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Buying a Home? Look for These Signs of Termites

Termites eating rotted wood
Buying a home, only to find out weeks later that it is infested with termites, is terribly disheartening. Many of the early signs of termite infestation easily go overlooked if you don't know what you're looking for. So before you make an offer on that dream home, give it a thorough once-over, checking for these signs of termite damage.


Frass is the technical term for termite droppings. Drywood termites leave behind frass that looks like oval-shaped, black or tan capsules about 1 millimeter long. You'll often see their frass in a pile near a hole in the wood. As they tunnel through the wood, they shove the frass out this hole to be rid of it. Common places you might see frass include along a window sill, on the corner of the floor where two walls come together, and outside along the base of the home's foundation.
Subterranean termites - a different variety of termite that lives in huge, underground colonies - don't typically leave frass behind. Instead, they use it in the construction of their mud tubes, which are discussed below.

Mud Tubes

Subterranean termites build structures known as mud tubes on the path they take from their underground nest to the wood that they feed on. You may see these mud tubes along baseboards, running up walls, and even across floors. Outdoors, you might spot mud tubes on the home's foundation or even on pavers or sidewalks near the home. They look a bit like veins made from mud.
Many people are perplexed by mud tubes and do not realize they are caused by termites - but if you know what you're looking for, they are the most obvious sign of subterranean termites. Termites build them very quickly, so even if a homeowner were to clean the mud tubes up prior to showing the home, they would be back within a few days. If you think you see mud tubes on or in a house, visit a few days later to see if there are more of them.

Wood Damage

People expect wood that has been damaged by termites to look rough and chewed. However, termites often begin eating wood from the inside, out. Thus, the only sign of termite damage, when an infestation is in the beginning stages, might be pinhole-sized holes in the drywall, wood, and wallpaper. If termites have been in the home for a while, wooden structures may sound hollow when you tap on them. 
Other signs of termite damage include peeling or bubbling paint and what looks like faint lines on the drywall. The lines are actually the faint reflections of tunnels made through the paper on the drywall. (Termites eat paper along with wood.) 


You rarely see termites when they are actively feeding on wood. However, if you happen to look at a home during a termite mating season, you might see swarmers. Swarmers are termites with wings who are seeking to mate. They only arise when a colony is seeking to expand.
Swarmers look like ants with two sets of thin, white wings. They travel in big swarms or groups. Sometimes, all you might see is a pile of discarded wings left behind by the termites. If you see a group of these swarmers in the yard of the home you're looking at - or if you notice big piles of discarded wings - there is probably a termite colony in or near the home. 
If you notice any of the signs above, it does not necessarily mean the home is infested with termites. In some cases, there may have been a previous infestation that the homeowners already dealt with, though they did not repair all of the damage. To find out for sure, call Area-Wide Exterminators. We'll inspect the home from termites, and based on the results, you can make a more informed decision about buying the home.