How Fast Can Termites Eat A House?

picture of termite mound

Termite Damage

Termite damage to a home depends upon a number of factors that directly or indirectly contribute to the presence of termites and how these factors support the overall health and vitality of termite survival, reproduction and associated population size.

Contributing Factors
Factors that are conducive and contributing to termite success and survival will affect the number of termites that may enter the home and feed upon the construction components of the house.

While termites may suddenly leave a food source for some reason, usually when they locate and feed on a house, they will cause damage of one degree or another.

Since there may be numerous sources of food other than a house in the termite colony’s foraging area, this factor complicates the answer to our question above.

Therefore, about the only situation that provides an acceptable answer is how long did it take termites to damage the same part of the house that previously was damaged, but remodeled and repaired.

Important Factors That Affect The Size And Vitality Of Termite Colonies

Homeowners must be able to recognize important signs or conditions that indicate subterranean, dampwood, and drywood termite problems. These signs include:

  • Swarmer termites and their shed wings found around the home’s windows and doors.
  • The presence of subterranean termite mud tubes.
  • The presence of drywood or dampwood termite fecal pellets.
  • The presence of wood damage.
  • Wood that sound hollow if tapped with a screwdriver or other similar tool.
  • Since soil moisture is required for subterranean termite survival and colony growth, if there is a part of the house that has wood to ground contact that condition is conducive to termites infesting and damaging the house. Therefore, the more soil to wood contact equates to more termites and more likelihood of activity in the home.
  • Was wood and cardboard debris created during the construction of the house and was it removed? A common mistake made during the construction phase is to bury wood debris in the dirt fills of porches and slabs.
  • Are there moisture problems around the house or property? Moist soil near the foundation is conducive to termite problems when moisture accumulates around the house foundation due to the foundation grade not sloping away from the house, clogged rain gutters, leaking faucets or downspouts that do not allow rain water to flow away from the house?
  • Does the homeowner repair or ignore leaks in the roof? Once again, moisture is a conducive factor that favors termite populations.
  • Termite populations are less likely to increase and cause damage when the homeowner conducts his or her own termite prevention techniques and uses a PMP to inspect and use termite control techniques when needed.
  • Has the house ever been treated for termites? If not, a termite infestation will continue to become more destructive and damage will be more pronounced over a shorter period of time than if the home was effectively treated by your PMP.
  • Did the house receive a pre-construction termite treatment prior to construction? A liquid termiticide application applied to the soil substrate prior to pouring the concrete is known as a termite pretreat. If that is done, termite activity will be limited, nonexistent or at least initiated much later than if the preconstruction treatment was not done.
  • Is there termite activity in mulch, trees, under firewood piles and other wood and wood related debris such as cardboard and lumber piles and have these sources that are conducive to termite activity been removed? The less termite food on the property, the less likely termites will be attracted to and invade the house.
  • Do you have a termite inspection and damage warranty from a reputable Pest Management Professional (PMP)? The obvious value of such a warranty is your PMP will be able to spot any visible termite activity and take action to manage the amount of damage the home may experience. Since most homeowner insurance policies do not cover termite damage, having an annual inspection and termite damage warranty is worthwhile.

OTHER FACTORS

  • What species of termites have infested your home? Generally, the subterranean termites cause more damage than either the drywood or dampwood termites. This is especially the case when the termite infestation is cause by the Formosan subterranean termite. These termites live in very large colonies that can have millions of termites in each colony. Therefore, Formosan termites can cause a huge amount of damage in a short period of time. Plus, Formosan termites may also attack living trees.
  • What is the age of the colony? The longer a colony has existed, the more termites there are might eat the wood in your home.
  • What is the construction type of the house? Stucco and exterior foam insulation systems (EIFS) are special problems when the siding is below the grade of the soil or the distance between the horizontal wooden components of the house and the soil is no less than 8-10 inches.
  • Where is the house located? Termites are generally more problematic in the south than the north and near rather than far from coastal areas.
  • Are there any secondary termites colonies present in the house? When suitable conditions exist, termites isolated from a primary colony can obtain moisture from a source other than the soil. When this happens, a secondary colony is formed and will occupy an area not required to be linked to the soil. For example, secondary colonies may be found in wood or behind siding that stays moist as the result of a rainwater or plumbing leak. EIFS homes are liable to contain secondary colonies if not properly built and annually inspected.
  • Is preservative treated wood used whenever there must be wood to ground contact on the property?
  • Are firewood or compost piles close to a house?
  • Are shrubs and other vegetation kept away from the siding and foundation; dense vines growing up the side of a home may trap moisture and increase the moisture conditions that termites require.
  • Has the homeowner taken steps to decrease the humidity in crawlspaces by fixing plumbing leaks, adding ventilation vents and installing dehumidifiers?
  • Are dirt filled planter boxes attached to the side of the house? These can be a place for termites to build colonies and penetrate the inside of the house.
  • Are termite monitors in use where termites are most likely to occur?
  • Are physical barriers such as particulate sand or rock barriers and stainless steel mesh installed to prevent or reduce termite foraging around the house?

Drywood Termites

Drywood termites do not require soil contact in order to survive and are relatively limited to the Atlantic, Gulf and Pacific coastal areas.

Drywood termites are commonly found infesting dry, non-decayed wood in attics and walls, plus may also infest furniture, posts and poles that remain dry.

Drywood termite colonies are smaller than subterranean termite colonies and their damage progression is much less extensive since damage is generally localized in one or only a few locations.

Dampwood Termites

Dampwood termites actually live in the damp wood they infest and are not dependent upon underground colonies to survive.

Of the three main groups of termites, the dampwoods cause the least amount of damage to homes, but may cause damage to trees that are in poor health.

Likely places to encounter dampwood termites are fallen logs, stumps, dead trees or the wood in a home that stays wet from a water leak or stays in contact with the ground continuously.