How To Know If You Have Termites

Stacy Randall
by Stacy Randall

It’s likely one of every homeowner’s biggest fears — termites in your house. The unsettling thing is that termites could be feasting on your house for three years before you notice visible damage. By this time, the extent of the problems can be devastating and costly, so recognizing early signs of termites is critical.

Mud tubes, pinholes in sheetrock, buckling paint, and discolored, drooping drywall are early signs of termites. You might notice floors that squeak more, have loosening tiles, or are buckling or warping.

If you see more obvious structural damage, like a sagging roof or broken door frame, you likely have had termites for a while and just didn’t know it.

It is possible to mistake certain types of damage, like wood rot, for termites. But if you notice signs of damage and have no treatment contract in place, you might have tiny invaders in your home.

Catching them sooner than later is critical in saving yourself money and time when it comes to repairs. But termites can be sneaky, and a termite inspection could become a necessity .

How Much Damage Do Termites Cause?

According to, termites cause massive property damage every year, costing upward of $5 billion. Unfortunately, most homeowners’ insurance policies don’t cover termite damage or treatment. You can find some termite treatment contracts that will cover the cost of damages if you have an infestation within your treatment period.

But, regardless of the cost and how you pay for it, termite damage can be extensive and stressful to handle. A mature colony of termites can eat a 2×4 stud within five months, and if left untreated, Formosan termites could cause significant damage in two years.

Seven Early Warning Signs Of Termites

Putting a termite treatment plan in place is one of the best ways to protect your home from termite invasion. Of course, who wouldn’t want to avoid termites in the first place?

Once they take up residence, they can be a pain to get rid of for good. Often infestations can require multiple treatments and rechecks.

But what if you don’t have a protection plan in place? Or perhaps your current treatment has lapsed and you haven’t gotten around to retreating. It’s critical to know the early signs of termites so you can take action as soon as possible.

There are different types of termites, including subterranean, Formosan, drywood, etc. Some are trickier to deal with and cause more damage than others, but they’ll all provide similar early warning signs.

1. It’s Harder To Open Windows Or Doors

If you’re suddenly struggling to open a particular door or window, it could be termites. The reason for this is because door and window frames typically consist of accessible wood. Termites start chowing down on these areas, compromising their integrity and making it harder to open or close the window or door.

You might notice visible sagging around door frames and windows or similar issues with baseboards. Look closely at the wood. If you see damage, tunnels, or mud tubes, these signs all point to termites.

If you don’t notice these things, the structural issues could be from something else, like excess moisture. Regardless, if you’re experiencing any of the above, it’s worth having a professional take a look.

2. You Notice What Appears To Be Water Damage On Drywall And Paint

Termite damage can often resemble water damage, and many homeowners can mistake it for such. You might notice discolored drywall, peeling or bubbling paint, soft spots, buckling floorboards, or loose tiles.

Depending on the termite activity, you might not see such obvious signs. In some cases, termites might only leave behind tiny pin holes in your sheetrock. These holes are their exit points as they’re eating through wood, creating tunnels beneath the surface.

If the termites don’t disturb the paint or wallpaper, you might not notice them until they’ve caused more damage (unless you’re renovating — for example, removing old wallpaper).

3. Finding Termite Parts Or Droppings

If you start finding discarded termite bits, like wings or droppings, or even dead termites, be wary. Colonies have termites called swarmers that go out to find mates and reproduce to expand the colony. Once swarmers mate they shed their wings.

These particular termites are also attracted to light, so they tend to hang around windows and doors. Therefore, you might find their wings on window sills or near doorways. You could also find dead swarmers, since they don’t tend to live very long indoors.

If you’re dealing with subterranean or Formosan termites, you won’t likely see any droppings. Only drywood termites leave droppings visible to humans. They resemble wood pellets or shavings and are called frass. Subterranean termites actually use their droppings to help build their mud tubes.

4. You See Mud Tubes

Another telltale sign of termites are mud tubes attached to structures, like your home, coming from the ground and running toward areas with wood. These tubes provide a protected highway for termites to travel between their colony and food sources. Termites have thin exoskeletons and need the tubes to protect them from the air so they don’t dry out.

If you find a mud tube, break off a piece and see if there are live termites. It could be that it’s a leftover tube from a long gone colony. However, if you don’t see any termites, don’t dismiss the tube yet.

Recheck it later to see if it remains untouched. If it’s back in place, it means termites are present and rebuilt the tube.

If you don’t see termites, and the tube remains destroyed, it’s still worth calling a professional to check. The termites might have moved to another part of your home to find a new food source.

5. You Smell Mold Or Mildew

Here’s another way you can mistake termite infestation for water damage — the smell. A termite infestation can give off an odor similar to mold or mildew. If you’re smelling something like this and noticing some of the other signs, be aware that termites could be to blame.

6. Wood Sounds Hollow

Subterranean termites can feast on wood for a long time before you see any outward damage. If you suspect an area has termites, give it a tap. If it sounds hollow, it could be because termites have riddled the inside with holes and tunnels. If you probe or poke the area with a screwdriver, you’ll likely find it goes in very easily.

7. You Hear Something In The Wall

Okay, so this sign of termites would likely follow you noticing peeling or bubbling paint first. The weird appearance of your walls could make you curious. So, you hold your ear up to the wall. There’s a chance you can hear the termites moving around beneath the paint or wallpaper (if you have good hearing).

Is It Termites?

If you suspect you have termites, there are several signs to look for, like peeling paint, warped floorboards, or stuck windows and doors. You might also notice tiny holes in sheetrock, a musty smell, mud tubes, live termites, or termite pieces and droppings.

Your best bet is to call in a professional termite company. Professionals will know exactly how to inspect your property to determine if you have termites, what kind of termites you have, and the extent of the infestation.

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Stacy Randall
Stacy Randall

Stacy Randall is a wife, mother, and freelance writer from NOLA that has always had a love for DIY projects, home organization, and making spaces beautiful. Together with her husband, she has been spending the last several years lovingly renovating her grandparent's former home, making it their own and learning a lot about life along the way.

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