A termite damage may not be the easiest to detect because they can live in a property for long before their destruction is manifested in some form or the other. These insects can remain completely hidden for a long time before their devastation can be noticed. All species of termites can be equally damaging because at the end of the day, they tend to destroy a well-built structure and this can happen over a period of time. Whether it is drywood termites that tend to live within deeply dug burrows in wooden structures or subterranean termites, that live deep within the ground - these intruders can be highly destructive and the worst part is that their damage may not be immediately known.
They usually like to live in dark, damp and warm areas of a property so that they can keep themselves safe. In the US, this problem is quite menacing and people have been advised to keep a lookout for any termite infestation. Close to $5 billion a year worth of damage is caused by termites in the country! Hence, the government is also quite serious regarding this threat.
Termites are soft-small-white-bodied insects that eat wood. They usually form societies and groups to live in. These groups are known as colonies. Within these colonies, alates or swarmers are there which develop wings during the mating season. They take flight for mating - this is known as swarming. Once swarming is over, they break off their wings and start the reproduction process. Then they develop their own colonies as them being the king and queen of the new colony.
If a termite infestation is not found out within time, they can even threaten the structural existence of a property or building. Therefore, it is important to find out signs of termite infestation during the initial phase itself as otherwise, it can cost dearly for undertaking repairs. Later, pesticides may have to be used to eliminate them from a property. There are some very tell-tale signs of termite presence that can be helpful for understanding. These are mentioned as follows.
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- Drooping or discolored walls
- Crumbling paint that looks like water damage
- Wood sounding hollow while tapping
- Very small, micro holes within drywalls
- Drooping laminate or wooden floors
- Loosening tiles due to termite induced moisture
- Extreme squeaky floorboards
- Damaged crumbling wood
- Stuck doors and windows
- Maze-like designs in walls, floorboards and furniture
- Heaps of drywood termite feces which looks like mounds of pepper or salt
- Heaps of broken wings after swarming which look like fish scales
- Mud tubes making its way through a home foundation
- Flying termite swarms near to a home
All of these can be a clear indication of their presence and an area can get infected by them very heavily. Repairing termite damage may not be the easiest thing to do as it can cost enough money and can also involve a lot of resources. Apart from all of the mentioned termite infestation signs, there are also certain other signals that are discussed here in detail.
Table of Contents
- Termite Infestation Signs
- Repairing a Termite Damage
- There are Alternate Methods of Repair
Termite Infestation Signs
1. Shelter Tubes of Termites
They can mostly be seen emanating from ground crossing barriers like metal cappings and on foundations or walls.
These tubes may have a humid and dark environment inside them that can be perfect for their development and food storage. Moreover, it also acts as a shelter for them, protecting them from probable predators all around. These tubes are made by them mostly during the night so that it may not be very easy to dry up. These structures may look like being made out of clay and are generally brown in color though in some cases these can also be dark-brown.
Some of these structures can be narrow, of the order of 10 millimeters. These can be used by workers and soldiers to keep their food intact. There can be certain other tubes too that may be around 50 millimeters wide and these are generally the tubes that are used for transporting food by soldiers and workers. Incidentally, these are also the ones that are most destructive within a property.
This type of tubes may be present in large numbers wherever there is an infestation. Hence, they can cause extensive damage to a carving, wood or whichever place they may be located. Therefore, it is very important to search for any termite sign so that probable loss or damage can be minimized.
2. Subterranean Tunnels
Signs of termite infestation in case of subterranean termite is slightly different because this species does not make tubes. Rather they make subterranean tunnels to search for food and effectively transport them through it.
They make these tunnels deep within the soil that can stretch up to 20 cm deep. It can also have a radius of up to 50 meters although there are cases in which they may be located far below and with increased radii. This type of tunnel built by them is generally used by the worker termite for their daily activities although soldiers may also be visible inside them.
3. Blowholes Made in Trees
All types of termites like to make their colonies in tree barks and root crowns as these are easy sources of food for them. Especially subterranean termites prefer to make them their home due to easy accessibility. This type of place can also be very helpful for them to increase their numbers. However, the presence of other predators can always be there in this type of home.
During an invasion or fight with a predator, the alates usually make a longitudinal cut on the bark for making his way out. Anyway, when the dust settles after the fight, it is the job of worker termites to plug the hole and the tree may also secrete callus to deal with its injuries. Therefore, over a period of time, any such hole can be filled up and help in keeping them completely concealed from the outside world.
In a wood, if there is a sound of a hollow stud, then it can be assumed that termites may have infested it internally. A professional's help can be highly solicited in dealing with such a menace.
