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Think You Have Termites? Learn How To Inspect Your House

A group of termites on rotten wood.

If you have suspicions that your home may have termites, you may be wondering if it is possible to do a thorough inspection yourself.

You can take a few simple steps to check and see if your home indeed has termites.

Knowing for sure one way or another is a lot better than worrying that a serious problem might exist.

How do you inspect a house for termites? Using a flashlight, inspect all wood, especially crawl spaces, foundations, basements, and any wood that contacts the ground. Look for damage, wing piles, mud tubes, and droppings. On suspicious areas use a screwdriver to probe for weakness and to tap to detect hollowness.

You are right in being concerned about termites. They are incredibly destructive and can easily go unnoticed.

In the following, you’ll learn what to look for during a DIY inspection and what to do if signs of termites are noted.

Termites can lead to structural damage and costly repairs if  undetected and untreated. Visit our termite page for more tips on identification, prevention, and elimination.

How Do You Inspect A House for Termites?

There are multiple steps you need to take to inspect your house for termites.

Each step is vital and will help to ensure there are no more termites in your home when you are done.

Know Where to Look

Every piece of wood that is accessible should be thoroughly inspected. Areas to target include:

  • Crawl spaces.
  • Window frames and sills.
  • Basements.
  • Door frames.
  • Attics.
  • Foundation, foundational supports, and sub flooring.
  • Porches, decks, and steps, especially where wood meets concrete.
  • Expansion joints.
  • Interior baseboards, under sinks, inside cabinets, etc.

Also familiarize yourself with the kind of termites you may run across.

Species of Termite Description
Subterranean Termites They live in underground colonies and are found in every state but Alaska. They create mud tubes to catch food and shelter them from the elements.
Formosan Termites The Formosan termites are the most ferocious species of termites and the most difficult to control. They create mud nests in the walls as well as in the ground. They’re found in warmer climates in the U.S.
Dampwood Termites These termites infest damp, moist wood. They do not typically infest wood structures and are less likely to be found in your home. Mulch around your home can be a breeding ground and can cause more severe issues.
Drywood Termites They infest dry wood and tend to create nests in roof materials and ceilings. The dry wood termites are typically easily found.
Conehead Termites Conehead termites are a heavily aggressive species and can travel quickly over the ground instead of under the ground. They tend to cause damage quite quickly.

Look for Termites

When looking for termites, there are a couple of signs you can look for to determine if termites have infested your home.

These signs can be obvious or subtle, but each one is important to look for.

It is critical to inspect your house at least once a year for termites, looking for the following things:

  • Mud Tubes: Look on the outside of your house for mud tubes. Mud tubes are made of dirt and wood shavings and are located on the ground to help termites get to their food source without being exposed to the elements. 
  • Soft Wood:  When looking for termites, look for wood that sounds hollow when you knock on it. When pried open, you should see tunnel structures the termites have used to ruin the wood.
  • Blistering of Wood: Inspect wood joints and look for splintering and blistering on the wood. Termites will burrow into the wood and cause pieces of wood to break off. Also, the burrowing may create pieces that look like water damage in the form of blistering.
  • Uneven or Bubbled Paint: Uneven or bubbled paint can be a sign of termite damage. The bubbling can be a sign of damaged or destroyed wood underneath that creates air pockets.
  • Piles of Wings: Check the windowsills of your house for wings or termite droppings. Termites shed their wings when they burrow, and it can be a sign that they are getting into your home.

Note that winged ants are often mistaken for winged termites but are no cause for concern. Learn to distinguish termites from ants here.

Prepare House

If you notice any signs of termite damage, the next thing you need to do is move any furniture or items away from where the damage is located.

This will help make sure that the termites do not damage any items inside your house.

After locating and moving these items, you may want to clean them to get rid of any possible nests.

Also, fix any damaged items or throw them away to ensure you are not creating an environment for more termite infestation.

Call an Exterminator

After conducting a thorough inspection of your house, the final step is to contact an exterminator or get rid of the termites yourself.

If you opt for a DIY treatment, we show you exactly what to do in our article “How To Get Rid of Termites.”

You’ll discover that while there are pesticide solutions, such as foams, granules, and stakes, you have natural options, such as orange oil and nematodes, as well.

The exterminator will determine if you have any underlying structural issues and anything that needs to be repaired.

Exterminators will also help protect your house against any other termite infestations by spraying a chemical barrier that wards off termites.

They can also help you learn of anything that may cause termites to become interested in your home.

An exterminator is the last and final step in inspecting because they are trained to spot warning signs that may show termite damage.

How Do You Know If a House Has Termites?

When inspecting your house, you more than likely have termites if you come across one of the issues described above.

Did you know that some termite bait stations will alert you to termite activity in the ground before issues arise? We show you the best stations to use here.

The most common form of subterranean termites can be found all over the United States and are known for creating mud tubes. 

If you happen to see any of the indicators listed above, there is a good possibility that your house may have termites and perhaps structural damage already.

What if you only spot one termite? Does that mean your home is infested? Find the answer here.

What Attracts Termites to a Home?

Multiple things can attract termites to your home. Each one causes termites to migrate and severe problems for your home and property may result.

  • Logs: If you have logs stacked outside your home, the termites can attack those and then move to your house. Keep the wood at least 20 feet away from your home and off the ground to keep the termites out of your home.
  • Dead trees/foliage: If you have trees in your backyard, keep clearing away dead trees and vegetation because they can attract termites to your yard.
  • Mulch: Wood chips and mulch retain moisture and become a feeding ground for termites and an easy way for them to access your home.
  • Clogged Gutters: Gutters that are not cleaned out regularly can cause moisture to build on your roof and generate a comfortable place for termites to enter your home.
  • Tree Limbs and Leaves: If tree limbs are touching your house, it can become a bridge for termites to gain access to your home. Trimming tree branches can save you financially and allow you not to use costly pesticide measures.

Can You Live in a House with Termites?

Ultimately you can live in your house if it is infested with termites.

They are not poisonous to humans and termites rarely bite, but the proteins and dust they produce can cause people with allergies and asthma to be affected. 

When considering living with a termite infestation, it is essential to note that termites can cause structural damage to your home.

This can cause severe financial issues and inevitably force you to remove the termite infestation.

The decision is yours, but if you pay attention to the problems you notice and take immediate steps to eradicate the infestation, you’ll save time and money in the long run.

Wrapping Up

Now that you have learned the best ways to inspect for a termite infestation, you can comfortably decide how to handle your home’s termite problems.

You may be saving yourself from some severe structural damage and costly repairs by routinely checking for signs of infestation.