Termite Damage: Common Signs and Treatment Methods

  • Written By Dan Edwards on November 16, 2018
    Last Updated: November 24, 2020

Termites are extremely destructive creatures. This damage can be detrimental to your health and safety, especially if they set up camp in your home. Locating the source of the problem can be difficult if you are not aware of the signs of termite damage.

Locating and dealing with termites is notoriously difficult. These pests live life undercover and are silent workers. They wreak havoc over periods of time, without any obvious signs. Unless, that is, you know what to look for.

How to Spot Subterranean Termite Damage

Subterranean termites work behind the scenes and out of sight. Therefore, it is very rare that will you physically see them at work.

Spotting any clear signs of a termite infestation is not always easy. However, there are a few key clues you can look for. These will then help you unearth the damage they may be causing below the surface.

A lot of these signs may not initially appear to be damage. They are, however, key to discovering the problem and identifying the extent of the damage being caused.

Hollowed Out Wood

Termites eat the insides of wood, so it is unlikely that you will be able to see damage on the outside, apart from maybe a few holes. You may, however, be able to spot some blistering or bubbling on the surface of the wood. Alternatively, you can use sound to help you detect any damage that may be lying within the wood.

Use the handle of a screwdriver to tap along the wood. Listen carefully for areas of the wood that sound hollow. If you can detect a clear change in sound or it appears to be hollow inside, this is a problem. There is a high chance that termites have been feasting on the wood.

In order to check the amount of damage they have caused, you will have to break into the wood. This won’t be too difficult, especially if termites have been hollowing out the inside.

Mud Tubes

Another clear indication of subterranean termite damage is finding mud tubes within your house. As these creatures always work out of sight, they build a series of mud tubes, or tunnels. These allow them to forage for food undercover.

The termites think they are being clever and remaining hidden. These tubes, however, are quite easy for the human eye to spot.

They have a muddy appearance and are typically no wider than a pen or pencil. These muddy walkways are easiest to spot when they run along walls or floors.

mud tubes

They may, however, also be hidden under floorboards or baseboards. If you have an inkling that some termite damage is taking place, it may be worth looking for mud tunnels.

Damp Areas in the Home

Termites depend on a moist environment to flourish. Check around areas that may be wet, or where water pipes run. A leaking pipe may lead to a hidden world of termites. There may be the presence of mud tubes around these areas.

If you notice blistering of floors or walls, this might not just be water related damage. Try to look a little deeper to see if you can find more clear evidence.

Search Beneath the Surface

Breaking into wood that you suspect has been damaged by termites will help to confirm their presence. It will also indicate some of the damage they have already caused.

Inside the wood should be clear galleries that have been carved out by the termites as they feed. However, if there is damage inside the wood, but no mud or dirt, you may not be dealing with subterranean termites.

As subterranean termites depend on moist and damp conditions, they use mud and dirt to help maintain a suitable environment. If damaged wood looks cleaner inside, it may be the work of drywood termites instead.

Signs of Drywood Termite Damage

There are a few similarities in the signs of subterranean and drywood termite damage. Drywood termites do not live as deep underground as subterranean termites. This means you may be able to spot their presence more easily. However, they do prefer to live and feed below the surface of wood.

Listen for Damage

Just as you would with subterranean termites, you can search for damage by tapping on the wood. Again, using the handle of a hammer or screwdriver, gently tap along the length of exposed wood. As you tap, listen for any changes in sound. If it seems to be hollow inside, you could have a serious problem.

Search Beneath the Surface

If you can—without causing too much damage—you may want to consider breaking into any hollow-sounding wood. This can reveal burrows, or termite galleries. These are the tunnels created by the termites while feasting on the wood. The tunnels provide some clear evidence of the damage they have caused.

However, there is a further piece of evidence to determine that the damage is caused specifically by drywood termites. The burrows and damage caused should be free of mud and dirt. If there is mud inside the wood, the damage has likely been caused by subterranean rather than drywood termites.

Look out for Droppings

The presence of drywood termite droppings can also offer a clear indication of termite damage within your home. Drywood termites are clean creatures, and will push their droppings outside of their nests. They can add up to quite large numbers, depending on the size of the colony. These droppings are small black marks, with a consistency that resembles sawdust.

Blistering and Swelling

Other clear indicators of drywood termites living in your home are signs similar to water damage. These include blistering or swelling of floors and walls. Doors and windows may also swell and not close into their frames properly.

If you notice any signs of damage to door frames and windows, you may want to consult a professional. This is damage that might have been caused by termites. Weakened doorway and window frames can damage your structure’s overall stability. This is obviously very dangerous and should be dealt with as soon as possible.

