How To Look At A House

McGarry and Madsen's home inspection blog for buyers of  

site-built, mobile/manufactured and modular homes

What does termite damage look like?

Saturday, November 30, 2019

Termite damage is rarely as easy to spot as in the photo above, which has the clearly visible tunnels that termites bore through the wood, called “galleries.” Because they require a moist environment and will die from dehydration if exposed to air outside the wood for too long, termites tend to munch right up to the surface of painted wood and stop. So the damage is usually concealed. It’s often only discovered by probing the wood for soft spots that collapse when poked.

    Here’s an example of termite damage at a baseboard that was only discovered by probing.

    And here’s an example of minor termite damage at a baseboard that had been painted over at the time we inspected it. 

    Further examination behind the wallboard was necessary to determine the extent of the damage, and it turned out to be quite extensive. Just under 20-feet of wall had to be replaced, and the lower photo is a close-up of one of the studs.

    So termite damage is often concealed, even when it is extensive, and it’s important to look for other types of evidence that termites have infested a home too. Here’s four additional ways to tell that you have a termite problem:

1) Mud tubes - Subterranean termites build tiny tunnels of dirt, fecal matter, and their liquid excretions as a route between areas of wood, often on the surface of drywall or rising out the ground reaching upward.

2) Fecal Pellets - Drywood termites toss their fecal pellets out of the wall or ceiling through small “kick out holes,” and they may be observed in tiny piles on the floor below.

3) Dead Winged Termites and Termite Wings - Termites swarm in the spring or early summer and, if the swarm starts inside your house, it’s can be a scary Alfred Hitchcock kind of event with hundreds of them fluttering around the room. But, if you miss the actual swarm, they leave behind wings and dead termites on the floor.

Dead winged termites can be distinguished from winged ants by their lack of deep segmentation between body parts.

4) Live Termites - This is the one thing you are most unlikely to see. Worker termites are tiny and two will fit easily on the head of a match. They avoid going out in the open, so you will never see termites walking in a line across the floor or up the wall, for example. Here’s a brief video we took upon opening a mud tube at the base of an exterior wall of a home.

    In summary, it’s important to look for more than just damage when you suspect a termite infestation in your home. But, since you came to this article looking for pictures of termite damage, here are some more.

    Also, see our blog post I think I have termites. What does a termite look like?

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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?

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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