Every year, termites damage thousands of homes, causing accidents and requiring owners to make major repairs. But termites are very discreet, that is the problem. Too often, their presence is detected when it is too late… That is to say when damage occurs! Collapse of a frame, collapse of a ceiling or a frame… To avoid the worst, pay attention to the clues that reveal the presence of termites in the house.
But first, what does a termite look like?
This charming critter is cut like a small wooden soldier. Rather pale yellow or white, measuring 3 to 5 mm, it is armed with strong mandibles with which it digs the materials. Unfortunately for you, this xylophagous insect does not live alone; the colony can number thousands of individuals. If it attacks wood, it is to feed itself; this is where it mainly finds the cellulose it needs to live. A colony can thus nibble up to 5 grams of wood per day… Termites particularly like heat and humidity and hate light. They move discreetly, acting in depth. Once a year, sexual adults take flight and leave the colony to found a new one,… for example at your neighbours. Swarming is the primary mode of spread for termites. But the candidates for the creation of new colonies can also borrow underground networks to move away discreetly. Finally, termites also take advantage of the transport of rubble, wood, earth or other infected materials to colonize new spaces. Be careful ; don’t wait to find out what they are capable of in the long run…
How do you recognize the presence of termites?
Although they are very discreet, termites cannot hide all the signs of their presence and their activity… Certain clues are not misleading, which will allow you to react in time.
Change in appearance of infested materials:
The wood sounds hollow
As the ends eat away at the wood from the inside, leaving only a thin layer, this cannot be seen. But if you tap on an already eaten area, the sound is different. Hit the beams or frames, without forgetting the wooden furniture, and listen to the sound produced. It sounds hollow, a bit like paper.
The wood becomes porous
The termites only leave behind a thin layer of wood and its paint. Eaten from within, the wood loses all resistance. You just have to put the finger in it to realize that you stick in it like in butter. If while vacuuming, it passes through the baseboard, or if while leaning on a doorframe you stick your hand in it, your house is obviously home to a colony of termites. For a thorough inspection, use a pointed tool and poke into the wood to check its porosity. If it sinks, the termites are at work.
Doors and windows resist you
Once the wood is ingested, the termites leave droppings that keep the heat and moisture inside the area. The wood swells and deforms. When it comes to a door or a window, it becomes difficult to open and close.
Traces of termite activity:
The earth tunnels
Highly organized, the termites install cellulose supply paths, serving their current site. It is these tunnels, also called “termite cords”, that can be seen on the surface of the walls or the floor. They are rather brown or dark, of clayey material. Arranged on the outside, these protective tubes also shelter the termites from light and protect them from predators. Their diameter can vary, between 10 and 50 mm, according to their utility and the number of termites having to borrow it.
The underground tunnels
Some species of termites are underground. They do not make visible tunnels but dig them directly into the ground. These tunnels are located up to 20 centimeters deep and radiate through galleries more than 50 meters around. It is the workers who use them for the transport of cellulose. These tunnels are harder to spot.
Cracks and sawdust
For the needs of their supply, the termites dig galleries in the wood, made of holes and tunnels, and create cracks. If you find wood powder near cracks or brittle wood, this is a sign of termite activity. The sawdust they leave while digging ends up coming out of the holes.
The noise of the colony at work
Listen carefully and you will be able to discern a few noises that indicate the presence of termites. The workers, who eat and transport the wood cellulose, are rather noisy. Their nibbling can be heard, provided you stick your ear against the wall, forming a characteristic sound of regular rattling. As for the soldiers, they sound the alarm by banging their heads against the wood, which produces a particular sound. Speaking of noise, a study has shown that termite activity was twice as fast to the sound of rock music! To believe that they like to work in rhythm…
Physical clues of termite life:
The “mud” formed by excrement
After having digested the wood, the termites commit excrement in the form of small granules, which is called “mud”. You can spot them with the naked eye, visible near wooden structures, both inside and outside your home. termite wings
When they swarm, the sexual adults fly away to found a new colony. During this flight, males and females seek to mate. As soon as the new royal couple is formed, each loses its wings, before crawling to a place where they can settle down. If you find these wings abandoned on the ground, be sure that a swarm of termites has taken place in the vicinity… And if you witness an invasion of flying insects, there is a chance that it is a swarm of termites . Not to confuse them with ants, know that termites are light in color, white, sometimes translucent. When we talk about “white ants”, we are actually talking about termites!
In a house, what are the sensitive points to inspect?
Termites are looking for humidity, heat and something to eat. Anything made of wood can interest them, especially if it’s invisible. It is therefore necessary to check in your house the wooden constructions located in the basement, as well as the crawl space. Also check sills, support posts and pillars, parquet and subfloors, joists, beams, wooden door and window frames (especially in the basement) and wood storage. Pay attention to places where concrete and wood communicate, such as stairs. Explore hollow spaces and cracks in cement or brick, and expansion joints. Outside the house, check for woodpiles, stumps, basement window frames, fence posts, etc. In the case of a wood frame house, carefully inspect the foundations and surfaces near the ground. Keep in mind that termites dig into wood (but also fabric) from the inside, working almost invisibly. Of course, you can always hire a professional for a thorough examination of your home.
Should I call a professional?
If you have spotted signs of the presence of one or more colonies of termites, it is better to call on a specialized company to confirm the diagnosis and see how to get rid of them. To do this, call on a certified real estate diagnosis professional, who will carry out a valid diagnosis for six months.
If this kind of diagnosis is mandatory when selling real estate in some regions, know that it is not in the context of a rental. According to the rules issued locally by the prefecture, which face a more or less significant proliferation of termites depending on the region, this obligation may concern a building or bare land, in certain delimited areas.