learn-about-termite-damage

There we were, Harvey the electrician and I were happily making progress on the kitchen renovation. Harvey was just finishing up on the last row of outlets when his hand disappeared into the wall. “Ummm, Ms. Bailey, I think there’s something wrong with this stud.” I looked over to see him pulling wood shavings out of the hole he had cut for the outlet. “What the…..?” (I repressed my urge to curse.) Within five minutes of his discovery, we had pulled down the sheetrock around the suspicious stud and were glaring at a poor excuse for two framing members and the wall’s bottom plate.

termite_damaged_studs

The two studs were so brittle and destroyed that I was able to poke my entire finger through them. (Let’s see you do that to a solid 2×4, Mr. Houdini!)

finger_through_termite_damage

Not good…not good at all. I had to make the unfortunate call to Pretty Handsome Guy to tell him the bad news. But, I broke it to him lightly, “Honey, what is the one home disaster we HAVEN’T had to deal with yet?” He guessed tornado (Shoot, forgot about that one.) “No, Termites! But, the good news is that there is no live infestation.” See, it always helps to temper the bad with some good news. 😉

The next few days were fraught with nail biting, lightly walking around that wall (for fear it might topple over), and multiple phone calls to the termite company, our building inspector and a structural engineer. To make this long story short, the structural engineer was the most helpful and advised us to fur out our walls to carry the wall load over the remaining perfectly good rim joist. If that sounds Greek to you — no worries — I really want to share with you what I’ve learned about TERMITES instead!

These little miniscule insects have a notoriously voracious appetite. And let me tell you, they can eat a lot before you are even aware that you have uninvited dinner guests (let’s make that all day, all you can eat buffet guests.)

Different termites in the colony:

Termites workers (the ones that do the actual damage) are small white insects approximately 1cm in size. They are actually very fragile and need moisture to live. Therefore they will bring moisture with them, which helps break down the wood fibers faster.

worker_termites

Photo Courtesy of Malcolm NQ

Swarmers: In the spring and early summer, termites will swarm. This is when they grown wings and mate. Sometimes swarming termites are mistaken for flying ants. Although similar, upon closer inspection termites do not have three distinct body segments that ants have.  Termites also have four wings the same shape and size. If you see swarmers anywhere around your home, you should contact a profession pest control company immediately!

swarming_termites

Photo courtesy of Greg Baumann

 The Queen: This Mother …… is responsible for increasing her colony size. Her sole purpose is to mate and lay eggs while the others wait on her hand and well, errr….I don’t even know if she has feet.

termite_queen

Photo Courtesy of Mechnine

What can you do to protect your home from termites?

  • Eliminate water from around your home:
    • fix leaky faucets and pipes, defective gutters or downspouts, standing water, and excessive vegetation around your home
  • Eliminate food sources for termites on and around your home.
    • Keep firewood, paper, and untreated lumber far away from the exterior of your home
  • Make sure that your home’s siding is not touching or under the ground. Only concrete, cinder block or brick should be in direct contact with the dirt.
  • Keep up with home maintenance and inspections.
    • Siding should be in good condition.
    • Mulch and wood is cleared away from foundation walls.
    • Inspect foundation and walls for mud tunnels.
  • Have an annual termite inspection and termite contract with a reputable company (check Angie’s List, Better Business Bureau and/or neighbors for referrals.)

How can you tell if you have termites?

  • Swarming termites or termite wings around or inside your home.
  • Cracked, bubbled paint, or pin holes can be a sign of termites trying to get out of the walls to swarm.)
  • Wood that sounds hollow when tapped.
  • Mud tubes or tunnels on your home’s foundation, walls or crawlspace.

Did you know:

  • Termite damage costs the southwestern United States approximately $1.5 billion each year in wood structure damage.
  • Termites can go unnoticed for 2-4 years and eat an amazing amount of wood during that time.
  • Depending on the species termites can eat 1 foot of wood in 19 – 120 days! (Gulp! Let’s just hope if you have termites you have the slow eaters.)
  • If you have an annual inspection, your termite inspector will be looking for hollow sounding wood, holes in wood or mud tunnels along the foundation or anywhere around your home. This is a good reason to make sure that the termite inspector can access all areas of your garage, crawlspace, attic and more.
  • Termite damage can pose severe structural issues if left unrepaired. Consult with a structural engineer if you have severe damage (damage to load bearing walls and supports.)

termite_tunnels

What will happen if you have termite damage?

