Hardwood floors can last for generations provided they are well maintained and refinished periodically. But termite attacks can completely ruin them inside and out. A colony of termites is very difficult to detect but can destroy your beautiful flooring in just a few years. Hollow sounds from the floorboards, sagging and buckling floors, small holes and crumbling wood in places are signs of damage from termites.
This post is a comprehensive guide to recognizing the presence of termites so you can prevent your hardwood flooring from damage.
Types of Termites
Depending on the type of termite, the colony they form varies too. They can be classified into three main types of insects and recognizing the species you are dealing with will give you a clue about the type of colony they form. The species are:
• Subterranean termites
This is the most common type of termite that infests homes. They live in the soil around a house and bore in through the cracks in the house’s foundation. They form mud tubes or go through wood touching the house like rotting tree roots and mulch. They have a honeycomb patterned colony which they form by chewing through the softwood.
• Drywood termites
These termites need dry conditions for nesting and invade your home through exposed wood and infested furniture that touches the wooden floor. You may see faecal pellets called frass in large quantities which is an indicator of a colony. They tend to eat through large sections of the wood against and with the grain.
• Dampwood termites
Rotting or wet wood in and around the house attract this species of termites. Hence, wet lumber touching the house or water damaged flooring are the favourite spots to eat through for this species. They tend to eat against the wood grain and leave a smooth surface.
Signs of Termite Damage
Termite damage is hard to detect but not impossible if you are closely inspecting your floor periodically. Since they bore inside the wood, surface clues are rarely visible. But there are a few markers which you should look for to prevent and detect termite damage if you have hardwood floor.
• Mould- Mould is a tell-tale sign of decomposing wood which tend to attract termites. If the ventilation is poor and water collects at certain corners of the floor and is not cleaned immediately, moulding will happen. If there is moulding, chances of termite attack are high as well. If possible, remove the floorboards in the decomposing corner of the floor to check for a termite infestation.
•Mud tunnels- Termites construct mud tunnels to transfer from one place to another, searching for the necessary food and moisture. These tunnels are also their shelter and can extend from the soil outside the house to the floor-edges inside. These are usually the width of a pencil and dark brown in colour.
Pro tip 1:
Cut away a section of the tunnel using a knife or screwdriver. If it is an old tunnel it will be dry and crack easily. Check the section after a few days- if it is rebuilt, it indicates a there’s an active termite colony.
• Termite faeces- These can be found under the floor or on the floor- usually behind plinths and at corners. Look for frass which is like sawdust but brown in colour. The faeces and frass are the consequence of their activities during the mud tunnel construction.
Pro tip 2:
Do not touch the termite’s faeces with your bare hands as it can cause allergies and dermatitis. If you mistakenly touch it, wash immediately with soap and water.
• Hollow wood with holes- Floorboards which have a hollow sound when you step on them or that has small holes, is evidence of a termite attack. Even if the wood looks normal on the surface but emits a dull and empty sound when gently knocking it, is probably destroyed on the inside.
• Crumbling wood- In extremely severe situations, the wood will crumble and break down the moment you try to inspect it by tapping the surface. Usually, it is very difficult to beat a termite infestation once it has started and the best solution is to replace the decomposed floorboards and apply certain chemicals to the entire floor.
Pro tip 3:
The termite infested floor will be unstable and shaky depending on how deep the damage runs so be very careful while stepping on them.
Preventive and Treatment
Termite damage to hardwood flooring can be devastating and once the infestation begins, there are very few choices except to replace the floorboards. You can try sanding the surface and covering the holes with special chemicals but that can only be done when the damage is minor. The best option will be to take preventive measures against termites like:
• Choose a hardwood species which is naturally repellent to pests like termites like teak.
• If you cannot afford exotic hardwoods like teak, ensure the sealant used for finishing the hardwood has pest-repellent properties and evenly coats every nook and cranny of the floorboards.
• Keep rotting wood like firewood far away from the house and ensure there is no rotting wood lying around in the garden or too close to your house foundation.
• Keep mulch in a closed container away from the house.
• Apply termite shield to wood accessories, furniture and other things inside as well as outside the house
• If there is a termite infestation in or around the house, immediately seek professional pest control services to get the regions treated and replace and remove the infested wood as soon as possible.
Termite damage is extremely harmful and can damage your flooring beyond repair in a short period of time. The age of the house, its humidity level and the overall maintenance together influence the chances of infestations. The only choice you have is to periodically inspect your home for the signs mentioned here and taking the necessary precautions.