Are you at risk?

Risk Areas: Termite Detection


Subterranean termites need food, water, and shelter, similar to most insects.

These termites are constantly looking for food sources. In nature, they feed on downed trees, old tree roots, and any other cellulose food source. When termites bump into our houses, they will seek areas that provide the food, water, and shelter that they need. To detect termites and safeguard your home, consider the following risk areas.

1. Exterior
termite damage on a home
On the exterior, overflowing gutters and downspouts can cause excessive water near the foundation. While termites do not sense water from a distance, when worker termites find water, they will put down a scent or pheromone directing other termites to the area. It is always best to keep gutters clear and to direct water away from the downspout by using extensions or drywells. Any time that excessive moisture can be reduced, it helps reduce the chances of termite infestation.

2. Utility Pipes
Utility pipes which go through a foundation wall or floor can provide access to the house. Termites like to follow the lines and if the foundation is not sealed where gas, water, or electric lines pass through the foundation, termites can enter the house and use the house’s wood as a food source. Bath traps in slab houses are a common area for termite infestation due to leaking water or condensation. Air conditioning condensate lines or drip lines at the foundation can cause pooling of water, making it an area ideal for termites.

3. Wood chips
termites crawling on wood
Wood chips and mulch can be a food source for termites. While most people are not willing to part with the mulch, it is best not to pile the mulch against the foundation or siding, where termites might find a foundation crack or a path into the wood siding to enter the house. In fact, any wood in contact with the soil including scrap wood in crawlspaces can be infested by termites. Any wood in the house should be several inches above the closest ground contact, creating a gap so that the termites cannot go directly from the soil into the house’s wood. While termites can build shelter tubes to gain access, these are readily visible so that the inspector can see the activity.

4. Dirt
Many houses have front stoops which are dirt filled porches. Termites in the dirt have easy access to the band joist wood in a crawlspace. In fact, in crawlspace homes, termites are found behind a dirt filled porch frequently.

5. Crawlspaces
damage on bay window
Inside crawlspaces, if there is inadequate clearance, the crawlspace cannot be inspected and early detection of termites is unlikely. In addition, dripping plumbing from condensation of cold water lines can be a water source.

6. Foam plastic insulation panels
In order to save energy, builders sometimes install foam plastic insulation panels on the exterior of homes, inside a crawlspace, or under a garage slab. Termites will readily infest foam board, not for food but because it insulates them from temperature changes and predators.

Homeowners should periodically inspect their homes for signs of excessive water and wood or cellulose based materials and take steps to eliminate these potential conditions conducive to subterranean termites.