In New England, the termites that invade our homes are subterranean termites, the most destructive type of termites found in the United States. When these termites find their way inside the wood of our homes, they tunnel into the wood and cause extensive damage inside that wood. And because these damages are located inside the wood of our homes and out of sight, it is impossible to see a lot of the damages they cause. However, understanding where unseen termite damage can occur in your New England home could give you some valuable insight into where you should look for termites and what outside damage may be visible.
Since subterranean termites live under the ground, hence their name, their damage often begins in areas that are near the ground. This may be the wood of a deck or patio. It may be the sill of a home, just above the foundation wall. It may be exterior stairs. If these termites can directly access wood, they can chew their way right into your home. If they can't reach the wood, they may have to create shelter tubes to gain access to the wood of your home. These shelter tubes are made of moist, compacted soil taken from the ground around your home and are about the width of a pencil.
Subterranean termites can live as far as 50 feet under the ground. This can lead them to tunnel underneath your home and then come up right under the foundation of your basement. If they do, it is possible for them to come up through cracks in the cement. This can lead to damaged support beams in your basement. To see if this is the case in your home, do an inspection of any exposed beams and look for shelter tubes. In addition, if termites are in your support beams, you should be able to tap on those timbers and hear a hollow sound.
When subterranean termites get in, they won't just feed on any wood they find. They have a preference for wood that has been softened and therefore will target areas of soft wood first. Their preference for soft wood is actually so strong that they tend to feed along the soft grain of wood rather than across the grain. This creates tunnels that look stacked. This tunneling method also makes wooden beams more resistant to snapping and allows termites to devour a home a lot longer than they would have if they completely hollowed out every board or stud they came across. Their love of softened wood will have them targeting specific areas within your home. When they invade, they'll search for areas of high moisture and water-damaged wood. Common location termites invade are window and door voids. This is because those areas often have high moisture levels and issues with dampness. Termites will feed on the softened 2x4s in these spaces before the hardwood of the window or door frame itself. If you have termites in your door or window voids, you may notice the paint or wallpaper in these areas starts to bubble around the frames.
Another location you start to see this bubbling paint or wallpaper is on the sheetrocked walls in your home. While termites don't eat the material inside sheetrock, they will feed on the paper coating of the drywall and search inside for more cellulose to consume. When they do, they can tunnel right up to the paint and stop right before breaking through, causing that bubbling. If they accidentally chew through, they will fill the hole with mud to keep the light and dry air out of their tunnels. These holes are usually quite small. And if the termites damage the drywall, the cracks may appear filled with soil to seal them shut. However, this is not a very common occurrence.
Termites feed on many items that contain cellulose, not just wood. Sometimes, they can go from a wall into a mound of clothes, a stack of cardboard boxes, a pile of books, and other items. If you find tiny pale insects crawling around in your belongings, check to see if they're termites.
There is a lot of wood in your home that is appetizing to subterranean termites but some homes have wood that is naturally resistant to termites such as cedar, cypress, pressure-treated lumber, and more. But it is important to understand that, in all cases, wood can become more appetizing to termites as it ages or when it is compromised by water damage.
Water damage is a common issue in New England as the several feet of snow that often accumulates throughout the winter can leave our homes soaked to the bone when spring arrives. This makes subterranean termites a serious problem in our area. Fortunately, termite damage can be prevented with bait systems or liquid termiticide treatments from a pest control professional. No New England home should be without termite control! If you need assistance with either of these and you're located in our Massachusetts or Connecticut service area, reach out to us at American Pest Solutions today. We'll make sure you have the protection you need!