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Your Home Environment Resource - University of Nebraska Cooperative Extension in Lancaster County

Household Hints & HELP!

Now's the Time to Look for Termites!

submitted by Barb Ogg, Extension Educator
This article appears in the May 2, 2004 Lincoln Journal Star Newspaper.

Even though most homeowners do not have specialized training in termite inspection, they are most likely to find termites, simply because they spend so much at home.

Outdoors, termites feed on unprotected wood that is embedded in or touching the soil surface. Wooden fences, landscape timbers, garden stakes are termite fodder. So are decks and porches, especially when the wood is close to the soil.

To get indoors, termites either tunnel over the foundation or find a crack to squeeze through. Termites can penetrate a crack as small as 1/32 inch.

In the home itself, there are some locations more likely to have termites. These are places where structural wood is close to the soil.

  • Basements are susceptible, especially in older homes that have cracked foundation walls.

  • Homes built on a slab or above a crawl space, rather than a basement, are susceptible to termites. Common termite-infested locations include garages and home additions.

  • Another place where termites are often found is the common wall between the house and an attached garage. Termites enter this wall through a crack in the slab.

  • Termites are frequently found in the area of a concrete porch. During porch construction, dirt is thrown into the void before the top slab is installed. The soil level inside the porch void becomes as high or higher than wooden sill plate of the house and makes it easier for termites to get into the home.

  • People who have brick homes sometimes erroneously think their houses are immune to termites. Termites can enter a brick home by tunneling under the brick veneer and feed on structural wood in the walls.

What to look for? Termites construct and travel in mud tubes when they work above the ground. This mud—and high moisture—will always be associated with termites. Telltale signs that should be checked out include:

  • Walls where paint cracks and peels or the wallpaper won’t stick. A moisture problem inside the walls could indicate a termite infestation.

  • Small mud-covered pinholes in painted walls or wallpaper. These pinholes show up after termites tunnel through plaster and drywall. Once they bump into dry room air, they plug up the hole they’ve made with mud.

Termite inspectors say it is tough to inspect a house filled with furniture, simply because signs of termites can be hidden. Sometimes folks find signs of termites when furniture is moved or during remodeling activities.

What if you find termites? Because treatment options are confusing, homeowners need to get the facts before they make a treatment decision. To avoid getting ripped off, come to a workshop, “Everything Homeowners Need to Know About Termites & Termite Control” Thursday, May 13, 6:30 - 9:30 p.m. at the Lancaster Extension Education Center, 444 Cherrycreek Road. University of Nebraska Cooperative Extension personnel present unbiased, research-based information that should enlighten even the most confused homeowner. Cost is $25. Please pre-register by calling 441-7180.

For more information refer to the Insects, Spiders, Mice and more web site

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