What are the Signs of Termite Damage?

Jessica Ellis
Jessica Ellis

Termites are tough insects with a voracious appetite for wood. Unfortunately, this can lead to severe home and property damage as the hungry critters feast their way through structural materials. Careful home inspection can give clues as to whether termites exist in a home or building. Looking for signs of termite damage can allow homeowners to take action quickly to eliminate insects before severe damage is done.

Termite damage causes wood to look solid, but feel hollow.
Termite damage causes wood to look solid, but feel hollow.

Termites have a habit of excavating wood from the inside, leaving wood that looks solid but is actually hollow under the surface. One of the most obvious signs of termite damage is hollowed out wood. To test, tap exposed wood with a hammer and listen for a hollow sound. Wood that has been attacked by termites may even break when tapped firmly, exposing the hollowed out interior layers.

Termites commonly build mud tubes along chimneys.
Termites commonly build mud tubes along chimneys.

Sometimes, termite damage can be observable through change of color or appearance. Termite-infested wood may look darker and take on the appearance of a stain. The wood can also appear to puff up or even blister, another telltale sign of termite damage.

Termites build mud tubes along their routes to ease travel for themselves. These narrow tubes are common along structural features, such as near baseboards, along chimneys, and even on the foundation of the house. The tubes are narrow, can run extensive distances, and are typically made of dried mud. Consider inspecting underneath a house with a flashlight to look for signs of mud tubes.

While looking for evidence of termite damage, be sure to keep an eye out for termites themselves. Termites will occasionally swarm, giving obvious evidence of their presence. But it is also common to find wings or feces piles wherever the insects have made their home. Any evidence that there are termites nearby is a good indication that there may be resultant termite damage.

If a house exhibits signs of termite damage or the insects have been spotted, it may be time to call a professional. Termite exterminators can examine the property, locate hives or hideouts, and often determine the extent of the termite damage, if any. Pest control services can then take steps to eradicate the insects and prevent future infestations by placing bait traps around the perimeter of the property.

Termite damage can cost a considerable amount of money to repair and can even damage the stability and safety of a building. Any evidence of termite damage should be taken seriously to ensure that damage is limited and solutions enacted. Termites are voracious eaters and unlikely to move on while there is tasty wood present. By taking steps quickly, the insects can be banished and the damage repaired well before it is too late.

Termites sometimes swarm, giving away their presence.
Termites sometimes swarm, giving away their presence.
Jessica Ellis
Jessica Ellis

With a B.A. in theater from UCLA and a graduate degree in screenwriting from the American Film Institute, Jessica is passionate about drama and film. She has many other interests, and enjoys learning and writing about a wide range of topics in her role as a wiseGEEK writer.

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Discussion Comments


Is it true that if wood puffs up, it means that that's where the termite nest is found? Is that why the wood blisters or swells? Has anyone seen this in their home?


Other, small but significant signs that there are termites in the home is insect wings or wood dust lying in corners of walls and in cracks.

The insect wings are the wings of a type of termite that actually flies when it's relocating to a new come. It then sheds the wings and numerous wings may be found on the floor inside or near the home. Wood dust or what appears like wood dust may occur near the walls as well. This is the remnants of eaten wood. Termites literally eat their way inside wood. So in the processes, this powder like substance forms, much like the dust that forms when someone cuts through or shapes wood.


One thing pest control professionals sometimes do when they need to confirm the extent of termite is break a plank to see if it's hallow. Of course, they don't break any plank randomly and they certainly don't damage the home or its structures. It's done in a very controlled way to see how serious the issue is.

It has been a long time since I called a pest control professional to the house, so maybe they don't even do this any more, I'm not sure. I suppose it's a better idea to knock on the wood and listen to the sound, but that test is also tricky. Sometimes there isn't a noticeable hallow sound unless the wood underneath is completely hallow. But by the time that happens, that means that the house structure has been seriously damaged.

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