How to Look for Termites While Buying a Home

How to Look for Termites While Buying a Home
Picture of Israel Alvarez
Israel Alvarez

Owner @ Insight Pest Management

Table of Contents

How to Look for Termites While Buying a Home

Termites can cause slow but massive damage to your property. And you may never even know how much damage has been done until your structure starts to give in.

How do you check if the house you’re buying has termites? To look for termites, you look for mud tubes or mud in small holes and construction joints. You should also check for wooden structures around the property like firewood piles, wooden fencing, and deadwood. Termites also leave behind pieces of evidence of their presence, like discarded wings, termite droppings, and even visible swarmers.

Termites may be small, but they are very destructive. And they’re there across the US – except for Alaska. These tiny insects cause about $50 billion in damage to buildings and residential houses every year.

Although you can look for termites on your own, it’s easy to miss out on details. This is because termites can cause damage inside the wood. Instead, calling for a professional pest management team for a thorough inspection of your residential property can be a better idea.

Key takeaways

  • Termites can cause massive damage to property, and checking for signs of their presence is crucial.
  • Look for mud tubes, mud in construction joints, blisters in wood flooring, and termite droppings.
  • Check wooden structures like fencing, firewood piles, and deadwood for signs of termite activity.
  • Termites eat wood, plaster, insulation, and soft metals due to their need for cellulose and other nutrients.

What do termites eat?

If you thought it was wood, you’re partly right. Yes, termites eat wood, but they are also known to chew on plaster, insulation, and a few soft metals.

Termites eat wood because they need cellulose and other nutrients present in wood to live. A special kind of bacteria living in the gut of termites helps to break down the cellulose in the wood. This is why they can even chew through hard wooden floors.

Different species of termites also have different appetites and feeding habits. Three types of termites especially predominant in the United States are:

  • Subterranean termites: They are known to be the most destructive of all termites. They reside in the ground in large colonies and rapidly devour wood. They only show up at your home to eat their fill.
  • Drywood termites: They tend to live in separate colonies even within one home and mostly feed on wooden structures.
  • Dampwood termites: These termites are found in woods with high moisture content and decaying woodpiles.

Top signs of termite infestation

Spotting a termite infestation can be difficult if you do not know where to look for. After all, finding such tiny creatures in such a huge property can be a lot of work.

So here is a list of 8 signs you should look for around your property that will indicate the presence of termites.

1. Mud tubes

If you find a mud tube in your house, it indicates the presence of termites. Mud tubes are typically found along the foundation of your house, near the pipes, in the attic, or around access points.

Made of a mixture of soil and cellulose from wood, these tubes are basically covered highways that termites use for traversing open and exposed spaces.

Termites build mud tubes to protect themselves from dehydration. The tubes help to maintain the humidity levels while also protecting themselves from predators.

If you want to know whether a mud tube is from an old infestation or is running active, remove a small section of the tube. Leave it undisturbed for some days. If you find that the tube is sealed back, it indicates that termites are present actively around your property.

2. Mud in construction joints

Termites like to seal small gaps using dirt, so if you see dirt covering what used to be small cracks in sheetrock or concrete, or if you find mud stuffed into construction joints, it is a good sign of termites doing their regular job.

3. Blister in wood flooring

The Subterranean species of termites tend to cause a lot of damage to the subfloor and can make your wooden floor seem like it has water damage. So, if you find such blisters, there may be termites feeding below or within.

4. Wood in your property

Since we know that termites’ primary food source is wood, checking out any wooden structures on your property will be a good option to look for termite infestation. Here are some places you can look out for, to begin with.

  • Wooden fencing: Termites can easily find your wooden fence and start chowing down on them in a sweep.
  • Firewood: Termites will happily make your pile of firewood their favorite place to stay. So, if you’re storing firewood on your property, keep the pile elevated above the ground and keep them away from home for about 20 feet at the very least.
  • Deadwood: Removing fallen tree branches or limbs from your property is always good as it can be feasting ground for termites.
  • Wooden structures: Use termite-resistant wood products to prevent termites from attacking the wooden structures, especially those exposed to the outdoor environment like decks and sheds. If you have wooden structures on your property that aren’t termite-resistant, they are highly vulnerable to termite damage and should be checked for any infestation.

5. Termite droppings

The dry wood termites make their homes inside the wood. As they tunnel through the wood, they create tunnels and galleries that they fondly keep clean. So they make kick-out holes through which they remove their excrement.

Since all they eat is wood, their excrement is also wood. So if you find mounds of pellets resembling sawdust or coffee grounds, it indicates the presence of termites.

6. Visible swarmers

Mature Colonies have swarmers that leave the nest during spring or fall. Most homeowners tend to miss the sight of swarmers because it is only a brief event in the morning or afternoon when most people aren’t home.

7. Discarded wings

Sometimes you may also find termite wings that have been discarded by swarmers when they leave to find a mate and a new place to start a colony. So if you find such discarded termite wings, there may be termites in your house looking to start a colony.

8. Wood damage

Termites typically eat wood from the inside, so it is difficult to see any damage on the surface. A termite inspector can detect the presence of termites by simply tapping on the wood and listening for the flat or low sound indicating a hollow inside the wood.

A novice will probably miss out on such details, so it is always advisable to request an appointment with professional pest control to conduct a thorough investigation.

Making your home purchase an easy affair

Make sure that you look out for termite evidence like mud tubes, discarded wings, and termite excretion, and also in obvious places like wooden members on the property. A novice will probably miss out on such details, so it is always advisable to request an appointment with professional pest control to conduct a thorough investigation.

A termite inspection should be mandatory while buying a home to ensure that you choose a sturdy and safe home. It is a good investment as it will save you a lot of future damage and loss.

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