Click, Click, Click

Finally, if you listen carefully, you may also notice a clicking sound coming from inside your walls. This clicking comes from the soldier termites knocking their heads against the tunnels they have built. This sound will be more obvious if you have a bigger population of termites living in your walls.

Listen carefully beside walls for wood that you suspect may have termites inside. Tapping along wood in your home and detecting a sound change can be bad news. Hearing clicks inside can further confirm the presence of termites.

Can Termite Damage be Repaired?

Once the damage has been done, you may be left not knowing what to do. Termite damage can be difficult to repair, not to mention expensive. There are a few key steps you should take before starting any repairs. These will help to lower the risk of any future problems with termites.

Locate and Eradicate the Problem

The key to repairing termite damage is to act as quickly as possible. As soon as you suspect or detect any form of termite damage, take measures to solve the problem.

Termites are notoriously difficult to detect and the source can be just as hard to locate. Undertaking DIY termite control is a risk if you have limited experience of dealing with these pests. I would advise getting the professionals involved. They will be able to help determine how many termites you have and the level of threat they are causing.

There are multiple ways of dealing with termites. This is another reason that professional advice is your best option. The pest control company will know the best course of treatment, based on your specific situation.

Once the damage has been done, the possibility of repair completely depends on the level of destruction. Unfortunately, by the time the damage has been uncovered, in most cases, repairs can be difficult to undertake.

Before you begin any repair work, you must be sure that you have completely treated the initial problem. Do not begin any repairs until you are certain that you no longer have termites in your home.

Replace or Reinforce

The best way to repair termite-damaged wood is to either replace it or add additional support alongside the damaged wood. It is usually easier and cheaper to add support to damaged wood, as opposed to trying to replace it. Consult local contractors for advice, especially if damage has been done to the structural supports of your home.

It is also a good idea to have any new wood professionally treated against termites before it is installed. There are a number of different wood treatments available to help prevent further termite-related problems from developing. Your contractor should also be able to advise you of the available treatment options.

Can You Get Insurance to Cover Termite Damage?

Home insurance generally covers damage and risks that are accidental or sudden. You may be surprised to learn that termite infestations do not fit within this category. The cost to remove a termite infestation from your home is, therefore, not likely to be covered by your insurance plan.

There is one main reason that most home insurance companies will not provide coverage against termites. This is because they consider termites to be a preventable problem. This damage usually falls under the umbrella of maintenance issues. According to your insurance provider, this is essentially your responsibility to prevent.

Collateral Damage

There is one key area where your insurance company may pay out. Has termite damage caused severe structural damage to your home? If this is the case, some of the damage may be considered sudden or accidental. Should the termites have caused serious destruction to a support beam of your house, other areas of the home connected to the beam may be at risk of damage.

If a fallen support beam has subsequently caused damage to your roof, walls or floors, your insurer may cover it. This could fall under the collateral damage clause. However, if they do decide to cover the collateral damage, you are not in the clear. They may agree to repair the support beam and not the subsequent damages.

If a fallen support beam has damaged your walls, floors or ceilings, those costs may still be on you. The best thing to do is take a close look at the fine print of your insurance policy. I advise you to expect the worst but hope for the best when it comes to insurance cover.

Other Forms of Protection

While the majority of insurance companies will not sell coverage against termites, you do have some options for extra protection. Contact local pest control companies for advice. Some offer plans that include annual termite inspections and treatments.

If termites are discovered within the covered time, the company will come in and treat your home at no extra cost. Depending on the plan, they might also cover any repairs needed as a result of termite damage.

Before investing in a plan like this, take note of the types of termites it covers. Some termites can be more damaging than others. If you have coverage against one kind of termite and damage was caused by another, you are out of luck.

If you are moving homes or buying a house, look carefully for any signs of termite damage. This will at least give you a head start when it comes to solving the problem. You may even be able to re-negotiate the price.

It is easier to fumigate a house before you move into it, should that be necessary. It really is worth taking the time to check for any problems before you settle in.


Termites can cause serious and dangerous damage to your home and its foundations. What’s more, this can happen without you even knowing they are there. It is important to take action as soon as you discover any evidence pointing to termites in your home. If you do not deal with termites in due course, the problem will only get worse.

When it comes to looking for the signs of termite damages, it is not always easy. Indicators include hollow sounding wood, the presence of tunnels, or piles of droppings that resemble black sawdust. Consulting a professional is always your best solution. This will help to ensure the problem is correctly identified and dealt with efficiently.