Like any wooden structure in your home, your roof can be vulnerable to damage from termites in the ceiling. Both subterranean and drywood termites can pose a threat to the integrity of your roof, inhabiting areas of your ceiling, including around fireplaces where leaks have occurred and over bathrooms where excessive moisture may be trapped underneath the insulation.
Drywood termites live and feed inside wood. They can establish colonies inside ceiling rafters, roof beams, eaves and other wooden structures associated with your roof. Drywood termites can even establish colonies underneath wood shingles.
Related: How to spot termites
Unlike drywood termites, subterranean termites typically build their colonies in the soil. However, subterranean termites will build colonies in any area where they have access to wood. Dampness provides a more conducive environment for infestation, but is not required. All they really need is a way inside your house. Worker termites build "mud tubes" inside of walls and chimneys in order to access food sources. Termites will feed on any substance containing cellulose. Drywall, wallpaper, clothing and even carpet in your home can be susceptible to damage in case of a termite infestation.
The invasive Formosan or "super termite" is the subterranean termite species most likely to construct above-ground colonies in addition to their primary ground nest. Formosan termite colonies can be much larger and more destructive than those formed by native termite species.
While you should rely on a trained professional to inspect and treat any possible termite in ceiling infestations in your home, you can look for the following warning signs:
- Loose roof tiles or shingles. Even if your roof does not have wooden shingles, your subroofing almost certainly contains wood.
- Bubbling and discoloration similar to water damage on your ceilings.
- Any areas of buckling or sagging in your ceilings.
- Mounds of what look like tiny wood pellets (termite fecal matter known as "frass") in your attic and/or underneath your rafters may indicate a drywood termite infestation.
- Termite tunnels (aka mud tubes) running up vertical structures outside your home, especially the chimney.
- Wood that appears to have been "eaten away" along its grain pattern, contains holes or which sounds hollow when tapped.
- The presence of winged termites, living or dead, at points of entry to your home (windows, doors, etc.). If you suspect a termite infestation in your home, also check your attic and around your roof for evidence of winged termites (for example, any termites or termite wings caught in spider webs).
- When a termite colony matures, it produces these "swarmers" in an attempt to populate a new colony with a king and queen, the termite responsible for laying eggs. Winged termites are the variety of termite most often seen outside of the actual colony and can be evidence of an existing infestation.
- Winged termites may look at first glance like winged ants, but they differ in a number of important respects. Termite wings are often longer than those of ants. Termites have four wings, all of which are the same length. Termite bodies are more rounded than those of ants. Ants have a more pronounced waist and segmented body. Finally, termites have straight antennae. Ant antennae are L-shaped.
You can also take the following preventative measures to protect your roof and ceiling from termite damage:
- Paint, stain, seal or otherwise treat any exposed wood on your home's exterior.
- If you are aware of any roof leaks or other damage to your shingles, fascia boards or eaves, have it repaired immediately.
- Have any plumbing leaks underneath your home repaired immediately. Do not allow water to collect underneath your home.
- Keep your gutters clear of debris to allow for proper drainage.
- Make sure your home’s entire attic and foundation vents are properly screened.
- Do not allow wood debris to accumulate near your home.
- Trim any vegetation, such as shrubs, surrounding your home. Do not allow vegetation to become so overgrown that it traps moisture around your foundation or blocks foundation vents. Cut back any tree limbs that are resting on your roof or touching wooden structures such as eaves or window framing.
- Avoid the use of mulch close to your home, especially if you have wooden siding.
- Take any of the above warning signs seriously, and do not put off contacting a trained pest control technician or agency to get a professional opinion if you find any termite ceiling damage.