Termites are perfectly fine when they help recycle dead tree stumps and branches in the forest. In fact, they are better than fine. Their eating habits help clear out dead trees so that new ones can grow in their place, and their waste fertilizes the soil. The problem occurs when termites mistake your patio, attic, or the wood support beams in your home for dead tree stumps. How do termites cause so much damage, and why it is so hard to spot a colony that can have tens of thousands of members crawling around inside your home?
Big Colonies, Big Damage
A single termite looks so small and innocent, but there really is power in numbers. Even a small subterranean termite colony can include thousands of termites. Each of those termites needs to eat constantly. Think about 10,000 termites gnawing away at your deck 24/7 for months or even years! It’s no wonder that some reports have put the yearly cost of termite damage at over $5 billion!
What’s so frustrating is that most homeowners have absolutely no idea that they are playing host to a huge colony of unwanted visitors.
Why Termites Are So Hard to Find
Termites are masters of hiding, and they have a habit of eating the wood in your home from the inside out. That means that even exposed wood that you can see every day may look completely fine on the outside but be slowly hollowed out on the inside.
When we look at the way that termites get into a house and eat wood, we have to first distinguish between the two main types of termites: subterranean and drywood termites. Both species are common in San Diego but have very different personalities.
Subterranean termites need moisture, which is why they will almost always sneak into your home from the ground. Some of the ways they typically get into the house are mulch that is placed next to a foundation, a wooden patio, a wooden deck, a crawl space, or even a pile of chopped wood next to a house. It’s stunning how good subterranean termites are at getting into a house. They can squeeze through tiny cracks in your foundation, holes in concrete, or even the gaps around plumbing. They are extremely hard to spot, because they create and then travel through small mud tubes, which protects them from the environment. If you didn’t know what you were looking for, you could never notice these mud tubes in the corner of your garage or right in the crack where your patio meets the foundation of your home.
Drywood termites are even sneakier than subterranean termites. They don’t need as much moisture as their cousins, so they don’t require contact with the ground. That means they can get into your house from any floor. These guys usually invade by “swarming.” That happens when a reproductive pair grow wings and fly away from their colony in search of a new place to put down roots. They may end up floating through an open window or making it to your roof or doorway where they can skitter inside. When they find a tasty sources of wood, drywood termites burrow inside and set up shop. You may never see them, because they live inside your wood. They could even be behind your insulation eating themselves silly on the buffet of you house.
The Invisible Damage
Because both drywood and subterranean termites eat wood from the inside out, you may never notice them until the damage to your home is extensive. As a homeowner, it really is a smart idea to get regular termite inspections. An inspector knows where to look for termites and what to look for. He or she will be able to recognize the mud tubes of subterranean termites and the “frass” that drywood termites kick out of their tunnels. If you do find that you have a termite infestation, your termite inspector can recommend a treatment plan for your home. (Treatment differs depending on whether your houseguests are subterranean termites or drywood termites.)
Once the termites are gone, it’s time to do a damage assessment. Even if you wood looks fine on the outside, that doesn’t mean that it is! If support structures in your home have been hollowed out, they may represent a danger that you need to correct. If you live in the San Diego area, contact Best-Rate Repair. We can take a look at your home’s termite damage and either repair or replace the damage. We can also recommend the termite inspection and extermination services of our sister company, Best-Rate Termite. Contact us today to schedule a termite inspection or a termite damage repair consultation.