Termite Damage to Hardwood Floors
Termites damage hits approximately 600,000 U.S. homes every year. They are not capable of causing wood damage until their colony is fully grown, which requires just under five years. So, by the time you notice cracks, pinholes, and other signs of termites in hardwood floors, you already have a fully established termite presence in your home.
This overview addresses the signs of termite damage to wood floors and how to fix them.
What Does Termite Damage Look Like on Wood?
Termite colonies thrive on all wood sources. In nature, they consume detritus that adds nutrients to the soil. But for wood structures, this ordinarily helpful process becomes downright destructive. Once they infest your home, they move on to other materials, including plaster and metal siding.
Your home faces three types of termites: Subterranean, Drywood, and Dampwood Termites.
- Subterranean Termites. Subterranean Termites dwell in damp soil surrounding your home's foundation. They form tunnels, which help them travel through their colony and access any crack in foundations or siding.
The first signs resemble water damage. You will see buckling wood surfaces, welling in walls or ceilings, and maze patterns in walls or furniture (termite trails). Subterranean Termites give off an odor like mold or mildew and leave behind soil and wood tunnels called mud tubs.
- Drywood Termites. Drywood Termites build colonies within wood structures and other wood features in your home, including floors, cabinets, and furniture. While Subterranean Termites nest in the soil outside your home, Drywood Termites nest within the wood.
Many people find infestations in outdoor firewood piles, and from there, the termites enter your home through foundation and siding cracks. (That is why you should never stack firewood against your home's exterior walls.) Infestation signs include veneer cracks and maze-like tunnels in wood surfaces.
- Dampwood Termites. Dampwood Termites are like Drywood Termites, except they nest in decaying wood rather than dry wood. They require high humidity conditions, so infestation occurs after a water damage event, like a basement flood or burst pipe.
You can also attract Dampwood Termites by failing to clean gutters. Gutters allow them to thrive before they find an opportunity to enter your house. Infestation symptoms include dead termite swarmers, soft areas in floors or walls, and termite fecal pellets.
Termite Damage in Hardwood Floors
When allowed to linger, the damage expands to floorboards and threatens structural integrity. At this point, you notice cosmetic flaws, but underneath, your floor is compromised. Pinholes are a common sign of termite damage. They look like someone used a Sharpie to make dots all over your floor. Pinholes expand into cracks and valleys on your floor. This situation becomes more noticeable.
Where do Termites Hide?
Termites hide in floors, walls, furniture, door frames, ceilings, and other structures in your home. When it comes to floors, termites live in the surface hardwood or the subflooring.
Termites in Hardwood Floors
Hardwood floors quickly show termite damage. You may see pinholes, cracks, and other damage as described above. Your floors may develop loose boards or squeak when you walk over them.
Termites in Floorboards
When termites enter floorboards, you move beyond unsightly damaged hardwood floors into structural integrity problems. Termite tunnels lift floor joists, and warp boards and floor texture becomes spongy. Tapping on floors produces hollow sounds.
Do Termites Eat Hardwood Floors?
Yes. Termites eat all wood, including hardwood floors. If you look out for these signs and act quickly, you may avoid the worst damage caused by termites.
Signs of Termite Damage in Wood
Homeowners may not notice termite droppings or mud tubes, and anyone can confuse termite swarmers for other less offensive insects. The signs you are most likely to see are pinholes, cracks, and changes in your floor's texture.
Termite Holes in Wood Floors
Pinholes are exit holes for Drywood Termites. This species nests in your floors, and it is where they hide until they evolve into swarmers. Once they leave the nest through these holes, the nymph termites seal the holes with feces cement in their color. If you do not notice these holes right away, you may miss them as the termite colony seals them up quickly.
The termite holes may also be "kick-out" holes. These are temporary openings with fecal pellets under them. They are usually light-colored or black and may look like ordinary dirt.
Termite Cracks in Wood Floor
Cracks arise when the pressure of pinholes becomes too much for your floor. The seals applied to the holes keep the colony safe, but they do not hold your floor together. Foot traffic and the continuing cycle of termites leaving swarmer nests eventually take a toll on your floor.
