A termite infestation is a nightmare for anyone who has any form of wood in the interior and exterior of their house. The extent of damage they cause in your home depends on how extreme the infestation has become, how conducive the conditions are for the termites to thrive, and the type of wood in your home. Read on as we look at how long it takes termites to destroy a house and what you can do to slow down this process and salvage your home.
How Much Time Does It Take Termites to Destroy a House?
The environmental conditions and the amount and type of wood in your house affect the extent of the damage and the amount of time it can take termites to cause destruction.
A single termite, on average, requires over 3,000 years to make its way through the home, which is around 1,000 square feet. Unfortunately, termites travel and work in colonies, which significantly reduces this timeline.
A single termite colony can consist of a few million termites that will grow through reproduction and interaction with other colonies, so if your house has been infested by these pesky bugs you have a serious problem on your hands.
A slab of wood that is a few square inches large can be consumed by a colony of termites in around half a year. Depending on the size of the house, building or other structure, it may take 3 – 5 years for termite damage to be obvious – this depends on the size of the colony (or colonies) present.
Some research has found that it would take up to 15+ years (give or take) for termites to completely destroy your home. Luckily, infestations surface within a few years, so you don’t have to worry about finding a new place to live just yet.
Signs That Your Home is suffering from Termites
Termites generally work their way from the inside out and attack crawl spaces and other wooden areas in your home. While they are not initially visible to the naked eye, here are some ways to check for a termite infestation:
- Tap wooden objects with a somewhat heavy object like a water bottle. If it sounds hollow, the insides may be full of termites.
- Painted surfaces may start peeling or showing bubbles across the surface.
- Wooden surfaces that are already somewhat damaged can be checked with a sharp object to see the damage inside.
- If termites have affected other areas of the house, such as the walls and more, you may notice tiny holes in the wallpaper or other coatings. These are signs that termites are building tunnels for movement inside.
- Certain termites that breed in the soil may leave traces of dirt and soil on the surfaces they are eating.
How Do Termites Make Their Way Into Your Home?
Termites live in the soil and in nature. Their hierarchal colony system includes worker termites who go out in search of moisture and cellulose. The moment they come across a food source (such as the woodwork in your house), they signal the rest of the colony which follow suit. These colonies may expand and reach maturity as they thrive on the cellulose they gain from eating your woodwork.
The Growth of Termite Colonies
Termite colonies begin with a king and a queen. The queen lays a couple of dozen eggs that hatch within a few weeks and from here on, she can give birth to thousands of termites annually – she can live for up to 20+ years and reproduce for the most part of this time. This queen also designates mature termites within her colony as sub-queens to reproduce, thereby causing the colony to grow rapidly.
Within around 7 years, a termite colony can reach maturity with tens of thousands or residents, maybe even millions.
Termites have wings and can fly before they reach maturity – if you notice any flying termites around or inside your home, it’s a sign that there’s a colony nearby and you need to act fast. Call an exterminator immediately and start checking the woodwork in your house for signs of termite damage.
Types of Termites that Infest Homes
Common species that are likely to attack and eat your homes include:
These termites thrive in soil and create entire colonies among the dirt. If any part of the house includes wood coming into direct contact with the soil, such as a crawl space under the house with wooden boards, it is more susceptible to being eaten by termites.
If any wood remnants including softwood scraps and more were left over during construction, renovation or other drilling in your home, burying this in the soil near your house also increases the risk of a termite infestation.
Termites thrive in moist soil so if your house has any leaky pipes, run gutters that haven’t been cleaned out or more you are in danger of dealing with a growing infestation.
Subterranean termites live in colonies of a few million while other kinds are in the thousands which is why this species is the most dangerous for homes and buildings.
As the name indicates, dampwood termites live and grow in the damp wood they infest. Since homes usually only contain drywood under normal circumstances, this type of infestation is common in trees that have fallen over and are decaying. They may affect a home that has moisture problems and leaky plumbing that is damaging the woodwork and furniture in the house.
Drywood termites don’t live in the soil and are predominantly a problem for people living in coastal regions. As the name suggests, they prefer a diet of drywood that is far from decay, which includes furniture, walls and other spaces in your home.
Drywood termites live in smaller colonies than subterranean ones which reduces the speed with which they can eat a house.
Click here to learn more about identifying termites.
Tips to Keep Termites Away From Your House
Termites can eat their way through most of the wood in your house. If you want to avoid this painful and costly experience, here are a few precautions to follow:
- Don’t store firewood or set up composting mounds near your home.
- Fix any leaky pipes or faucets in the house and clear out all the vents in your house including rain gutters to ensure proper, moisture-free ventilation. For extremely humid areas, it’s a good idea to turn on a dehumidifier from time to time.
- For houses that have woodwork and are surrounded by plenty of soil, it’s always a good idea to set up barriers like creating a small rock wall or using wiring mesh to prevent an infestation.
Some houses are treated with pesticides designed specifically to tackle termite problems before construction begins. The pesticide is applied to the soil before beginning the pouring of cement and concrete to either completely eliminate or lessen the damage caused by termites.
To learn more about termite prevention and protecting your home from infestations, click here.
Frequent Checking Can Help You Protect Your House from Termite Damage
Apart from following the preventative measures mentioned above, it’s important to set up inspections at fixed intervals done by a professional service to find any hidden termite problems. Apart from that, if you notice any signs of termite damage, call an exterminator immediately if you want to salvage your home.
Prevention is the best option when it comes to termite infestations which is why you need to be vigilant about any signs of damage. If you do have an infestation, with the right professional help, you can make the space livable again after a few weeks of extensive treatment.
Can a group of termites form a new colony?
Termites look for moisture to survive so even if they can’t reach the soil they can multiple and evolve into a colony if they are found in dampwood that is being affected by leaky plumbing or rain showers. Homes with foam or other insulation at the bottom usually involve some siding that is in direct contact with damp soil or very close to it, which can lead to these problems. Such houses need to undergo regular inspections for termites.
What do termites eat?
Termites survive on cellulose (which is easy for them to break down and digest), an organic substance found in plants, trees and other natural sources. Cellulose is also found in cotton, paper (derived from wood) and other substances that can also be infected by termites.
Can damage caused by termites be repaired?
Damaged wood items may either need entire sections to be replaced or they may be supported with fresh, untarnished wood. Before getting into any repairs, the integrity of the wood will need to be examined – if it is worth salvaging, it will be treated with termite repellant and dried out before being repaired.