Termite Damage: This Is What They Can Do to a House

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Americans spend more than $2 billion each year fighting termite infestations. They spend billions more repairing the damage termites have done to their homes and properties. 

But just how much damage can termites do? Do all termites cause the same types and degrees of damage? What can you do if you suspect you may have a termite problem?

Keep reading now to learn what termite damage looks like, how dangerous it is, and what you can do to protect your home today. 

Types of Termites

The first important thing to know about termites is that there is more than one kind. The three primary types of termites are:

  • Drywood
  • Dampwood
  • Subterranean 

Drywood termites are small and appear primarily in coastal regions. They like dry, intact wood like that found in house walls or furniture. Colonies tend to be small and they eat through wood slowly. 

Dampwood termites prefer damp, outdoor wood. They may infest sickly trees or wood piles rather than homes. They also tend to eat through wood slowly. 

Subterranean termites are the most damaging to homes. They are larger in size than the other types of termites and live in bigger colonies. They can enter homes through subterranean nests and tunnels and eat through wood very fast. 

Subterranean termites can be less noticeable than their counterparts, as well, meaning that they often have more time to do damage before homeowners notice that there is a problem. It is not uncommon for multiple colonies to feed on one house at the same time. Unfortunately, subterranean termites are the most common in Tenessee in general and the Memphis area in particular. 

What Does Termite Damage Look Like?

Visible evidence of a termite infestation is most apparent between March and June and then again in September and October. The CDC recommends that homeowners look for the following signs:

  • Swarms of termites on or around windowsills or doors
  • Mud tubes (about pencil-sized) burrowed into walls, posts, joists, sills, and other wooden portions of their homes’ structures 
  • Wood that is damaged or hollow
  • Termite feces on windowsills
  • Discoloration on or bad odors coming from walls

Authorities suggest that homeowners in the Southeast inspect their homes for possible termite house damage at least twice per year. If any potentials signs of an infestation are present, it is essential to take action right away. Additionally, when trying to buy a home you may need to get a real estate WDI inspection.

Can Termites Destroy a House?

Having any kind of pest in your home is obviously unwelcome. But what can termites do, exactly? Can they really destroy a house?

Termite infestations will not immediately make a home unsafe. However, termite destruction can cause serious structural damage to a home in as little as three years, making it unsafe to inhabit.

This happens because house termites eat away at critical wood supports within the home. That, in turn, creates an unsafe strain on the whole structure. Repairing that damage can be an enormous undertaking. 

It is not uncommon for homes to need to be gutted down to the studs to reveal and repair that type of damage. This can be true even for homes made of brick and other materials, as most homes have some form of wooden supports in them. 

Termite feces can also imbue homes with a bad smell. They may cause walls to warp or discolor, as well. Again, this can lead to stripping a house or a portion of a house down to its studs to effect repairs. 

Other types of common termite destruction include:

  • Damage to a home’s foundation 
  • Damage to windows and doors
  • Creation of openings for other pests or moisture to infiltrate the home
  • Damage to the furniture within a home, requiring its repair or replacement
  • The ruination of books, boxes, photos, documents, and other paper-based materials within the home

While it may take termites a few years to make your home structurally unsafe, the range of damage they can do means that even a short-lived infestation can be costly and time-consuming to recover from.

Repairing Termite Damage and Preventing Infestations

EPA guidelines offer homeowners a variety of ways to reduce the likelihood of a pest infestation in their homes. Among the most important steps are:

  • Following construction guidelines appropriate to your climate
  • Not using wood products in ground fill during construction
  • Maintaining your property to minimize conditions that attract pests 

In climates like Tenessee’s, however, additional pest prevention is necessary. Most homeowners will need to adopt an integrated pest management system or strategy to protect their homes from termites and other damaging pests. 

In theory, this is something that homeowners might be able to develop and implement themselves. In practice, the DIY approach has many drawbacks.

  • Researching the best pesticides and applications can be time-consuming 
  • Making mistakes when applying pesticides can render them useless 
  • Using the wrong pesticides can be dangerous to residents of the home and their pets 
  • Many homeowners are uncomfortable storing pest control products in their homes, particularly with children or pets around
  • Homeowners are often busy and may forget or simply not have time to treat their homes when needed
  • Homeowners without experience in pest control may miss important signs of infestation or damage

As a result, Memphis homeowners tend to find that they achieve better results by hiring a professional pest management service to protect their homes. Professional termite control services:

  • Have the experience and expertise to identify infestations early, preventing damage
  • Can treat homes to prevent termite invasion in the first place
  • Use safe, EPA-approved pesticides at regular intervals
  • Can eradicate termite colonies if they appear
  • Remove the burden of pest-control maintenance from busy homeowners
  • Can treat properties before a new structure is erected for proactive protection

Professional treatments and maintenance can provide peace of mind and offer the best protection against costly termite damage.

Learn More

Don’t let termite damage cost you thousands of dollars in repairs. Schedule an appointment now and have a professional assess your home. Learn what kind of protection you need and get a free estimate on an integrated pest management plan tailored to your home and its needs.

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About the Author:

Chris Murphy is President of Inman-Murphy Inc., one of the fastest growing pest control companies in Memphis, TN.