If you fail to notice the cosmetic signs, you will eventually see creaking, sponginess, and swarmers congregating around your lamps. Eventually, floor spots swell, and you may create a hole in your floor with one step.
Termites Under Hardwood Floor
If you suspect termites under your hardwood floor, press your ear against it. You may hear the clicking noises of termite communication. Also, hardwood floors should make a solid tap sound when you step on them. Or you can gently hit them with a hammer. If you hear a hollow sound instead, you likely have termites.
How Much Damage Have Termites Done?
Unfortunately, signs of termite damage also resemble water damage and mold. If you notice termite damage to floors, check surrounding walls and the ceiling for sagging spots, termite trails, and other signs. The only way to ensure you detect all termite damage is to schedule a termite structural damage inspection.
How to Get Rid of Termites in Wood Floors
If you have a termite problem, it likely expands beyond your floor. Termites live anywhere food is available, and that can include door frames, wood paneling, ceiling joists, and window frames. The best way to remove termites permanently is to hire an exterminator.
Termite Structural Damage Inspection
A termite inspection goes beyond what you may notice on your own. You should order one if you seek to purchase a home with previous termite inspections. Or you may need an estimate to address recent termite damage. An expert in termite behavior and damage will check your home for various signs of termites.
The termite inspector searches for apparent termite damage, like small holes, trails, and cracks. But they also observe your landscaping for rotting wood, firewood piles, and other optimal termite habitats. They may recommend that you move that outdoor project or other termite attractants to prevent reinfestation.
Termite damage is never limited to what you see. Since termites eat wood from the inside out, you likely have issues with walls, ceilings, and floors that you cannot see. Once you exterminate termites, the inspection ensures that you address all damage they caused.
How to Fix Termite Damaged Wood Floors
First, you need to treat termites in wood. If your home offers food sources, termites will return. You can use bait and poisons, but there is a high chance of reinfestation.
Your best course of action is to hire a skilled exterminator. Once they confirm that the termites are gone, you can start rebuilding.
Since pinholes and cracks are merely cosmetic, sanding and polishing do not repair all the damage. You must remove and replace all termite damaged wood, including floorboards, furniture pieces, and wall studs. If you faced floor and floorboard damage, there is a good chance that support beams in your basement also need repair or replacement.
If your floor needs repair, any floors and ceilings and doors and windows around it will likely need repair too. The extent of termite infestations and damages is never limited to one spot. You need to address all damaged areas revealed by the termite damage inspector.
Do Termites Eat Engineered Wood?
Yes. Termites are not picky, and they will consume laminate and engineered wood. There are resistant wood species that are less likely to fall victim to termites.
Termite Resistant Wood. While nothing claims to be termite-proof, there are wood varieties less likely to become termite food. Many of these make lovely floors and may be available in your area:
Pressure-treated wood. Decaying wood attracts termites. Treated lumber is resistant to decay, which makes it an unlikely target for pests. Its preservatives also help floors last longer than those made with standard wood.
Composite lumber. Composite wood contains natural lumber plus synthetic elements, like fiberglass or plastic. Like pressure-treated wood, it resists decay and termites.
Cedar. This species is unappealing for termites and likely toxic for them. However, it is expensive and not particularly accessible for building floors. One cost-effective idea is to repel termites by creating a cedar mulch and spreading it around your home.
Redwood. Termites have no appetite for redwood and are quite repulsed by it. This variety is a favorite on the West Coast, where redwood and Dampwood Termites are numerous.
There are precautions for avoiding termite infestations. Remove deadwood, including stumps and tree branches, from your yard immediately. These are often ideal homes for termites.
Caulk cracks in your walls and keep gutters and drainage areas clean to control humidity. Finally, keep all wood projects dry and covered.
Does Homeowners Insurance Cover Termite Damage?
Termite damage is not a covered peril since it is not a sudden or unexpected event like wind, fire, theft, and other perils. Insurers view it as a maintenance issue, which is never covered. So, homeowners insurance will not help you in this predicament.
If you are concerned about termites, pest control companies offer subscription plans that cover yearly inspections and treatments. Also, when you purchase a home, make sure the home inspection includes checking for termites.
Learn to recognize the early signs of termite infestation and fix the damage before it spreads.
Hope that helps!
At your service,