Termites Eating Your Home? 11 Ways to Tell

Amber Guetebier
Written by Amber Guetebier
Updated October 20, 2021
House with grey clapboard wood siding
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Look for signs of termites before they cause too much damage to your home

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When you watch enough home improvement shows, you learn to live in fear of the dreaded termite. But the ‘T’ word doesn’t always have to be a sign of major disaster. By watching for the warning signs of termite infestation, you can catch them before they do too much damage. 

From mud tubes to blistering walls, termite evidence can be elusive, but this guide will help you know what to look for. 

What Are the Signs of a Termite Infestation?

Whether you’re just doing a walk-through or you notice a swarm of flying insects on your property, it’s best to get a handle on termites as soon as possible. If you think you might have a termite infestation, check for one of these top 11 warning signs you could have termites. 

1. Mud Tubes

Mud tubes or shelter tubes can be spotted climbing up the side of your foundation. These are typically a sign of termite infestation. These pencil-width tubes act as bridges or tunnels between a subterranean termite colony and the wood in your home. 

2. Discolored, Drooping Drywall, and Peeling Paint

The mud tubes behind the walls can lead to drooping and discolored drywall, which at first glance may appear to be water damage. Upon closer inspection, it could be the mud tubes behind the walls causing the appearance. Termite infestation can also cause your paint to peel or have a blistered appearance.

Because termites are attracted to moisture, be sure to pay special attention to any walls where there are pipes. 

3. Buckling Floorboards

Similarly, termite damage can appear as water damage to wooden or laminate floors, resulting in swelling or buckling. Excessively squeaky floorboards can also be a sign, indicating the wood has been damaged and has shifted position. 

4. Loose Floor Tiles

Not only are termites attracted to moisture, but they also bring it along with them. The moisture can cause floor tiles to loosen and even shift in place.

5. Flying Swarms

Many homeowners with termites might identify them at first as a swarm of flying ants, as they could appear to have black bodies and wings. One distinctive characteristic of swarming termites is that they have wings longer than their own body. If you do spot a swarm of flying insects, this could be a sign of infestation, but without identifying the insect, it can be difficult to tell. 

6. Wings

Because termites chew off their wings and drop them before digging into the wood of your home, you may spot piles of wings. These can appear around baseboards and window sills and can be a definite warning sign you have termites. 

7. Termite Pellets

After termites eat wood, they excrete it. The termite pellets take on the appearance of tiny grounds or dust piles, that are often described as coffee grounds or little piles of salt and pepper. The piles could be found on the floors, along the baseboards, or even falling right out of your wall (yuck!). 

8. Maze-Like Patterns

If you spot maze-like patterns in any wooden furniture, floors, or walls, it is likely you have a termite infestation. 

9. Crumbling Wood

Rotting, crumbling wood is a sign that the termites have been eating your wood and introducing moisture into the wood itself. 

10. Tiny Holes in Your Wall

Tiny, pinpoint-sized holes (one-eighth of an inch or smaller) in your wall could be the exit holes that termites leave, specifically dry-wood termites. Subterranean termites use the mud tubes to exit. 

11. Wood That Sounds Hollow

If you suspect termite damage, knock on wood. Because of the tunnels, they leave behind after eating the wood, the termites can cause the wood to sound hollow. If you suspect termites, try knocking on wooden structures in your home to see if it sounds hollow. 

What Kind of Termites Do You Have?

Inspector looks for termites in house crawlspace
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There are actually three types of termites: drywood termites, subterranean termites, and dampwood termites. Both types of termites can cause damage to your home. 

Subterranean Termites

  • Live in underground colonies in damp soil

  • Use mud tubes (tunnels) to get from colonies to a food source (wood)

  • Cause damage that looks like water damage

  • Cause swollen floors, ceilings, and walls 

  • Leave visible mazes in walls or furniture

  • Smell like mold or mildew

  • Are the most common in the United States

Drywood Termites

  • Build colonies inside the wood they feed on

  • Are found inside walls or furniture

  • Cause cracks in the veneer 

  • Leave behind maze-like tunnels

  • Are often found in antique furniture

  • Are less common than subterranean termites 

Dampwood Termites

  • Are larger than drywood or subterranean termites

  • Are attracted to damp wood, such as wood damaged from a flood or leaking pipe

  • Can indicate water damage as well as termite infestation

  • Leave sawdust-like piles of feces 

  • Are less common than subterranean termites 

What Should You Do if You Have Termites?

Termite infestation doesn’t mean you need to panic: the damage may be isolated, but you won't know until you get a termite inspection. If you see any of the warning signs of termites infestation, contact a local pest control professional to evaluate the damage and come up with a termite infestation treatment plan. 

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