Spring is when pests come out of hiding and hibernation to search for new places to establish their colonies. Unfortunately, it’s not only the flowers in your garden that attract pests but also your home itself. One of the most determined springtime pests is termites.
Termites – “The Silent Destroyer”
Termites live up to their nickname of the “silent destroyer” very well as they can munch away at your home, virtually undetected. And, it’s not just the critical support beams that they feed on. Termites can chew up floors, walls and even wallpaper. According to a study by the National Pest Management Association, termites cost U.S. homeowners approximately $5 billion in damage, which is not typically covered by homeowners insurance.
Early spring is a critical time to be on the lookout for termite infestations. When the ground warms up, swarmers emerge to search for a suitable mate. If a pair chooses your home for their new residence, you could be looking at a colony of millions. The swarmers shed their wings during the mating process, so signs of these wings around windows and doors could be a warning of an infestation. Other signs include soft wood that sounds hollow when tapped, darkening or blistering of wood structures, and cracked or bubbling paint.
As spring approaches, the Affordable Inspections Inc., shares these prevention strategies homeowners can use to protect their homes from termite damage.
- Do NOT use wood mulch up against the structure areas.
- Keep less frequently used rooms such as basements, attics and crawl spaces well ventilated and dry.
- Repair leaking faucets, water pipes and AC units which are on the outside of the home. The added moisture could attract Dampwood termites that need access to water.
- Repair fascia, soffits and rotted roof shingles. Some species of termites colonize a home through the attic.
- Routinely inspect the foundation of your home for signs of mud tubes (used by termites to reach a food source), cracked or bubbling paint and wood that sounds hollow when tapped.
- Direct water away from your house through properly functioning downspouts, gutters and splash blocks.
- Monitor all exterior areas of wood, including windows, doorframes and skirting boards for any noticeable changes.
Swarms of termites emerging from tree stumps, woodpiles, etc. out in the yard are not necessarily cause for concern, and do not automatically mean the house is infested. On the other hand, if swarmers are emerging next to the foundation or from abutting porches or patios, there’s a good chance the home is infested as well.
Other signs of infestation are earthen “mud” tubes extending over foundation walls, support piers, sill plates, floor joists, etc.The mud tubes are typically about the diameter of a pencil, but sometimes can be thicker. Termites construct the tubes for shelter as they travel between their underground colonies and the structure. To help determine if an infestation is active, the tubes may be broken open and checked for the presence of small, creamy-white worker termites. If a tube happens to be vacant, it does not necessarily mean that the infestation is inactive; termites often abandon sections of tube while foraging elsewhere in the structure.
Termite-damaged wood is hollowed out along the grain, with bits of dried mud or soil lining the feeding galleries. Wood damaged by moisture or other types of insects (e.g., carpenter ants) will not have this appearance. Occasionally termites also bore tiny holes through drywall or plaster, accompanied by bits of soil around the margin. Rippled or sunken traces behind wall coverings can also be indicative of termites tunneling underneath.
Oftentimes there will be no clear indication of infestation. Termites are cryptic creatures and infestations can go undetected for years, hidden behind walls, floor coverings, insulation, and other obstructions. Termite feeding and damage can even progress undetected in exposed wood because the outer surface usually remains intact. Confirmation of termites often requires the keen eye of a professional via a termite inspection — however, even the most experienced inspector can overlook signs that are hidden.