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What Happens to Termite Damage?

By Chris Williams on April 22, 2015.
close up of termite

I was called to check out some potential termite damage at an old termite account. After reviewing the client history, it was noted that the Sentricon Colony Elimination System had eliminated the colony several years prior to this visit. Although the client had cancelled the termite control service contract, they continue to use Colonial Pest Control for general pest control, under our “Semi-Annual Contract.”

As it turns out, their oldest daughter moved out of the basement apartment and removed all of her stuff. As cleaning progressed, little spots of dirt (termite mud) were visible on the once packed closet walls, and the baseboard molding paint was not in great shape. When probed with a screwdriver, the molding was hollow and filled with very dry soil. When I came to inspect the area of note, it was apparent that termites had indeed damaged the sheet rock inside the closet, the baseboard trim, and many of the local studs supporting the sheet rock. Some mud tubes were visible behind the closet wall, from below the cellar staircase.

During all previous inspections, both the closet and the area below the stairs were full of stored items and inaccessible, according to inspection notes. Damage was initially discovered during renovations on the other side of the finished basement, leading to treatment with the Sentricon Colony Elimination System. At least 4 years had passed since the original treatment; it is not impossible that another termite colony could have located the structure, but unlikely that a new colony could do so much damage in such a short time.

After investigating the damaged studs and removing the ones closest to the cold joint (a crack that forms between the foundation wall and the cellar floor slab that is continuous around the entire basement), it was apparent that the damage was indeed old. No live termites were noted; the soil and mud material that termites use to build their tunnels was very dry and dusty, and light in color. Active or more recent signs of activity include live termites feeding in the wood, a damp feeling to the mud and soil, and a darker color to the mud.

When termites are feeding in the wood, moisture is carried into the work area to maintain the correct humidity, allowing termites to work “out of the ground.” The area that the termites are working in is also sealed off from the outside world, and any breaks that allow air in are quickly sealed with mud (that is what the little spots of mud on the closet wall were). Once termites stop feeding in their tunnels and galleries in the wood, the moisture dries up, leaving the mud brittle. That is what caused the paint to look funny on the closet molding.

Old damage can lead to unnecessary treatments if discovered during a home inspection. In all cases, the best option is to remove, repair, and replace any signs of visible termite damage. Hidden damage may be found during remodeling or other renovations, or may never be seen, but any visible damage should be noted on an inspection graph for future reference, and then replaced as soon as possible. If not replaced, and noted properly, future inspections will discover the damage and may require treatment to sell the property, even though a previous treatment was done.

Although it is possible to tell if termites in fact damaged a home, it may not be possible to tell how long ago it happened, and if in fact a treatment was done at all. With that in mind, and giving the best advice possible, in most cases with old damage we recommend a full treatment, especially if there is no warranty or sign of treatment.

Colonial Pest Control Inc. has been using the Sentricon Colony Elimination System Since 1996 with excellent results. The Sentricon Colony Elimination System utilizes an Insect Growth Regulator that is safe for the environment, kids, and pets. There is no risk of ground water contamination, and the system can be completely removed if so desired with no lasting effect. The Sentricon Colony Elimination System can be used to control an existing termite colony, to monitor for and control new termite colonies, or used to monitor for the suspected cause of the old damage. We have come to trust this method of termite control and have hundreds of satisfied customers!  If you suspect termites have damaged your property or have an ongoing issue, please call right away so we can protect your most valuable investment. Colonial Pest Control can help!

Photo credit: Robbert van der Steeg / Foter / CC BY-SA

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