How to Look for Termites

Identifying Termites from Justin Marler on Vimeo.

Termites are some of nature’s smallest and most industrious insects. However to homeowners they can cause significant damage to a house if left undetected. About the size of small ants, subterranean termites are small and elusive. However, unlike ants which openly forage, termites are always concealed in small mud structures or tubes, which makes finding them challenging. Termites use mud to create these little structures as protective highway systems. 

What to Look For

When looking for termites you will want to look for evidence of mud or mud tubes in areas that are considered conducive for termites. Since termites live in the ground and eat cellulose such as wood and paper, you should look for mud or termites and termite damage at the following areas around your house:

Wood Touching the Ground

Any areas where wood is close to the ground or in contact with the ground. This would include exterior decks and fences against the house, areas where siding is near the ground, areas where the exterior grade (soil) is close to the top of the foundation or footings, and areas where firewood, form boards, or lumber is against the house.

Wood Rot

Termites love wet or water-damaged wood. Areas where wood is wet or water-damaged can be very conducive. This could include areas wet from a plumbing leak, a roof leak, and exterior wood damaged by rain or even sprinkler systems.

Plumbing Areas

For homes built on concrete slabs, areas where plumbing pipes enter the structure from the ground can lead to termite infestations. The most common area for termites is under and around bath tubs. Typically there is an opening in the slab at the drain line under the tub that has exposed soil. It is recommended to open the drywall on an adjacent wall to inspect these areas.

Cracks in Concrete

Since termites are tiny, all termites need to access a structure is 1/32 of an inch gap. Cracks in concrete larger than this can provide protection to the house for termites.

If you inspect these conducive areas and see mud or mud tubes simply pop off a portion of the mud with a screwdriver. If little, light-colored, ant-like insects fall out, you have found termites. If you find mud but don’t see termites you probably found an abandoned mud tube from an old infestation. This may indicate that you have termite damage and a possible infestation in the area.