Here in Tennessee, the most destructive termite we have is called the subterranean termite. They silently attack man-made structures from the ground and consume wood twenty-four hours a day, three hundred and sixty-five days a year. It is estimated that subterranean termites cost United States property owners over $5 billion every year. That is why it is vital to be able to identify termite damage when you see it, especially if you do not have termite services in place to protect your home.
Since subterranean termites work exclusively inside the wood they are consuming, you're going to have to dig for clues. In the case of a damaged fence, you're going to have to literally "dig" to see the damage. Take a shovel and dig up some soil around each post. If subterranean termites have been feeding on your fence you should clearly notice a difference at the point where it goes into the soil. This is true of any wood structure that touches the soil. If these termites can feed on the wood without being exposed to the drying effects of the air, they will.
In sheds or other outbuildings, sometimes termites will chew long channels inside wood, even strong timbers, until, eventually, they become brittle enough to allow pieces to be broken off by hand. This damage is seldom visible. Use your knuckles or a hammer to tap the wood. If it sounds hollow, or much less sound than it should, there may be termites tunnels inside. The only way to know for sure is to cut into the wood and look for channels. If you do decide to cut into a stud that you suspect has termite damage, it shouldn't take you long to know for sure. The wood should easily splinter with little effort on your part.
If you have termites, you may see chewed areas near the soil on wooden siding, especially if exterior walls are actually touching the soil. It will literally look like the wood has been bitten away and/or there may be some areas where holes have been eaten right through, depending on how long the termites have been nibbling. There are several things that will draw termites in near a home to begin chewing on it. And since they prefer to stay protected from the drying effects of the wind and the sun, they are more likely to eat wood siding if there is firewood stacked up against it, or if there is ground cover such as dead leaves, sticks, or mulch. If those areas are moist or shaded, then it is even more likely termites will come close and start eating away at your siding. They may also establish mud tubes to give them protection as they feed.
Garage Door Frames
This will look similar to the chew marks on siding and is also more likely if the bottom of a door frame is touching dirt, cement or brick. If you suspect termites might be eating the inside of your garage door, knock with knuckles or a hammer to hear if it sounds hollow. You should also see the presence of mud tubes.
Unless you are doing some renovations to your home, it is unlikely you will directly see termite damage on your interior walls. However, if the chewing has been going on long enough, you may detect that the wall is starting to have a noticeable bulge, or that doors and windows in the room are no longer opening or closing properly. With the weakening of supports caused by termite tunneling, pressure on doors and windows will become more and more apparent. This damage often looks like water damage.
Floors and Ceilings
If termite damage is extensive, you may see the worst sign of all, sagging, buckling ceilings and floors. And these can also cause doors and windows to not open and close properly. If you are seeing signs like these, the damage is extensive.
If renovations are being made and a wall is torn out, termite damage will look like mazes and tunneling. But any damage within wood is a good sign of termite damage. If the wood is porous or has any kind of channels or troughs, you are likely looking at termite damage.
Even If You Do Not See Evidence
Subterranean termite damage can be extremely hard to detect. If you want to ensure the safety of your investment, you should have a certified termite inspector perform a detailed inspection. Don't take chances with termites. It is just not worth the cost.
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