How To Detect Termite Damage To Drywall

Termite damaged drywall can be really ugly

This article covers basic drywall repair that could be caused by virtually anything including termite damage to drywall, water damage to drywall or just patching big holes in drywall. The photos on this page were taken from work I did in May of 2010 after exterminators got rid of a pesky termite home invasion. 


Termite Damage To Drywall?

You can follow what I did for any drywall repair, but here you'll see drywall damage caused by termites. I'll cover determining the extent of the damage and I've included several pictures of the process involved. If you have drywall damage or suspect it, and you want to perform a DIY termite inspection, I wrote this article that can get you started as a termite detective.

Termites Don't Actually Eat Drywall (or Paint)

termite paths in drywal l can be exposed using an awl

Actually, termites really don't like to eat drywall "chalk" or paint. They do, however love the paper and glue that covers the drywall board. Especially if it gets damp from some sort of flooding. When the wall becomes wet, the paper soaks up water and invites them in. They will burrow between your painted wall surface and the drywall as they eat their way across your walls.

You can see termite exit holes across the wall if you look very closely. They simply look like holes from about 1/16" to 1/8" across. Starting from the exit holes, I used an awl to rip the painted part away as I followed along the same paths the termites did, giving me an exposed view of the termite tunnels and how much damage to the drywall was actually done.

Once all the damage is exposed, you'll have a very good idea of what needs to be replaced. Now we're ready to replace the damaged drywall with fresh new drywall.

Preparing Your Wall For New Drywall

Damaged drywall is cut clean away for new patches.

In the above photo, I have removed all the bad drywall. Notice too that the cut holes in the walls don't follow any pattern, I just made sure I cut all the termite damaged drywall away. After pulling away the carpet (which was later replaced in this house) I cleaned everything up with a shop vac.

After ensuring that there were no nails protruding from the studs, I cleaned everything up. This gave me a fresh working surface. I examined the insulation to make sure it was dry and mold-free. In this repair, I had to replace the bottom 2 or so feet of insulation.

Cutting the new material is simple enough with a utility knife and a straight edge, and I screwed all the pieces into place using 3/4" drywall screws. Notice along the window there was a metal corner mold and I was careful not to damage it since it was still in excellent shape.

Cutting the hole for the electrical outlet is really just a matter of careful measuring and cutting. I usually draw the hole I want on the new piece with a pencil, then cut it out using a hand held hole saw, or a utility knife.

After all the new drywall is screwed into place, I use a combination of a 10" mud knife and a 6" putty knife to create as smooth a surface as possible. This is usually a 2-step process, since drywall mud shrinks as it dries. For the mud, I use All-Purpose Lightweight Compound.

It's inexpensive (about $8 from your local home improvement store for a 40 pound box) and I always have a large box on hand. For this job I applied 2 coats to get the surface to appear smooth to the rest of the wall. After sanding with a wire sanding mesh, all that's left to do is match the texture.

This job required a crow's foot texture, which is applied by hand using a crow's foot brush. There are a few extra steps that need to be done, like a good termite inspection you can perform yourself and then getting rid of the pests, but termite damage to drywall is just like any other drywall repair, actually.

after termite damage to drywall

Crow's foot texture about half-way dry

I hope this article helps get you started applying what are fairly simple techniques to drywall repair. Let me know in the comments below!

Once the texture dries, I apply a light coat of primer to seal the work before painting the entire wall. 

Drywall Textured For Smooth Finish
fresh drywall patched wall with texture and paint

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