4. Earthen Packing
If there are termite colonies within a wood or timber, then there is a possibility of formation of clay like earth packings on the exterior visible portion. This type of earth packings can be mostly expected at joints or near to foundation walls. If left unattended, termites can wreak havoc on joints and foundations and can inflict massive structural damage in the long run.
Earthen flight tubes are produced by alates and come out horizontally from an infested wood during many colonizing fights. This can be considered to be one of the most important signs of termite infestation.
5. Wood Shovelling and Termite Noises
Wood shoveling is a good termite damage sign that can be followed. Termites generally dig up wood leaving just a delicate layer intact so that looking from the surface, it may not be very easy to detect the damage. The method of digging up also varies according to termite species and that can include making large galleries within the wood to completely devouring it and making it totally hollow. There can be a clear sound of tapping in heavily infested places and can be a good indicator of their presence.
Actually, the tapping sound occurs due to the soldier termites beating their heads and mandibles against the firm wood. This is a sort of signal for the complete colony. They carry on doing it continuously and therefore after a point of time, the level of sound increases and everyone can hear it clearly.
6. Heaps of Termite Droppings Near a Home
Termite droppings are also known as frass. These are tiny pellets that can be found near to the entry or access portion of a property. In case if there is termite infestation within a property, one can definitely expect to find them near the entrance. In case if heaps of these droppings are found near to an entrance or within the property, then one can be certain that there is an infestation of this insect within the property and steps must be taken to neutralize them before any serious termite damage occurs.
7. Finding Swarmer Wings
Alates are the reproductive termites of the species and these are also known as swarmers. They undertake 'nuptial flights' to mate so that once they are ready for reproduction, they try to form their own colonies.
Subterranean termites mate during the spring season whereas drywood termites may not be easily predicted for their flight. If there is a swarm of insect around a property or if discarded wings are noticed, it is better to alert a termite specialist to ascertain whether the wings belong to termites or not. Confirmation on the same is very much needed so that precautionary steps can be taken.
8. Hollow Wood and Sagging Floors
Termites go about their work in a very detailed fashion. Care is taken by them not to excavate near to the surface so that one can come to know of their presence easily. They usually dig up in a honeycomb pattern and therefore, they do not show up on the surface. This is the biggest reason why their detection is not very easy.
As wood is devoured by them, they make it considerably weaker and that can further result in sagging of floors and a hollow sound when one taps into it. It is always a good idea while walking along a wooden floor to tap it softly so that any termite infestation may be easily detected. Same is the case with walls and ceilings too. Careful examination by soft tapping should be done at frequent intervals to ascertain if there is any hollowness that has been created by termites.
9. Nests in Trees
There are some termite species that like to make their colonies inside the hollow tree barks and trunks. In such a case, it can be very difficult to detect their presence. Anyway, after termites take over such a place, the area can be fully infested by them and over a period of time, a huge pile of mud may be created by them on the outer side. This can be a clear indication of their infestation and can be easily recognized.
This type of sight is also a clear signal of them being present in very huge numbers in that area and therefore neutralizing options should also be thought accordingly.
In short, there are many signs of termite infestations and these may also depend from region to region. The crux of the matter is to look out for these signs so that losses can be minimized due to termites.
Reversing and repairing termite damage can be a very expensive and painful experience if it is not done within time. Hence, it is important to wake up to this threat as and when it needs attention.
Repairing a Termite Damage
There is generally a modus-operandi of termites when it comes to their infestation. It is called a termite trail and consists of termite feces, dead termites, their eggs and the digested powdered-wood residue. Also, once infested, they try extending into non-feeding sites that can ultimately threaten the structural existence of a property.
However, termite damage can be controlled in many ways. Each of these ways can be slightly different than the other in terms of technique and price. A particular termite controlling way depends on the level of threat that it poses and also the infestation made by it. Anyway, all termite controlling mechanism can be categorized into 3 distinct types as discussed below.
1) Non-invasive Damage by Termites
- If a termite damage is along the surface of a property, then it can be considered to be within limit and termites may not have penetrated deep within the core so that extensive damage may not have been made. This type of damage can be comparatively easier to manage. Untreated wooden structures can be most vulnerable to this kind of termite attack. However, it may not be very easy to establish the trails in this kind of an attack. Actually, termites may not always be active in this type of attack. There can only be an occasional trail, mostly during the wet weather and that's all. Therefore, this type of repairs can be completed by a person himself without the need of any professional for the purpose.
