Reach out today for a quote!