Termites cause $5 billion worth of property damage in the US every year. For such tiny pests, they can band together and cause severe damage to your home—which is why it’s essential to keep an eye out for them and act fast at the first sign that they might be around.
You don’t want to give them a chance to get comfortable.
As a result, protecting your home requires keeping a keen eye out for signs of termites and knowing what those signs actually are.
While you may prefer to not know if pests are in your home, you’ll have to deal with it eventually, and you may face costly repairs if you allow termites to stick around for too long.
Why Are Termites So Detrimental?
You might be wondering how such tiny critters can be so detrimental. The problem is that termites, first and foremost, like to eat through wood.
While there’s a misconception that having termites means your house is gross, the truth is that they are common among houses with any wood—especially during the warm and rainy seasons—and have nothing to do with your cleanliness.
Termites start with eating your walls, and while it may take a while to become dangerous, they will eventually weaken your home’s support. They can also ruin your furniture and carpets and, in the worst-case scenario, cause floors and ceilings to collapse as they compromise the structural integrity of your house.
It might seem unthinkable for their small size, but termites come in droves and are notoriously determined.
And while home insurance can protect your home from thieves, fires, storms, and more, pest damage is not included in most home insurance policies, so it’s crucial to keep an eye out and catch them early.
So, how do you know if you have termites?
6 Signs of Termites In Your Home
Fortunately, termites aren’t invisible, and they are possible to get rid of. If you know what to look for, you can catch and deal with them early. Just keep an eye (or ear) out for these six signs.
- Visible Mud Tubes
Termites don’t travel in plain sight. Instead, they form what’s known as mud tubes to travel through your home. They use their saliva to glue mud together and create these tunnels.
If you’re worried you have termites and are wondering what termite damage looks like, you can usually spot these tunnels on the foundation of your home. If you see narrow brown veins, you may be seeing visual termite evidence.
- Swarmers and Discarded Wings
Some termites have wings. They’re the termites breaking away from the colony to form new nests, so while they’re not the bugs doing the actual damage to your home, they indicate that other termites are present.
Swarmers look similar to winged ants, so it can be hard to tell the difference, but if you see swarmers in combination with other signs, it’s very likely a termite colony has moved into your home.
Pro Tip: You might not see swarmers themselves but spot discarded wings on the floor. Swarmers will shed their wings as they settle down, so this is another indicator they have been present. (And you thought your college roommates were annoying to live with.)
- Termite Droppings
You may also spot termite droppings along the edges of your walls or in the corners of your rooms. They’re tiny and hard to identify if you aren’t an expert, but any unexplained flecks or small mounds of dirt are a red flag. If you’re ever unsure, it’s best to hire an expert to check them out to determine exactly what they are and if it’s evidence of termites, another pest, or just dirt.
- Hollow Walls
If you tap on the wall gently, does it sound hollow where it shouldn’t?
If so, it could be because termites are beginning to dig through the structural integrity of your home. You’ll likely only try this if you’ve spotted other signs, but it’s one of the bigger signs that termites have been there for a while.
If you’ve gotten to this stage, it’s important to call pest control as soon as possible so that the damage doesn’t become any worse. The last thing you want is to leave it until the house comes down around you.
That said, the signs become clear well before that point, so you’ll be okay as long as you act when you see them.
- Door and Window Problems
Another massive sign of termites in the home is problems with your doors and windows. When termites begin to damage the home’s foundation, they may become stiff or not close as smoothly as they did before.
Don’t dismiss a sticky door as something simply wrong with the door itself—make sure you get it checked out to ensure pests aren’t the culprit.
- Scratching Sounds
Have you ever been lying awake at night and heard a creepy scratching sound that you couldn’t quite place? It could be any number of pests, but termites are a possibility. This is because you can sometimes hear them chewing through the wood when the rest of the house is quiet.
Termites or not, it’s best to never ignore new, strange sounds coming from your home.
So, How Do You Prevent Termites?
The potential for termite damage can sound scary, and your instinct might be to scramble to protect your home from infestations. If adding impenetrable steel barriers around your home or having a pest control professional come out every day to examine your property is beginning to sound good—don’t worry.
It doesn’t take that much work or money.
There are a few simple steps you can take to protect your home, and these (along with being aware of the signs of termites) are likely enough to keep the trespassers at bay.
Reduce Wood in Contact With Soil Around Your House
If there’s wood or lumber around the foundation of your home and it’s resting in the soil, it’s an open invitation for termites. Move this wood away from your home or keep it raised out of the soil. It’s also helpful to elevate any wood siding above the earth, so termites don’t have a clear path into your home.
If you must have wood close to the soil, a professional can apply a treatment to it that should prevent termites from gaining entry to your home.
Keep the Foundation Dry
If the foundation of your house is getting too much moisture, it’s another clear invitation for termites. As much as you don’t want them, it attracts them to your house and tells them, “Hey, come on in, there’s plenty for you to munch on here.” As a result, the rainy season is an important time to keep a look out for termites.
To prevent excess water, it’s also wise to set a schedule to regularly check your home for leaks and other signs of water damage.
Don’t Unintentionally Feed Them
Termites eat cardboard, paper, and rotting wood. If you have trees rotting outside of your home, the best practice is to cut them down and grind the stumps down, so they won’t attract termites to your property. You should also recycle all paper and cardboard rather than leaving it lying around—it’s good for the environment and your home.
Watch Out for Swarmers
During the swarming season (the warmer months of spring and summer), swarmers become active as they look for places to start a new colony. This is when it’s most critical not to provide termite food anywhere close to your house.
Other tips to avoid attracting swarmers include making sure the screens on your windows don’t have any holes and turning off the indoor lights when you step outside at night, as termites will be attracted to light.
Get Professional Termite Inspections
Ultimately, the best way to protect your home is to get regular termite inspections. There’s no need to pay someone to come every month to check for pests, but having your home inspected once or twice a year is a good rule of thumb.
The best time to have your home inspected is between winter and spring when they may begin to show. However, if you suspect you have termites, get an inspection as soon as possible, regardless of the season.
A pest inspector will give your home a once-over and ensure no unwanted guests are making a bed inside your walls or floorboards. And if they have, getting frequent inspections will ensure you catch them early and evict them faster than you can ask how much damage they’ve done.
Termites aren’t usually covered under normal pest control, so make sure you’re working with someone who is taking responsibility for it. If you live in an area with a highly active termite population, consider getting a termite bond. Most termite bond companies use detection and prevention systems.
Termites sound scary, but they don’t have to be—not if you know what to look for and keep up with yearly inspections. Take all the preventative measures you can to keep those little intruders from nesting in your home, and you may never have a termite infestation in your life.