The central idea of repairing for this type of damage basically revolves around strengthening the wood so that there is greater resistance from termites. An infested timber structure may be treated with 'wood-hardeners', that are basically wood treatment adhesives. They can be useful in filling up any crack or fissure that may have been made by termites. These wood hardeners may be available in a variety of strengths, depending on the purpose. Therefore, while choosing a wood hardener, it is important to choose one as per the condition of the problem and the type of wood that is to be treated.
There is also another type of termite control option that is known as 'wood sealer'. They work in a very particular fashion so that they cut off oxygen from termite colonies. In this way, all termites can be eliminated within a very small time.
2) Slightly Invasive Damage by Termites
- When there is a slightly greater level of termite damage signs, this type of repairs can be carried out. In this type of termite infestation, their feces can be more abundantly available throughout an area leading to the conclusion that they may be there in small numbers. The termite trail may also consist of irregular patterns that may look like a design of powdery lines. However, this type of infestation may not be very serious and can be controlled in time. Anyway, it is important to take note of them and do the needful as soon as possible or else they can spread to non-woody structures also. The termite repair can be easily done with the help of household tools and easily found equipment.
The repair involves removing the infested, upper surface with the help of a shovel. Thereafter, it should be sanded to make for a smooth surface. Wood fillers can then be used to give it the needed strength. Once more, polishing can be done to ensure that the wood fillers stay in place. The finishing products and wood fillers come with DIY instructions that make it easy to understand and complete the whole process. After the whole process is completed, care should particularly be taken during the wet months of the year as previously infested sites may once again be chosen by them for the purpose and termites may try re-grouping. The best way to ensure that they do not re-surface is to wipe off a repaired area with a dry cloth so that there is no accumulation of moisture in that place.
3) Professional Repair for Structural Damage
- When a termite infestation is at its maximum, then this type of termite repairs may be needed. When there is a chronic termite infestation, maximum damage can be visible. A wood may become darker and can emit a hollow sound from all around it. Termite trails will also be very clearly visible even on non-wooden surroundings. Intensive feeding by them can lead to small holes being created on the surface. All of this is a clear sign of extensive termite infestation that must be controlled with immediate effect.
For dealing with this type of damage, it may not be very easy to adopt a simple DIY approach. Simple household repair techniques may not be much help to deal with them. It may call for a more pronounced and professional help. The basic strategy for dealing with such a situation involves getting rid of the most damaged parts. It also includes dismantling or taking out all plumbing or wiring connection from the infected site. The interior wood that is fully infested must be completely scrapped. High-powered wood sealers can then be injected into surrounding and remaining structures with the help of special injectors. After this major work, the nearby structures must be re-checked for any sign of infestation so that it can remain a foolproof process. Professional termite handlers can be best suited for carrying out this type of repairs. They can ensure that any type of deep-seated infestation can be taken good care of and an area can be termite free.
Looking at these 3 termite controlling mechanisms, one can be able to understand how tough it can be to control a termite damage that is not detected in time. Therefore, it is very important to ensure that detection is completed in time so that an effective step can be taken for their elimination.
There are Alternate Methods of Repair
There are certainly other methods of termite repairs that are also prevalent to a considerable extent. People like to use these methods too as they can be cheap and easy to roll out.
One of the very popular termite extermination processes is the use of liquid termite control called termiticide. The insecticide can be sprayed all around a property where there is an infestation. As soon as termites consume it, they can be eliminated as it is a poison for them. It essentially creates a barrier for the termites to enter a property. This type of pesticide is available in two types - repellent and non-repellent. As the name suggests, repellent liquid helps in repelling termite's attacks whereas a non-repellent liquid is responsible for killing it altogether.
Another interesting method of termite repair is laying termite bait traps. These traps do not eliminate the termites that fall into them. Rather, the plan is to introduce poison in the bait so that once a termite falls into it and consume the poison, it can go back to its colony and distribute the poison all over there. In a small period of time, complete colonies can be wiped off through this method. Professionals generally use wood at first in the bait in an area to find out the presence of termites. Later, wood is substituted with poison.
Apart from all these methods described above, borate and fumigation process is also there to effectively deal with termite menace. The signs of termite infestation can be absolute if an area is infested with them substantially. Termites tend to live long and therefore; it is very important to eliminate them within the time so that colonies may not spread in an unhindered way. Having a good understanding of the different termite signs and all repair techniques can be quite beneficial while deciding on the course of action to be followed while dealing with a termite infestation. Therefore, it is highly beneficial to understand termite indications and their remedy to have a long-lasting, durable property.