Termites feed primarily on dead wood and wood by-products. Once termites have started eating on your house they will continue to consume it as fast as they can. Although it can take months or even years before the damage from termites is visible, a healthy termite colony can consume a foot of two-by-four in just a few months.
Since they tunnel into the wood this damage is usually spread out. They will eat anything made from wood including furniture, books and new wood. The most important thing when you discover that you have termites is to take the proper steps for fixing termite damage and preventing any future infestation.
Symptoms of Termite Infestation
The first thing you need to do is determine whether or not you actually have a termite problem. Look for the presence of winged termites. Swarms of winged termites are a sure sign of a colony nearby. Mud tubes or mud coming out from cracks between boards and beams are another sign of termites.
Termites construct mud tubes or tunnels from water and dirt. These passageways guard against the drying affects of air and from natural predators. These tubes range from one quarter inch to one inch wide. To determine if the colony is active examine the mud tubes. Scrape or break them off. Then check for signs that they have been repaired or rebuilt.
The damage to wood is not easily seen because the termites generally do not feed on the surface. They eat tunnels through the softer inside of wood beams and studs. Their tunnels are often packed with soil and excrement. It is useful when checking for termites to cut into a suspected area with a knife and look for hollow tunnels.
By tapping on wood you can listen for and may be able to identify hollow areas. Termites do not reduce wood to powder or produce wood particles as often is thought. Other wood boring insects do and signs like these may indicate an infestation of some other kind.
The next thing that you must do is stop the termite infestation. It would be pointless to begin repairs on the damaged areas in your home without proper extermination of the termite population. Hire a professional.
You need to get your entire home inspected, not just the areas the damage is visible. Try to determine where the termites entered your home and seal off any openings that would allow them to return.
Repair the Damage
Wood that is part of the structure of your home is the most difficult, yet the most important to replace or repair properly. If the structural integrity of your home is compromised, you should probably consult a professional contractor.
If the damage is in non-structural wood you may not even need to replace it. You may be able to simply install new wood next to the damaged wood. This is often an acceptable method that meets building code requirements.
For minor repairs you may be able to use wood filler to repair the area. Remove the damaged area with a chisel and insert screws into it to support the space that you removed. Fill the space with wood filler. Allow it to dry completely. Sand the area into the original shape of the wood. Make sure that you seal off the opening with a sealer or hardener that penetrates into the wood instead of remaining only on the surface. Paint the area to match the rest of the wood.
If the area damaged is too large for wood filler, use a saw to cut off the wood that needs to be replaced. Cut a new piece of wood that fits into the space of the old wood. Screw or nail the new wood into place. Use additional pieces of wood as a brace.
Regular inspection for mud tubes is a must for the early identification and prevention of a termite infestation.
Termites must have access to water, food and shelter. By preventing the availability of these three necessities you will help deter their presence. Divert water away from your foundation. Use proper down spouts and gutters. Wood that is directly in contact with soil will give termite’s unobstructed and easy access to food.
Try to eliminate any contact of the wooden structure of your house with the soil. Maintain a distance between soil and wooden porches, steps, lattice or other wooden parts. Do not stack firewood directly against any wooden part of your house. Remove old tree stumps and never bury wood or lumber in your yard. Avoid using very much mulch directly against the foundation.