Even if you have a brick or stucco home, you could have a termite problem and not know it until they've caused thousands of dollars in damage. Let's look at the differrent types of termites you can find, the signs to look for with termites, and the six things experts say are drawing them to your home.
There are three types of termites
Dampwood termites commonly live in heavily forested areas of the country as they prefer wet wood. Drywood termites (rarer in the United States but can come in on shipments) prefer extremely dry wood.
Subterranean termites require moist environments (like basements and crawl spaces), live mainly in the soil, and are the most destructive species. These are the most common type of termite in Virginia.
The U.S. Forrest Service produces a Termite Infestation Probability Map each year and places Virginia in the moderate to heavy category. The further north you go, as termites do not like the cold, the lower the probability.
Sign you have termites
• After termites enter a new home, they shed their wings. You might notice these shed wings among dust near windowsills, heating vents, doors, in sinks, bathtubs, and spider webs. All of the wings are the same size.
• Termites build muddy, flattened tubes approximately the width of a drinking straw. These provide protection from predators and temperature extremes and help maintain a moist environment.
• These pests eat wood from the inside out. You can tap any wood with a screwdriver to listen for a hollow sound.
• Swarming termites are attracted to light. You can place a light in a crawlspace or basement and wait to see if the termites appear.
Note: termites like cool, damp places. You are far more likely to find termites below your house than in an attic.
How Termites Can Enter Your Home
New Hardwood Flooring
Virginians love their hardwood floors. Termites are not attracted only to existing wood floors but can easily be introduced in already infested new wood flooring. Before having a new floor installed, inspect it to make sure there are no signs of termites, like live bugs or dirt tubes.
The same situation of pre-infested wood applies to your kitchen or bath renovation. Drywood termites can live in wooden cabinetry and cause a full-blown infestation if they reproduce after installation.
Many traditional designers may complain, "brown" furniture, or most antique furniture, is not as popular as it once was, but some are seeing a swing back. When purchasing an antique, it isn't just bedbugs about which you need to worry. Furniture is one of the primary ways termites enter a home. Carefully inspect any furniture you are bringing into your home for sawdust piles and mud tubes, and use that screwdriver to tap on what you know to be solid wood. If you hear a hollow sign, have the piece treated or send it back.
If you are a fan of wood fires in your fireplace, you need to check each piece for signs of termites before bringing any into your home. It is also better to tote in only what you intend to burn right away and not store it on the hearth.
Mulch and moisture are a paradise for termites. The combination also aids in dry rot. Be sure to keep all wood mulch (including bark mulch) at least 3 inches away from your foundation, and keep this area as dry as possible. If you need the effect mulch gives, consider pine straw. It allows air to reach the soil and dry it out, and termites don't eat it.
A Leaky Outdoor Spigot
In addition to higher water bills and foundation issues, a leaky spigot creates the perfect environment for termites and other "critters." Termites require water to survive, so they will seek out damp places. Attend to any leaks immediately to prevent an infestation issue.
How often should you get your home inspected?
Ideally, all homes should be professionally inspected for termites once a year. Older homes are usually at greater risk, making it essential to stay vigilant about inspecting your home yourself on a regular basis as well. According to Loyal Pest, on average, property owners in Virginia pay upwards of $3,000 to repair damages caused by these termites.
Most home insurance providers, including Mutual Assurance Society, do not cover termite damage. So get your flashlight out and look around your home for signs of these unwanted intruders.
Sources: Best Life, Loyal Pest, U.S. Forest Service