Summary: One in thirty homes becomes infested with termites each year. Subterranean termites can easily tunnel into support posts or floor joints that are in contact with the soil. Here's how to detect termite damage and when you need to make repairs.
Did you know that termites never sleep? They might be eating you out of house and home 24/7, but you would never know it because they silently enter your house from beneath the slab or foundation. How often do you see what's going on under your house? Unless you are doing major reconstruction, the answer is “never”.
Let's say you discover a spot in your woodwork that is thin or hollow sounding. Might be termites at work. Or, say you find small holes in plaster or drywall. That also might signal a termite problem. This can be a serious headache for homeowners because termite treatments are expensive. However, in the long term it will cost more money to replace wood damaged by termites if no action is taken.
As we have all heard advertised, termites cause hundreds of millions of dollars
of damage to US homes each year. It's not just advertising when it actually happens to your home. Termites can go undetected in homes for long periods because they eat wood from the inside out. If the termites enter the home through wood that is in direct contact with the ground there may be no visible mud tubes on outer walls, allowing them to spread through a house undetected.
Wooden support beams, rafters, and floor joists can be difficult to inspect because they are difficult to access. A professional pest control operator qualified to treat termites, or an experienced building inspector, has certain tools like moisture meters and video scopes that can give them good ideas where termites might be hiding. However, even experienced professionals sometimes miss signs of termite activity.
The best way to avoid termite damage is to use pretreated wood for your home's construction and to get termite pre-construction treatment that prevents termites from traveling in the soil around your house. Treated wood and liquid pre-treatments become less effective over time, and even the most carefully protected home may not be immune from termites.
So what can you do? I suggest regular termite inspections of the wood on basement windowsills, the studs behind your kitchen sink, wooden steps on the interior and exterior, and baseboards around the floors. These are common spots where termite damage can be found. A good flashlight and a mirror to see behind and around obstructions is all you need. Or, you can call a
professional pest control company to do the inspection, but expect a sales pitch and lots of follow up calls to go along with each visit.
If you find termite damage and want to make repairs, you must get rid of the termites first. This may seem obvious but I have dealt with many people who have replaced wood damaged by termites without calling an exterminator first. This only gives the termites fresh food! If critical support beam have termite damage, or if the damaged wood is behind utility pipes, it can be very costly to replace. It might be more cost effective to just attach another piece of lumber to the damaged lumber, leaving at least two or three inches of healthy wood on either side of the damage to where you attach the extra support beam. That method is called “scabbing.” I strongly suggest not tearing out damaged beams or scabbing on without consulting a building expert. You don't want your house falling down while trying to repair termite damage.
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