Why do termite inspectors tap the wood siding and baseboard wood in a home?

Sunday, December 30, 2018

Subterranean termites can be hard to detect, even when a house has a significant infestation. They become dehydrated quickly by exposure to air, so they crawl up into a house protected inside tiny tubes the workers construct from dirt, feces, and their own saliva; which are called, obviously enough, mud tubes. Shown below are several mud tubes we found last year, where the termites were coming up through a crack in the garage floor and climbing up the step, searching for wood.

    As they rise through the mud tubes into the house, the first pieces of wood they encounter are the exterior siding and trim, and the interior baseboard. They immediately start eating tunnels through the wood, called “galleries,” as they work their way up through the walls to the attic, munching right up to the surface of the paint—but not through it. So termite-eaten wood will be mostly hollow, but often with paint surface still intact and unblemished.

     Some inspectors, including us, use an old-fashioned technique called “sounding” as an adjunct to the normal visual inspection. Tapping the wood with the head of a long screwdriver or section of hollow PVC pipe will make a bright, knock-on-wood sound on solid wood, but a dull thud on wood with termite-eaten galleries. Sounding is not part of the baseline inspection protocol required by the Florida State Department of Agriculture, which has jurisdiction over pest control inspectors, and not all inspectors sound the wood in a home.


    Gently probing any suspicous-sounding areas with the tip of a screwdriver for termite or wood rot evidence is the next step.  See our blog post Is the WDO (termite) inspector allowed to poke holes in my wood siding and trim? for more on this.

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To learn more about termites, see these other blog posts:

Should I be worried about termites if my neighbor's house is being tented?

Can termites eat their way through concrete blocks and mortar?

Is the WDO (termite) inspector allowed to poke holes in my wood siding and trim? 

Do carpenter ants cause structural damage to houses in Florida?

How long before closing can you have a WDO (termite) inspection done?

How long does Bora-Care® last? 

 Why is it a mistake to store lumber in the crawl space under a house?

Does the presence of carpenter ants in a house indicate that there are probably also termites? 

How do termites infest a house and remain hidden while doing major damage?

Are homes in Florida required to have termite protection? 

If termite damage appears to be old, does that mean that termites may no longer be present?

How do I know if my WDO/termite report is "clear"? 

When do termites swarm in Florida?

Does a recent termite company inspection sticker mean there are no termites? 

Can a mobile/manufactured home get termites?

Do I have to tent the house if I have termites? 

What is the difference between a subterranean termite and a drywood termite?

What are the green plastic discs in the ground around the house? 

What is a termite shield?

How do termites get into a concrete block house? 

Do termites eat concrete?

What is a clean WDO?  

What do termites eat?

How do I treat wood rot  that's listed in my termite-WDO report? 

Do I really need a termite-WDO inspection? 

What's causing those holes in the fascia?

Does wood chip mulch in the yard attract termites?

I think I have termites. What does a termite look like?

I'm buying a concrete block house. Do I still need a termite inspection? 

• I saw a little termite damage on the baseboard. Should I be concerned?

   Visit our TERMITES, WOOD ROT AND PESTS page for other related blog posts on this subject, or go to the INDEX for a complete listing of all our articles.

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