DIY Termite Inspection – How To Detect Termites Around Your Home

Before talking about a DIY termite inspection, let's talk just a bit about what it is we're looking to find. Anyway, it's always a good idea to know your enemy..

What Are Termites?

worker termite typical in the US

Termites are small burrowing insects that eat wood and pulp. They get nutrition from cellulose found inside of dead trees and plants. They also eat paper and other wood-based products. Paper is a component of sheetrock used to build homes, and termites will burrow through it. They especially like damp or wet wood. They will retreat for a time to get water, but if the wood is already damp, well, they love it.

In your home, termites can burrow through paper that they find on sheetrock, along your walls, and especially when there's a damp path to it. They can burrow through your walls undetected. That's why a DIY termite inspection can be important.

Termites resemble ants, are social insects and live in colonies. They will also destroy your home if the circumstances are right, are allowed to feed on desirable components that built your home, when they get a chance.

How a Termite Lives

Straight up, termites eat wood, wood products, and wood by-products. When moisture is absorbed into wood, it creates a welcome mat for these invisible invaders. Termites also eat stuff like paper, a wood pulp product. 

termite paths in drywall can be exposed using an awl

You can see what kind of damage a termite can do to the outer paper of sheetrock in the image above, which is a wall on one of my actual repair jobs I wrote about in this article. I took a few pictures of the damage which I shared there.

Termite Mounds

Termite mound in Africa

A termite colony lives in a mound usually in the soil and have tunnel systems that carry the worker termites to and from their food source. They also leave trails, albeit small ones. Sometimes the trails are the only evidence you can follow. The mound pictured above is in Africa, and it's unlikely a colony mound will get that big in your backyard, but it's an interesting photo to see. 🙂

Termites Are Invisible Invaders

It often takes a keen eye to perform a DIY termite inspection and know that termites are in your home's structure. Homeowners often find out only after a lot of damage has already been done. Even after an inspection and a home has been declared free of termites, there is no guarantee it will remain that way.

It's always a good idea to learn to perform a regular inspection of your home's structure. Some thoughts on how to do that are what I'll share in this article.

Years back, I wrote this article about pest control. At the time, I didn't want to write about termites, because I already knew the best treatments are preventative. 

What have I learned? Well, I learned that you could minimize termite invasions before they happen. And termites can be eradicated once they're in the structure of your house. Both concepts should be understood. Hence the importance of being able to perform a DIY termite inspection.

Professional vs. DIY Termite Inspections

I should emphasize that much of the evidence of termite damage is invisible to the untrained eye until there is often extensive damage. 

This article offers some (not all) information on how to detect termites. If you think you see signs of termites, you likely do have termites.

Any good realtor should know a reliable termite inspector or pest control service if you're not sure where to look. The inspection is primarily a visual one of the accessible areas of your home inside and out, including crawlspaces and sometimes attics.

A proper termite inspection typically takes about 30-45 minutes to perform, and the termite inspection company should give you a formal termite inspection report. They may offer advice about prevention, and if they find evidence of a termite invasion, should offer remedial treatment advice as well. 

If the termite report you get indicates anything suspicious or extensive, it's a good idea to get a second opinion.

DIY Termite Inspection - how to detect termites

Termites are usually detected one of 3 ways. Let's look at these plain-to-see and not-so-plain-to-see ways.Armed with the right knowledge, you can confidently perform a DIY termite inspection with confidence.

Termites swarm during early colony formation. While they are still swarming, they are easy to see.

They also build mud tubes between their mound and a food source. Mud tubes can be seen creating a path from the soil against your foundation to the entryway to your home - on a slab, or piers.

Finally, since termites like to eat the paper attached to sheetrock, you can see pinholes on the wall where they've invaded. The pinholes provide a way of expelling wastes from the holes they are boring as they eat their way behind the paint on your wall.

You will rarely see actual termites because they avoid light and open-air situations.

Below you can see an extreme example of what can happen when termites are left to grow their colony undeterred.

termite infested house with undeterred termite growth

Signs of Termites: What To Look For

  • Walk the perimeter of your house and look carefully along the foundation for small mud tubes between the soil and where the bricks begin. If you have mud tubes present around your foundation or on your walls, then you need to look a little closer.
Winged termite closeup
  • Do you have a stack of wood against your home? You may want to check that stack carefully, especially if it has exposure to rain. Look for any wood structure-to-ground contact. Look for cracks in your foundation. A termite needs 1/16" gap to get in.
  • If you have a crawlspace, you can examine the piers or bricks for mud tubes. If you have a pile of debris under there, you may want to clean it up. 
  • Look closely at entryways for pipes. Termites can work there way through the insulation around pipes if they know there is a food source on the other side.
  • Indoors, pinholes in sheetrock are a sign that termites are burrowing between the paint and sheetrock core material. 
  • You may find discarded termite wings on window sills. 
  • Floorboards that sound hollow when you knock on them are a sign of a termite problem.
  • Cracked paint, especially near the floor can be a lot of things, but it could also be a sign of termite invasion.

There are measures you can take for termite prevention. Prevention, as they say is the best medicine. Consider where you live. Are termites a problem in your area?

There are are several ways to kill termites by utilizing pest control companies and there are plenty of things you can do on your own. 

Hopefully, I've shared enough information in this article to give you the know-how you need to see a termite invasion of your home. The result should be eradication and peace of mind about your home ..and having a termite-free structure.

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