You probably already know that termites like wood. And you probably know that a termite infestation can cost big bucks to remedy. But how much more do you really know about these common pests that can wreak havoc on your home's foundation?
Whether you live in an old log cabin or a brand-new stucco house, termites can still find their way into your home. And you might not know they're there until it's too late.
“Termites are referred to as the hidden enemy,” says Mike Duncan, an associate certified entomologist and eastern region trainer for pest control company Truly Nolen. “Many times, the amount of damage that’s discovered can reach $7,900 or more before even the trained professional can see them.”
What's worse, you might be unwittingly attracting these hungry insects into your home. Here's how.
1. All kinds of wood
It's a myth that termites like only rotting wood such as dead trees and old stumps. They'll happily devour any wood that comes into contact with the ground—damp firewood and even pressure-treated wood that's supposed to have a chemical barrier to resist insects.
2. The smallest bit of moisture
Even small amounts of moisture—from poor drainage, leaks, condensation, or poor ventilation—along with wood make a delicious combo meal for termites.
“Because they consume the cellulose in wood for nutrition, they require high moisture so that they don’t dry out,” Wright explains.
Soggy soil near your foundation is basically a "vacancy" sign for termites.
3. Foam board insulation
Think you're safe in a stucco house? Think again. It's not just wood termites are attracted to; they also love the protection offered by foam board insulation and exterior wall solutions such as Dryvit (a synthetic version of cement siding), Wright says.
True, they won’t eat these materials, "but they will chew through and travel in these sheltered areas until they stumble upon wood," Wright explains.
4. Cracks in your foundation
“Termites constantly forage underground for food resources,” explains Mike Deutsch, an urban entomologist for Arrow Exterminating Co. in New York. “They feed on buried wooden timbers, dead buried trees, paper products, and similar organic matter in the soil that contains cellulose.”
As they forage, they can eat their way toward your foundation.
“Should they find cracks or gaps, termites may investigate and enter,” Deutsch says. “They may eventually intercept wooden members of the structure and begin to feed, causing damage.”
5. Construction debris
Congrats on that garage addition! Now, don’t forget to sweep up the sawdust.
“Foundation forms and other wooden debris is often buried on-site after construction, but this material is food for termites,” Deutsch says.
And once it’s all gobbled up, a new food source is required—like your home.
“Any point where wood meets the soil around the house is subject to termite activity,” Deutsch says.
This could be your deck or front porch, or even your garage door frame, which typically is installed below ground level and affords easy access for termites.
It's time to rethink those bark chips in your flower beds.
“Even mulch acts as a food source, so it's recommended that it remain at least 15 to 20 inches away from your foundation,” says Steve Durham, certified entomologist and president of EnviroCon Termite & Pest in Houston.
7. Darkness and warmth
These make a primo environment for termites, since “both protect them from predators and the elements,” Durham says.
In particular, crawl spaces are naturally dark and warm, which make them vulnerable to termites. Make them a little less habitable by removing any moisture and termite food sources from the area.
“Moisture barriers, dehumidifiers, and proper ventilation are all great options,” Durham says.
8. Wet weather
All right, this one you can't control. But it's still something you should be aware of. Just ask Erin Richardson, president of All-American Pest Control in Nashville, TN, who's seen an uptick in termite swarms this year.
“The heavy rain we experienced this winter set the stage for termite swarms to emerge more than ever,” Richardson says. “Swarms aren’t dangerous or harmful, but they indicate that there is an active termite colony nearby in a hidden location.”
Be on the lookout for swarms, as well as mud tubes, soft or hollow-sounding wood, and visible piles of wings. (Yuck.)
“These are signs that you have a termite problem,” Richardson says.
And if you do suspect you have an issue on your property, don't stock up on products and attempt to DIY the solution. You need professional assistance.
"Letting a problem go will just lead to bigger problems," Richardson says.
Original article posted on realtor.com