Termite Infestations: Signs, Damage & Prevention

Instructor: Artem Cheprasov

Artem has a doctor of veterinary medicine degree.

This lesson will briefly define and describe termites. Then, you'll learn about some of the many signs of termite infestations, the damage infestations may cause, and how you can prevent all of this.

What Are Termites?

Termites are small, pale, cellulose-eating insects that live in large social groups. Cellulose is an important component of plant cell walls. You might think that termites, owing to their shape, size, and colonies, are closely related to ants. Alas, they are more closely related to another pest - cockroaches. And just like no one wants cockroaches in their home, you don't want termites in your home either. They can seriously damage it!


In this lesson, we will go over some of the signs you might want to look out for when assessing for a termite infestation, the damage an infestation may cause, and some of the things you can do to prevent one.

Signs of a Termite Infestation

There are numerous signs to look out for when assessing if you might have termites in your home. These signs include:

  • Holes the size of nail holes, drilled into the wood around your home.
  • Termite droppings, which are sometimes called frass. They look like pellets or sawdust. These may be found in piles around a hole the termites have created.
  • Mud (shelter) tubes. These are external tunnels termites make out of dirt. In other words, you can see these tunnels, roughly the width of a pen cartridge but sometimes wider, that are built around ceilings, floors, bases of stairs, and so on.
  • Cracked wood that is also hollow inside. Fissures can appear in wood for plenty of other reasons, but if the wood is also hollow on top of that, then this can be a sign that termites have hollowed it out from the inside.
  • Noise. Yep, if your home's termite infestation is bad enough, you might hear termites audibly tapping on the home's wood as a way to signal other members of the colony.
  • Wings. If you see lots of discarded insect wings or swarms of flying insects at home, these might be signs of reproductive termites in your home.
  • Smell. Sometimes, termite infestations result in a moldy or mildew smell.

Termite swarm
Termite swarm

Termite Damage

If you don't spot these termites soon enough at home, the amount of damage they can wreak on your home is significant. This damage includes:

  • The destruction of furniture and cabinets. For instance, termite mazes may be carved into them.
  • The sagging/buckling of floors. Floors may appear to be suffering from water damage, and may even look and feel spongy.
  • Swollen ceilings. Again, it might look like water damage at first, but it could actually be termite damage.
  • Windows or doors that no longer properly open and close. This could happen when termites tunnel through frames. This damage results in misshapen frames and, as a result, improperly functioning doors and windows that can stick or jam.
  • Cracks in everything from walls to beams to decks to ceilings.
  • Loose tiles and hardwood floor slats.
  • The bubbling of paint and the blistering of laminate floors.
  • Crumbling wood structures and support.

Preventing Termite Infestations

Since all of this can take a lot of money to repair and/or replace, it's important that termite infestations are prevented in the first place! What can you do to save yourself a giant headache? To prevent termite infestations, consider the following.

First, you can always consider hiring a professional. See if you can find a qualified expert near you to perform an annual inspection in order to catch the early warning signs of a future infestation before it's too late.

You can also try and minimize the access points termites might use to get into your home. For example, termites may enter through broken roof tiles. If you've got a roof that needs to be repaired, consider doing so quickly - to prevent leaks and a termite infestation.

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