Dealing with termite damage can be as easy as adding a sister board to damaged lumber or it can mean tearing out drywall to replace damaged studs and wall members.

remove_damaged_jack_stud

Depending on the repairs needed, a decent amount of construction debris can accumulate. In our case, we had to remove all the sheetrock along one wall in the kitchen to determine the extent of the damage. Four studs and a few sections of the base plate were removed and replaced with new 2×4’s.   After the repairs, there was a decent pile of debris to contend with. I was lamenting the fact that we couldn’t just set the pile out for pick up with our regular trash. AND, I really  didn’t want to rent a big ugly dumpster which would be an eyesore for all parties who happened to meander, bike, run, or drive down our street. 🙁

pile_of_debris

On my 235th trip to the local home improvement store this month, I nearly ran into the Bagster® Bag display (also available at over 2,000 locations across the country.) How silly of me! I forgot that the Bagster® Bag is a simple and affordable solution for waste and debris removal. At $29.95 + a flat $79-$159 pick up charge (depending on your location), it was a no brainer to bring one of those green bags home with me.

the_bagster_against_tree

Within two minutes, I had the Bagster® Bag set up and ready to fill. That little guy is definitely a low profile stealth cousin of the big ugly dumpster.

The_Bagster_animation

By neatly piling the heavy items in the bottom and strategically stacking the sheet rock and insulation, I was able to fit the entire pile of rubbish into the spacious Bagster® Bag.

Bagster_promo_shot

The Bagster® Bag isn’t just for termite damage and construction debris! It’s a great tool for spring clean up. Clear out your attic or garage and have your own personal pick up of all the junk that you clear out!

 

PHGFancySign

Disclosure: Waste Management partnered with bloggers such as me to participate in its The Bagster® Bag Blogger Challenge.  As part of this program, I received compensation to cover the cost of the Bagster bag and pick-up as well as my time.  They did not tell me what to purchase or what to say about the products used for the The Bagster® Bag Blogger Challenge. Waste Management believes that consumers and bloggers are free to form their own opinions and share them in their own words. Waste Management’s policies align with WOMMA Ethics Code, FTC guidelines and social media engagement recommendations. You can read more about our kitchen disaster and renovation in these updates:

155 replies
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  1. Lynda Gruen
    Lynda Gruen says:

    Thank you, Brittany! Great post! We’ve been fighting termites for several months now at least. The first round of treatment was bait stations….. a fail for us. The bait stations never attracted termites to them, even though they have now been positively ID’d by the extermination company as yes, (presumably subterranean) termites (in Northern VA — they occur throughout the U.S.). Our home is only ten years old, and the exterminator told me that they’ve been seeing an uptick in termite infestations in buildings built about 10+ years ago, with termiticide initial treatments — including pressure treatments of studs — failing at around 8 years after initial treatment.

    So, I would recommend a liquid barrier at onset of purchase of a home, and annual inspections, much like dryer vent cleanings and inspections (with the possible exception of homes less than 6 years old, although sometimes builder subcontractors can misapply soil treatment or fail to apply treatment at all — issues my exterminator brought up — so best to be safe rather than sorry, in my opinion).

    As for the damage to our wall(s): we don’t know the extent of the damage yet. Inspectors in our area do not seem to care for the thermal imaging or borescope methods. If someone offered that, I’d probably have that company come out. Everything seems solid so far, so re-treatment with a chem barrier may be enough for us. It’s just that since the exterminator found mud tunnels — or so he claims — and since I found live termites in the flower bed against the house — you know there’s got to be some damage somewhere….. but how much, and where in the house?

    How much work do we need to do to be sure the job is done right? We have hardwood floors on the upper two floors. I would hate to lose a lot over a job done wrong.

    Not sure what we’ll do; but we gotta do something. Man, what a pain.

    Reply
    • Brittany Bailey
      Brittany Bailey says:

      Lynda, I’m so sorry to hear you are battling termites. Interesting info about bait stations. I know they were relatively new in 2000 when we bought our first house in NC. Our current house (and the flip house I’m working on) have been treated with trench and chemicals. Did you know you can buy an accessory for your iphone (for less than $200 that uses thermal imaging? (Here’s an affiliate link to the options: https://amzn.to/2HGfjbC ) I can’t say how well they work, but a friend recommended it to me. You may also want to see if there are any home inspectors in your area that use one. I wish Anyway, best of luck. I don’t know what to tell you about whether or not you still have active termites in your house. I do know they will naturally occur in your yard and are great at decomposing wood and logs.

      Reply
  2. George Killinger
    George Killinger says:

    I’ve got termites behind the drywall, and the drywall is very damaged.

    Do I treat for termites before I takedown the drywall, or after?

    Thanks

    Reply
  3. Termite Inspection cost
    Termite Inspection cost says:

    Even if you don’t have a current termite problem, it is advisable to have a yearly termite inspection done so that you can take precautions to keep the termites at bay. Your pest technician can let you know if any elements of your property are inviting termites, and he or she can suggest steps for prevention.

    Reply

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