Termites may be small, but their impact is extremely large. According to the National Pest Management Association, these tiny insects are responsible for more than $5 billion in damages in homes throughout the U.S. every year. And as a Nashville-based home inspection company covering a large service area throughout Middle Tennessee, we have our fair share of termite sightings — or at least the signs of their presence.
Termites can cause significant damage to our homes and businesses, as they snack away on wood infrastructure, often resulting in structural damage — and sometimes even the destruction of an entire home. But thankfully, if treated quickly enough, there are ways to stop a termite takeover. That’s why it’s important to know the different types of termites and their tendencies — and more importantly, the signs to look out for. That way, you can intervene before it’s too late!
Types of Termites in Middle Tennessee
Subterranean termites are the most common type of termite — and the one you will most likely encounter in Tennessee. As can be inferred by the word “subterranean,” they live underground and form mud tubes, or tunnels, to travel from their nest to their food source — which unfortunately, is wood. Equipped with wings, these flying termites don’t mess around. Their saw-toothed jaws can cause significant damage to the softer woods they prefer, including pine and cedar.
Subterranean termites are considered the most destructive type of termite due to their ferocious appetites, large colony sizes, and the fact that they are always working. That’s right — subterranean termites are active 24/7, 365. But they don’t always need 365 days, as a subterranean termite colony can cause significant damage to a home’s structure in as little as six months.
Dampwood termites prefer — you guessed it — damp wood, specifically logs, stumps and dead trees. While they prefer wet, decaying wood, they have been known to take over utility poles and fences as well. They are most commonly found on the West Coast, but are also known to exist in Florida and other southern states. However, it is unlikely you will encounter them on your property, as they depend on an open water source to live. But you won’t miss them if you have dampwood termites, as they are about ½ inch long, making them the largest termite species!
Drywood termites are not native to Tennessee, so you can rule them out in your investigation. This species is typically found along the East Coast from Virginia to Florida, and along the West Coast from Northern California to Mexico. Nicknamed “furniture termites,” drywood termites like to feast on furniture and other dry woods. Their colonies are much smaller than subterranean and dampwood termites, but they are still able to cause significant damage if left to their own devices!
Signs of Termites in a Home
Mud tubes are exactly what it sounds like — tubes, or tunnels, constructed out of mud. They look like narrow veins of mud extending from the ground up the side of your house, towards an area with exposed wood. These tubes are pathways connecting their nest to their food source. The tunnels also protect them from the dry air, as subterranean termites have thin exoskeletons that will dry out quickly otherwise.
If you discover mud tubes, you can check for an active infestation by breaking off a piece of the tube to see if you find live termites — or come back later to see if the tunnel has been repaired. And of course, you can schedule a termite inspection with Magnolia to get a professional’s opinion! After all, inactive mud tubes does not mean termites are not present; they may have just moved on to destroy other parts of your home.
Stuck Windows or Doors
If you have a window or door that is more difficult to open or close — or feels stuck, this may be an early warning sign of termites. Windows and doors are vulnerable to termites, as they are exposed and easy to access. Termite damage can cause warping to the frame, which makes them harder to open and close. Also keep an eye on other wood materials in your home, as undetected structural damage can impact your baseboards, floors and ceilings as well.
Damage Under Paint or Wallpaper
If you see any unusual irregularities to your paint or wallpaper, you may have termites. A bubbly appearance may be evidence of their tunnels — and you may even see tiny pin holes, which are their exit holes. Often, termites can go undetected from the surface, and are only discovered when the walls are opened up during a renovation. But keep an eye out for termite damage in the form of minor changes to your wall’s surface, such as bubbling paint, buckling wood, peeling wallpaper, dented areas, or pinholes.
Termite Swarmers + Discarded Wings
Sometimes, you can actually see termites in the flesh — especially the swarmers, which are the reproductive members of the colony. These termites with wings are often confused with flying ants. When determining flying ants vs. termites, it’s important to look at their body shape, as termite swarmers have straight bodies and flying ants have pinched waists. Plus, swarmers have evenly sized wings while flying ants have unevenly sized wings. You might see termite swarmers around your doors and windows, as they are attracted to light. But because they don’t survive long indoors, if they do make their way inside, you might find dead swarmers — or their discarded wings — inside your home.
Much like mouse or rat droppings, you can sometimes discover termites by first finding their droppings. However, the most common termite in Tennessee, subterranean termites, don’t usually leave behind their droppings. Instead, they use their excrement to construct their tunnels and mud tubes. But if you have another type of termite, you will often find termite droppings, also known as “frass,” which looks like wood dust or shavings. Their diet consists entirely of wood, after all!
Termite Damage on a Home Inspection
Significant termite damage was found on a recent East Nashville home inspection by our Magnolia team.
We interviewed Nashville Realtor & Buyer’s Agent Sara Lederach about the home purchase:
“Every home has its own idiosyncrasies and needs. Some have more needs than others, like this sweet, single owner cottage in East Nashville. The home was ripe with potential, but the previous owner was not able to maintain the space as she grew older and termites are always looking for opportunity.
Magnolia home inspectors, all being rock stars, have great communication skills educating our clients about the condition of the property, in this case termite damage in the crawl space, and clearly laying out next-step solutions. The termites were easily and inexpensively treated the week of closing, keeping the colony from doing any major damage to the home. My clients checked off some other items on the inspection report, made some lovely cosmetic updates and moved into a home they adore!
These were first-time home buyers and having received a thorough inspection report from an industry professional who was clearly laid out next-step action items gave my clients peace of mind as we navigated the closing process. I am grateful to have Magnolia as a resource for all my clients.”
Schedule a Termite Inspection
The best way to find out if you have a termite issue in your home is by scheduling a termite inspection. Our team at Magnolia is extremely knowledgeable about termites, including exactly what to look for to determine if there is in fact an infestation. We can help diagnose the issue and provide guidance about next steps in the treatment and repair process.
Trust us — termites can cause significant damage to your home in a short amount of time, so you don’t want to ignore the signs and symptoms!
Preparing Home Buyers For Home Ownership ™