5 signs you might have termites

Before you buy a house, have it inspected thoroughly for termites. (Photo courtesy of Angie’s List member Bryce N. of Berkeley, Calif.)

Before you buy a house, have it inspected thoroughly for termites. (Photo courtesy of Angie’s List member Bryce N. of Berkeley, Calif.)

Termites are otherwise known as silent invaders. They typically live in colonies underneath your home and when the ground thaws, they emerge, entering your structure through cracks in the foundation.

According to the National Pest Management Association, these wood-destroying insects are responsible for $5 billion worth of damage per year. Homeowners may unknowingly have termites eating away inside the walls of their home doing damage to their largest investment.

There are some subtle signs that termites have invaded your structure. Be aware of the following signs but also cognizant that the absence of these signs does not guarantee that you’re termite-free.

The swarm

You experience a reproductive swarm inside your home. A reproductive swarm happens when large numbers of winged insects emerge from the ground, typically on a warm day in the spring or early summer. These reproductive termites are looking to pair up, reproduce and develop their own colony —sometimes inside your home.

You may not see the actual swarm happen because they occur quickly, but, finding a pile of wings usually in the basement during the spring time may indicate that a termite colony is present in your home.

An actual swarm is a telltale sign that termites are present and you should contact a pest management professional. If possible, capture some of those swarmers or wings in a glass jar to show to the pest management professional so he or she can make a positive identification of the insect.

Evidence of termite activity

During a real estate transaction, someone notices “evidence of termite activity.” Whether you’re buying or selling a house, a home inspection is typically conducted and may uncover termite damage.

The buyer typically wants to know whether termites are active or inactive. Note that this is just not that easy to determine and may, in fact, be impossible. Termites can live inside the walls of your home, and it’s not feasible to inspect the frame of an entire home and claim it to be termite free. But, evidence of termites is also not a reason to walk away from a transaction unless the damage is extensive. When treated properly by a pest management professional, termites can be controlled, and your property can be protected.

During construction

Termites are discovered during construction on your home. Sometimes homeowners are in the midst of a remodel when termite damage is discovered. Termites may be living and feeding inside the walls, which can be quite distressing as damage may be significant. Homeowners were probably completely unaware of the problem and reconstruction costs can be significant. Again, when the problem is addressed by a professional pest management company, it can work to address the problem, correct the damage and protect your structure into the future.

Hollowed-out wood

While inspecting your home or doing routine maintenance around the perimeter of your home, you discover a wooden section that when tapped on sounds hollowed out. Because termites eat wood from the inside out, you should investigate this finding further to look for possible termite damage. If it is determined that termites were to blame, you’ll need to replace the wood and have a pest management professional complete a termite treatment.

After you discover termites on your property, ask about installing termite monitors around the perimeter of your home to alert you to further termite activity.

Mud tunnels

You notice mud tunnels or tubes about the size of the width of a pencil along interior or exterior walls. Termite build tunnels to travel from their nest to their food source (typically the wood in and around your home) in a protected environment.

Being told that you have termites can be quite unsettling, and chances are you didn’t realize that the problem existed. A termite infestation is not a problem that you should ignore because damage can occur quickly and repair costs can be significant.

Termite problems are not a do-it-yourself project, so you should contact a pest management professional who can treat the structure with one of the numerous methods available to them today, including:

  • liquid
  • borates
  • structural modification
  • monitors

Remember, termites are typically hidden inside the walls of a structure, and looking inside the walls to confirm they’re gone is not practical. If termites have invaded your home , you should have an ongoing plan to control them and to control future infestations is in order to protect your largest investment, your home.

About this Angie's List Expert: Bogert Kisch is an associate certified entomologist with the Entomological Society of America and now works for Trius Pest Management as director of business development in Boonton, N.J. He has nearly 25 years of experience in the pest management industry including eight years in the U.S. Navy where he was able to learn about pests from Virginia to Hawaii.

As of May 14, 2013, this service provider was highly rated on Angie's List. Ratings are subject to change based on consumer feedback, so check Angie's List for the most up-to-date reviews. The views expressed by this author do not necessarily reflect those of Angie's List.

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