How much damage can termites do? Everything you need to know about WDOs
Buying and owning a home is one of the biggest investments you’ll make in your lifetime. With the median home price hitting $428,700 in Q1 2022, it's more important than ever to have your prospective home inspected before you commit to such an expensive purchase. An inspection can ensure the home is in good condition and devoid of defects or threats.
One of the biggest threats to your home is WDOs (Wood destroying organisms: termites). Termites don't just eat wood; the severe damage they cause to your home also eats into your bank account.
Termites are known to damage around 600,000 homes in the U.S. each year, with residents spending an estimated $5 billion annually to control these pests and repair the damage they cause. If you find signs of termite damage, it's essential that you address the problem as early as possible.
We've created this guide to help you understand how severe termite damage can be and how to detect and deal with it effectively. Here's everything you need to know about termites.
What are termites?
Termites are small, wood-destroying insects/organisms (WDI/WDO) that live in large colonies with several different castes. They are commonly known as "silent destroyers" due to their ability to chew through wood, flooring, and drywall undetected, making them a major threat to trees, timber, and your homes.
Termite colonies can range from several thousand to millions of insects. What's worse is that multiple colonies can infest your home at the same time. Termites can get through openings less than 2 mm wide, and the colonies can chew through wood at an average rate of 5 grams per day (which adds up quickly).
What are the different types of termites?
Each type of termite causes different damage. For instance, Subterranean termites can cause more problems for your home than Drywood termites. This is because Drywood termites have smaller colonies, while Subterranean termites live in large, social colonies. Drywood termites are also more noticeable as they tend to leave their dried droppings on window sills and other surfaces around the house, while Subterranean termites often go unnoticed. Some other common types of termites include Dampwood termites, Formosan termites, and Conehead termites.
A typical characteristic of these termite species is their ability to swarm. Swarming is essential to termites' survival and happens when reproductive castes of termites emerge from their original colonies in search of new nests. Subterranean and Dampwood termites seek out areas with a lot of moisture and humidity, while Drywood termites look for gaps and spaces to crawl around windows and door frames.
What causes termites?
Termites can cause massive structural damage to your home and furniture. As a homeowner, knowing where termites come from and how they land up in your home can help you better protect your property and prevent infestation.
Different types of termites thrive in different habitats. Subterranean termites require moisture and live underground in the soil. They create mud tunnels to go from soil to wood. In contrast, Drywood termites require little moisture and live within the wood they infest. They can enter your home through weak spots in the roofing, cracks and crevices in the walls, and other vulnerable areas like gaps in window and door frames. Dampwood termites require damp, humid conditions. They're not very likely to infest homes unless there is humidity and moisture due to water damage or leaks. Like Drywood termites, they live in the wood they infest.
TLDR: it is a combination of three factors – wood, moisture, and any openings in the home's exterior – that attracts termites to your home.
How to look for signs of termite damage?
Although it isn't easy, keeping an active lookout for signs of termite damage can help you notice them early and control the infestation before it escalates. Some of the most obvious signs of termite infestation include:
- Suspicious cracks on internal walls, ceiling beams, or rafters
- Small entry holes where they may have tunneled through drywall
- A hollow sound when you tap on the wood with a heavy object
- The appearance of water damage (a common sign of Subterranean termites)
- Bubbled or sagging areas on the floor
- Blistered walls and peeling paint
- Maze-like designs in your wood structures
- Mud tunnels outside your home
- Small dirt or soil trails on your wall
- Stuck doors and window
- Floorboards or door frames feeling weak or sounding hollow
- Broken roof tiles
- Termite wings near closed windows, doors, etc.
- Visible mounds or swarms
In rare cases, if the damage is significant enough or goes undetected for too long, a termite infestation can cause serious hazardous damage, causing ceilings or floors to collapse.
How much does it cost to repair termite damage?
The cost of removal and repairs for termite damage depends on the size, location, and accessibility of the infestation, as well as the structure of your home. If the damage is minimal, you may choose not to repair it once the infestation is removed.
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) estimates that a typical termite infestation can cost over $3,000 in repairs, in addition to the cost of termite treatments.
Unfortunately, homeowners insurance usually doesn’t cover termite infestations, so it is best to deal with the problem at the earliest before the damage and subsequent cost of repair mounts. Inspecting for WDI/WDOs is a must if your home inspection report reveals any evidence of them.
What are a few different ways to protect your home from termites?
With the damage and costs associated with termites, it’s better to be proactive than reactive. Here are some things you can do to prevent infestations before they happen:
- Eliminate soil to wood contact: Keep lumber, wood, cardboard, and other materials containing cellulose away from your home's foundation. Firewood is packed with cellulose and moisture, so it is good practice to keep it at least eight inches off the ground (away from the soil), and at least 20 feet from your home.
- Prevent plants from touching your home: Your plants and shrubs contain cellulose, so it's important to trim them regularly to maintain the distance between bushes and your exterior walls. Termites also target outdoor wooden structures like fence posts, decks, and porches, so keep your grass cut short and consider using alternatives to wood mulch.
- Take care of your foundation: Ensure there are no cracks or moisture in your foundation as termites take advantage of any available spaces to crawl. Tend to any leaks before they weaken your foundation and make sure to seal any gaps as soon as you notice them.
- Maintain a clean, dry environment: Make sure to address any leaks and water damage immediately, as termites thrive in moisture. Don’t let newspapers or cardboard boxes pile up around the house, and be sure to trim tree branches that connect to your external walls. It's good practice to get rid of any unused firewood and maintain a clean lawn and backyard. Antique wooden furniture is also highly attractive to termites, so look out for signs of damage.
- Schedule periodic professional inspections: Professional home inspectors can help identify early signs of infestations, keeping damage and repair costs at a minimum. Keep in mind that good home inspectors are able to detect signs of wood-destroying organisms (WDOs) like termites, but they are not experts in dealing with these pests. To remove termites and repair any damage they have caused, you’ll need to call an exterminator. They can help you understand the extent of the damage and how to prevent future infestations.
Getting termite inspections with Inspectify
A major problem of home infestations by pests is that they can develop and spread within a short period of time. It is difficult to determine when the infestation actually began, and in most cases, by the time you realize you have termites, it is already too late.
Termites are also not the only WDOs. Carpenter ants, carpenter bees, powderpost beetles, and other wood-hungry insects can also go undetected under the surface of the wood and cause significant structural damage to your home. It is therefore important for homeowners to have regular home inspections and a pest control plan in place.
If you're seeking a mortgage for a new home, your bank or mortgage company will likely require you to get a WDO inspection completed before you commit to the purchase of a property. Remember, the earlier you address any signs of termite or WDO damage, the better.
Inspectify has got you covered when it comes to termite inspections. Whether you need a full inspection or ancillary service, our nationwide network of highly qualified, well-reviewed inspectors is available in just a few clicks. Schedule your inspection now and save millions of dollars in potential damages!