Termite Floor Damage

How Can Termites Damage Flooring?

Repairing termite damage to a floor can be a complicated process. Termites rarely limit their destruction to the superficial part of a floor, as they typically prefer the softer wood that is used in the subfloor and supporting components beneath the visible flooring.

Wood Floors

Hardwood floors may show evidence of termite damage, although the damage often is not immediately visible to homeowners. However, if the infestation is untreated for several years, the wood may become weak and give way under general use. Termites are more likely to feed on soft woods than hardwoods. If your termite specialist confirms you have termite damage around your hardwood floor, then you likely have termite damage to the wood underneath the hardwoods, including the subfloor and supports.

Squeaky floors
Excessive squeaking can be evidence of termite damage to a floor. Termite damage weakens floors at the site of the damage (e.g. supports, subfloor and floor surfaces). Weakened floors are more sensitive to movement. When floorboards move, they may squeak or creak as boards rub against each other and against nails.

Hollow sound
A hollow sound may indicate termite wood damage. When termites consume wood, they can create cavities in floors, baseboards and nearby walls. Inspectors often tap on the wood to check for a hollow sound to help determine whether or not there is a hidden termite infestation.

Minor damage to a hardwood floor (like oak) may be repaired with wood filler. Once holes have been filled and the filler has dried, it can be sanded and stained or sealed.

Frequently, oak boards with termite damage need to be replaced completely.

Termite tubes hang on the beams supporting a wood floor:
Termite tubes hang on the beams supporting a wood floor.

Floor joists

Floor joists are the framing components of a house that support the floor. These joists usually are made of wooden I-beams that are 2 x 8 inches or larger. Floor joists that have been weakened by termite damage or repaired incorrectly can collapse under the weight of furniture and appliances supported by the floor.

Damage to structural components, like floor joists, often is more expensive than damage to non-structural components.

Floor support repairs can be complicated. If support beams need to be replaced, a contractor has to provide temporary support while removing the damaged beams. Even if a contractor can add support beams without removing damaged beams, the work can be complicated by ductwork and utility pipes that run between the support beams.

Laminate Floors

Termites can damage the underlying flooring of laminate. Damage caused to laminate flooring by termite infestations can appear similar to typical water damage. Laminate will blister and sag in affected areas. If inspected more closely, a hollow network of tunnels will be discovered beneath buckled areas. Termites have even been known to chew through the laminate and create small holes. In order to address damage done to laminate flooring, it is often necessary to rip up old laminate and lay new flooring. When termites damage a laminate floor, it is not possible to repair the laminate material.

Looks like water damage
Signs of termite damage to laminate flooring appear similar to signs of water damage. The laminate floor will bubble up in some places and sag in others. Upon investigation, you may see a hollow network of tunnels under these misshapen areas.

Loose Floor Tiles

When termites damage floor supports (called joists), tiles may become loose and the floor may begin to sag.

Loose floor tiles as a sign of termites can occur by the additional moisture that termites might introduce into a floor. That moisture might cause the tiles to buckle and heave which can lead to the tiles becoming loose. As the tiles age, the adhesive might not be as strong and the introduction of moisture to the backing may cause the adhesive to fail. When this occurs, even the weight of a person on the tile may cause the tile to shift and become loose. Tiles which become loose by moisture causing a failure of the adhesive are typically soft and pliable such as the vinyl tiles which are placed in place after removing the backer tape during construction. Older tiles which might be parquet wood or laminate wood can swell with moisture and cause them to become loose, either by termite activity or leaks. As termites need moisture, leaks or excessive moisture can lead to termite infestation.

Contact a professional
If termites damage your floor, the termite infestation should be treated before the floor is repaired. Contact a trained termite technician to provide treatment, inspections to confirm control and a review of potential structural damage. If your technician detects structural damage, particularly extensive damage, hire a professional contractor to make the repairs. He or she will have the tools necessary to handle serious repairs. For example, hydraulic jacks may be used to temporarily support a floor while beams or joists are replaced.

To prevent these costly procedures, it’s advised that homeowners schedule annual termite inspections with their local pest control experts to develop a solution specifically designed for their home.

Termite Control

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Why should you be worried?

Termites cost Americans more than $5 billion in damage each year and most insurance plans don’t cover the damage.

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