Termite Damage Identification at Virginia Homes

termitesTermites require property owners to spend billions of dollars in repairs every year. They are destructive, and able to consume a sizeable amount of wood in a minimal time. But the problem isn’t just their consumption – it’s also that termites themselves are not easily visible. You may never see a termite as it’s feeding, and even the damage they do can be mistaken for other pests.

That’s why identification is so important. As a termite control and treatment company in Gainesville, VA, we serve properties throughout the Northern Virginia region (including Haymarket, Centreville, Warrenton, and even parts of Fairfax) providing annual termite inspections or one time services to find any signs of termites. If you need someone to help, call ExtermPRO at 571-620-1168 for termite treatment in Gainesville and the other local northern Virginia cities.

Termites are usually identified by their damage. But knowing what to look for is important, so that you’re not accidentally confusing it with other issues.

How Subterranean Termites Cause Damage

Eastern Subterranean termites are the most common termite species in this region. While there are some termite species that live in wood itself, these eastern subterranean termites live nearby in an underground colony. The worker termites use mud tubes – a tunnel-like structure made of mud, saliva, and feces – to travel from their nest to their food source.

Termites eat cellulose, the organic material inside of wood and similar products. Since essentially all homes and commercial properties in Gainesville and the surrounding area using wood framing in their construction, the average home provides an abundance of food.

Homes and buildings that use a metal construction can also be at risk, however, as there is likely still drywall, wooden features, and furniture inside for termites to eat. Termites can force their way through metal siding and other non-wood materials to access wood as well.

Subterranean termites primarily eat softwood and go along the grain. This hollows out the wood, significantly weakening it. Since much of the wood in these properties supports the overall structure, any weakened wood can result in a dangerous lack of support. The repairs for these issues are usually costly as well because many wooden supports are integral in the home’s design and hard to access. Damaged wood can also cause cosmetic problems in flooring, furniture, and door and window frames.

Damage from subterranean termites happens exponentially. These colonies are slow growing, so the first years will have only a few thousand insects. Over time, the colony will grow to maturity at an average of 300,000 insects with workers that are feeding 24/7, causing damage throughout your property. If caught early, the damage is usually minimal, but as the colony grows, the large size and aggressive consumption of a mature colony makes eastern subterranean termites one of the most expensive in terms of damage.

What Does Visible Termite Damage Look Like?

Termite damage in its early stages can be very hard to spot, as it typically becomes visible in wood as it gets worse. When you first spot it, the wood damage might look similar to either water damage or wood rot.

To confirm the damage to wood is a result of termites and not water, you can look for tunnels in the wood where the termites ate through it. For subterranean termites, these tunnels resemble a honeycomb shape. You can also try tapping the wood. A hollow sound means termites, while normal sounding wood usually means water damage.

Termite damage that looks like water damage can also happen anywhere, including places where water is not present like interior rooms away from kitchens and bathrooms. In those areas, you can feel confident that the issue is not water damage and use that knowledge to take a closer look.

Damage from termites can often resemble wood rot as well, but there are distinguishing features to determine if you have wood destroying pests. Wet rot will make wood feel spongy or crumbly when you touch it. Dry rot will cause the wood to break away in chunks. If neither of these conditions are present, or you see tunnels, you probably have termites.

Signs of Termite Damage in Floors

Damage to exposed wood will not always be evident, so there are other signs you can look for that indicate termites may be deep inside walls and floors.

Basements and lower floors are more likely to experience subterranean termite damage. These areas offer easy access from the termites’ home in the soil outside, or even underneath your home. As a result, subterranean termites often eat through the wood supporting floors and the damage can show up on the surface of your floors. Some common signs may include:

  • Hollow Sounds – The tunnels that termites make cause the wood to be hollow, which can lead to a distinct sound as you walk around on your floors.
  • Squeaky Floors – Damage to the subfloor weakens enables floorboards to move slightly. When you walk on them, the floorboards can rub against each other or against nails to make a squeaking noise.
  • Buckling Wood Floors – As the shifting of the wood grows, it can cause wood flooring to buckle or sag. Moving floorboards are often a sign of termites.
  • Blistering Laminate Floors – Moisture and hollow wood beneath laminate flooring will cause the laminate to blister or sag. Termites can also chew small holes through laminate to reach the subfloor beneath.
  • Loose Floor Tiles – Termites in the floor introduce extra moisture, which can weaken the adhesive backing on tiling. Walking on tiles with moisture beneath them can easily cause shifting.

