termite damage

Termite damage often resembles water damage. Termites hollow out wood by eating through it, compromising the structure’s structural integrity. This forces the wooden structure to bend,blister, buckle, or sag. Termites also leave behind external signs of their presence, including mud tubes, discarded wings, and wood-colored waste called frass.

Different types of termite infestations inflict different kinds of damage. Subterranean termites feed on soft wood along the grain, while drywood termites feed on hardwood against the grain. Subterranean termites damage wood faster than drywood termites. Unfortunately, they’re also the most common termites in Michigan. Subterranean termite infestations cause hundreds of millions of dollars worth of wood damage every year. The best way to keep termites from forcing you to contribute to this dizzying number is to learn to identify signs of termites feeding early. The faster you find the termites feeding on your home, the less of your wood – and money – they’ll eat through.

What is Termite Damage?

Subterranean termite damage on a door frame

Wood is termite’s primary food source. Worker termites feed and house their colonies by tunneling chambers through wooden structures. Subterranean termites never stop eating through wood and feed on any part of a home that contains soft wood. They frequently damage door and window frames, siding, flooring, railings, porches, and decks.

What Does Termite Damage Look Like?

Unfortunately, termite damage can be difficult to identify until it’s extensive. Subterranean termites exclusively tunnel through the interior of wood. You may not actually see the damage they inflict until they’ve tunneled enough to compromise the structural integrity of the wooden structure they’re eating through. When that happens, termite damage can resemble either water damage or wood rot. Wooden structures will bend, sag, blister, darken, or even crumble under the strain of supporting weight they can no longer bear.

If you do happen to notice wood damage around your home, there are a couple of different ways you can tell if it’s termite wood damage or another variety. Here’s how:

Termite damage vs water damage

Water damage above a window frame

There are a few ways to tell termite wood damage and water damage apart. First, try to find tunnels in the wood itself. If you can positively identify hollowed-out tunnels, then you’ll have definite proof of infestation. Subterranean termites feed along the grain of softwood, leaving behind telltale “honeycomb”-like tunnels. Tap on any damage you notice with a hammer or screwdriver handle. If the noise sounds hollow, then it’s probably termite damage. If it doesn’t, then it may be water damage.

You should also pay close attention to where the damage is. Does it seem like a part of your home that’s likely to be water damaged? If the area is well-insulated from water, then termites are more likely. Try to find and correct any problems that could be causing water damage. Then, continue to monitor the damage closely. If it keeps getting worse and you know you fix any potential water problems, then you have termites.

Termite damage vs wood rot

Wood rot on the outside of a home's window frame

There are two types of wood rot: wet rot and dry rot. Both types of rot are caused by two different kinds of fungal growth. Contrary to the name, even dry rot only happens to moist wood, because the fungus that causes it needs moisture to grow properly. Both termites and rot attack the cellulose in wood, but they attack in different ways and for different reasons. These reasons give away enough differences to tell each type of damage apart.

First, feel the wood with your hand or a screwdriver. If it feels spongy or crumbles away, then it’s wet rot. You should also look for mold or fungal growth inside the wood; if you find any, then you have a wood rot problem. If the wood feels dry, then test its firmness. If it gives way easily in chunks, then it’s dry rot. If it feels hollow and you find tunnels, then it’s termite wood damage.

What Are The Common Warning Signs of Termite Damage?

Identifying termite damage can be quite difficult especially in its earliest stages. Luckily, damage isn’t the only way you can find out you have termites. There are a few telltale signs of subterranean termite infestation. Identifying these signs early and taking action is actually by far the most effective way to keep termites from (literally) eating you out of house and home.

If you get good enough at finding each of the following signs of termite infestation, hopefully you’ll never have to get good at identifying termite damage:

Mud tubes

Subterranean termite mud tubes on the ceiling of a home

Subterranean termites never leave the ground until they’re tunneling through wood. They make this possible by bringing the ground with them in the form of mud tubes. Mud tubes are long, thin tunnels made of mud, soil, partially digested wood, and termite waste and spit. Believe it or not, subterranean termites actually need to stay hydrated constantly, even as they chew through dry wood. Mud tubes help them do that by providing them access to moist soil and protecting workers from drying out in the sun.

Termites build mud tubes from the ground along any exterior sections of your home until they can access softwood. Outside, look for them on concrete foundations, cracks in walls and flooring or other exposed surfaces. You could also find them outside or inside in harder to see areas like beneath flooring, underneath siding and baseboards, or under a layer of wood. Mud tubes are about the width of a pencil, may appear flat and (surprise) muddy, and spread out along walls and other surfaces like veins.

Discarded wings

Discarded flying termite wings

The reproductive caste of subterranean termite colonies, called “alates,” are the only type of subterranean termites that have wings. Alates swarm during mating season (from February through April) to seek mates and form new colonies. After they either mate successfully or mating season passes, alates lose their wings. Depending on the severity of the infestation near you, you may find large piles of discarded reproductive termite wings piled up.

Swarming alates are attracted to light and warmth. You may see them congregating around window sills, door frames, light fixtures, and vents. Look for discarded wings in these locations and around the floor, sills, and any spider webs near them. If you find a large pile of wings, then there’s probably a termite infestation nearby. Remember: Flying termites only emerge from mature colonies that are at least two years old. If you actually see a flying termite inside your home, then you’re dealing with a developed and serious termite infestation. Seek professional help immediately!

What Can I Do About Termite Damage?

Unfortunately, termites can be very difficult to combat yourself, especially after they’re established. You could always remove the infested and damaged wood manually and replace it with treated or hardwood structures. You can also try to deter winged termites from building colonies near you by treating exterior wooden structures, applying orange oil to surfaces where the termites may rest, and cleaning up any wood scattered around your yard.

Unfortunately, even replacing damaged wood can’t do much about the underlying subterranean termite infestation that damaged it in the first place. In fact, we recommend investing in professional pest control before you replace too much wood. After all, the last thing you want is to simply provide more food for your termite colony. A professional termite inspection can find your termite infestation, wipe it out, and make sure it can’t come back.


If you think you have termite damage, give Griffin Pest Solutions a call right away. Our experts will be able to identify the type of damage you’re dealing with, find your termites, wipe them out, and make sure they never come back. When you choose Griffin for your termite pest control, you get service that lasts – no ifs, ants, or bugs! 

What Does Termite Damage Look Like? Serving Kalamazoo & Grand Rapids

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