For such a tiny pest, termites can cause very big problems to the structure of your home. According to pest control company, Terminix, termites cause roughly $500 billion in damage and affect approximately four million homes each year. That’s more than the damage caused by fires, floods, and tornadoes put together.
There are two different types of termites – subterranean and drywood. Subterranean termites are a bit more common in warm coastal areas such as the southeast, and drywood can be found anywhere in the United States. Both are damaging, although subterranean are the ones you really want to avoid.
There are three telltale signs that you might have a termite problem. The first and most obvious is seeing them. Termites thrive in the darkness, but they are attracted to light, which also happens to kill them. If you have termites in your home, you might start to see bodies or wings on windowsills or next to light fixtures, although termites are light colored and can be difficult to spot and distinguish. Another way to know if you have termites is if you discover mud tubes. These straw-sized tunnels are where termites live and can often be found around baseboards, pipes or chimneys. Then, of course, there is hollow wood. If you suspect that you might have a termite issue, use the base of a screwdriver to tap around baseboards, windowsills, and other easily accessible framing. Hollow wood has a very different sound than healthy wood and you’ll easily be able to hear the distinction.
Termites can’t get through concrete but they only need 1/32 of an inch to enter your home or business, and yes, they really do eat wood - up to a pound a day. Termites generally get to a foundation through the soil and then find a crack or hole to make their way to wood. Decks and porches are often good entry points and anything that’s holding moisture will enable the insects to survive and thrive. That woodpile on the side of your house is a Garden of Eden for termites, especially if it sits uncovered and collects moisture during rainstorms. Overall, a termite swarm is looking for moist wood to form its colony. So, if you’re house has drainage issues or if your gutters and downspouts aren’t doing their job properly, you might be harvesting a breeding ground without even knowing it.
If you think you might have termites, it’s a good idea to call a local expert to do a test, especially if any of your neighbors have recently experienced a problem. There are different types of termites with different habits and triggers, but all of them can be harmful to your home. It’s tough for the average person to spot and identify a termite, so calling a professional in for a routine check will give you peace of mind and provide the knowledge you need to protect your home from any future damage. With termites, it’s better to get the problem fixed as early as possible before they take an expensive bite out of your biggest asset.
Bob O’Donnell is the owner of O’Donnell Bros. Inc., a Bristol-based home improvement company established in 1975. Email your questions to firstname.lastname@example.org with the subject line “Ask the Pro.” All questions may be considered for publication. To contact Bob for your remodeling needs, call O’Donnell Bros. Inc. at (860) 589-5155 or visit http://www.odonnellbros.com. Advice is for guidance only.