The most extreme termite damage to floors can make them unsafe. The weakened wood in the supports and subfloor may not be able to support furniture or your family walking around, leading to an extremely dangerous situation. This is only a concern after years of an untreated infestation, but the risk cannot be ignored.

Termite Damage in Walls and Ceilings

Termites eating their way through the joists and framing behind your walls or above your ceilings may also cause outward signs of damage. Similar to floors, walls and ceilings may sound hollow if you knock on them since termites have tunneled through the wood behind the wall.

Wood that has been hollowed out may also begin to shift. The stress this puts on walls can cause the drywall or plaster to crack. Although age can have this effect as well, noticing any cracks in your walls or ceilings, particularly if they are accompanied by other signs, is a good reason to look for termites.

Termite damage is often limited to out of sight places until it becomes extreme, but termites will eat any available cellulose. Cabinets, molding, and furniture made of wood can be a food source.

If termites are eating at this exposed furniture, you will start to notice patterns in the wood that resemble a maze. This is a clear indication of termites nearby.

Other Signs of Termite Activity

While damage is a clear indication of a termite infestation, there are other signs of termites that can reveal termites before damage becomes severe. These include:

  • Swarmers – Termite colonies send out winged swarmers in the spring to mate and start new colonies. March, April, and May after soil temperatures have reached about 70 degrees are the top times for termites to swarm in northern Virginia and swarmers near your property could be the precursor to an infestation.
  • Discarded Wings – After swarmers have established their colony, they will shed their wings. If the infestation is large enough, you may see wings gathered on door sills, around baseboards, and in light fixtures. Spider webs can also trap wings.
  • Mud Tubes – Termite workers build these tunnels to protect their journey from their home to the interior of your property. These will most often be present on soil, sidewalks, and along foundations. They measure about a ¼ inch wide and often look like a flat line of mud.
  • Mold-Like Scent – Another sign of an advanced infestation, termites can leave behind a moldy smell. As termite numbers grow and they disperse throughout your home, this smell can become apparent. If you smell mold, but know you do not have a mold problem, searching for termites is a good idea.

Swarming termites, droppings, and mud tubes can be evident from the moment termites establish their colony near your home. Identifying them in those first days or months can help prevent any damage in your home as the termite colony grows.

How to Detect Termite Damage

Even when you know what to look for when seeking out termite damage, it can be difficult to find these signs. Termite damage starts small with only a few insects tunneling their way through your home. It may also be confined to basements, attics, or garages where termites have easy access from their subterranean nests, but where you rarely spend time.

A professional termite inspection from ExtermPRO is the reliable way to find termites causing damage on your property. Our team of experts know the specific signs of eastern subterranean termites, and we have seen each of them before, enabling us to identify termite damage in a variety of contexts. Often, our attention to detail and experienced eyes can catch termite damage earlier than the average homeowner and save you costs on repairs as a result.

There are two options for termite inspections. The first is to schedule one on an as needed basis. Many homeowners will do this after noticing signs of termite activity or damage. We can use an inspection to confirm a termite presence and formulate a treatment plan. The challenge with as needed termite inspections is that they give time for termites to spread and cause damage in areas you cannot see.

The other option, and the recommended one for property owners in Gainesville, is annual termite inspections. Once a year, ExtermPRO will complete a thorough inspection of your home to find any damage that may not be outwardly visible. With slow growing eastern subterranean termites, this guarantees that colonies cannot grow to large numbers and cause widespread damage before we notice them.

Schedule Your Termite Inspection in Virginia Today

Knowing the signs and being on the lookout for termite damage is the best way to manage termites in your home. You already know what is normal on your property, and are the ideal judge for determining when something has changed because of potential termite damage. If you have noticed any of these signs and suspect damage, contact ExtermPRO at 571-620-1168 today to begin treatment as quickly as possible.