How to Identify Termite Damage

If your woodwork is warping, buckling, or bending, you might have termites in your house.
Written by Patrick Price
Reviewed by Melanie Reiff
Termites can be a devastating and expensive nuisance to deal with. It is important to recognize their signs as soon as possible to minimize the damage. Keeping an eye out for sagging wood, mud tunnels, and piles of discarded wings can end up saving you a lot of money.
Unfortunately, most
homeowners insurance
does not cover termite damage. You will probably end up having to pay for any repairs yourself. All the more reason to keep a sharp eye out for any clues that your home might have a termite infestation. 
Identifying termite damage can be a bit tricky since it often looks very similar to water damage or wood rot. Luckily,  insurance
and super-app
has some points on how to recognize these tiny invaders.
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What does termite damage look like?

The first step in combating a termite infestation is to positively identify whether or not you actually have one. So, you’ll need to know what to look for, and different types of termites can cause different damage.

Types of termites

There are many types of termites, but only two which you are likely to see in your home: Subterranean and drywood termites. Subterranean termites are far more common than drywood termites, and they also damage wood more rapidly.
Subterranean termites spend their entire lives underground or inside of their nests, so you are not likely to actually see them. The best way to spot termites is by the damage they do to the wood in your house.

Common signs of termite damage

Here are some signs of termite damage you’re likely to see:
  • Warping or bending in the wood
  • Sagging or buckling in the wood
  • Raised bumps or tunnels in the wood

How to tell termite damage apart from other types of damage

The longer a termite infestation goes unaddressed, the further it will spread and the more severe the damage will be. Unfortunately, the signs of termite damage look very similar to water damage and wood rot, so termite damage is often mistaken for these other types of destruction.
If you see any warping, bending, or sagging in your woodwork, investigate. It could turn out to be termite! There are a few signs you can watch out for to tell if you have termites, water damage, or wood rot.

Termite damage vs water damage

  • If the wood is wet or moldy it is probably water damage
  • If there are maze-like structures or tunnels visible in the wood, then is probably a termite infestation
  •  If the wood sounds hollow when tapped, it is probably termites

Termite damage vs wood rot

  • Signs of excessive moisture probably means it is wood rot and not termites
  • Again, if you see tunnels, it is likely termites
  • If it crumbles or breaks off into clean chunks, it’s probably wet or dry rot

Other clues you might have termites

Aside from visual damage, there are some other ways you might spot a termite infestation. 

Mud tunnels

The snaking network of mud tunnels is one of the most obvious signs of termites. Subterranean termites cannot survive well in the open air because their bodies cannot retain moisture. 
As their colony grows, they build tunnels made of mud, wood particles, feces, and their own saliva. These tunnels are how they move around when they are not eating your woodwork. It will look like a series of brown veins growing over your house.

Discarded wings

If you see piles of discarded insect wings, it is pretty safe to assume you have termites. Periodically, termites will take to the air as part of their mating ritual. This is one of the few times you might actually see termites since they will be gathered in a swarm. After mating, termites will shed their wings and return to the colony.
Termites only emerge from their colony to reproduce if the colony is well-established and at least two years old. If you see a swarm or their discarded wings it means there is a large colony of termites in your home. It also means that the damage is already very extensive.

What to do if you find termites

Termite damage is expensive to repair, and termite colonies are difficult to fully eradicate. Do not risk trying to handle the situation on your own. If you try to remove the infestation but miss some of it, it will grow back quickly. If you replace the damaged wood while termites are still present, you’re just giving them more free food.
If you believe your home has termites, contact a professional exterminator as soon as possible!

Does home insurance cover termite damage?

Unfortunately, no. There are almost no types of renters insurance or homeowners insurance that cover termite damage as termites are considered a preventable issue. Generally, residents are considered responsible for preventing extensive termite damage.
You can reduce the risk of termite infestation by eliminating/reducing the amount of bare wood which has contact with the ground, especially outside. Place wooden structures like stairs onto cinderblock. Keep your yard free of sticks, twigs, and dead wood.
You can also reduce the chances of extensive termite damage by keeping a sharp eye out for any signs of termite. If you see anything that looks like termites, act quickly!

Finding cheap home insurance

Termites are just one of many types of expensive damage you might have to deal with as a homeowner. It is important to protect your home with the right insurance coverage. 
While shopping for homeowner’s insurance, make sure to compare rates from at least three different insurance companies. Prices will vary significantly with different providers.
Another way to save on your monthly payments is to bundle your home and auto insurance policies. Car insurance comparison company and licensed broker
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Wood that has been damaged by termites will often be discolored and darkened. The structure of the wood will also begin to break down causing the wood to sag and blister. You’ll see the wood start to warp. There will also likely be raised bumps where the termites have burrowed tunnels through the wood.
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