While termites are drawn to wood, there are other factors that may lead to a termite infestation too. Learn what causes termites and what to do about it.
Updated on: November 9, 2022
While termites primarily feed on wood they find in their environment, there are other factors that may lead to a termite infestation, too.
Termites need food and water to survive. You can give them easy access to both by leaving wood and materials containing cellulose (such as old magazines, newspapers, cardboard boxes and paper products) in accessible places, failing to seal holes and cracks and / or not taking care of leaky plumbing and improper drainage. All of these conditions can create a perfect storm that makes your property more conducive to termite infestation.
Learn more about what causes termites to invade your house and what to to get termite control.
How do you get termites?
Termites come to your home in search of food, water, and a place to feed. These wood destroying pests may start feeding on your home when you unwittingly provide them with the perfect combination of conditions that make your home and property ripe for a termite infestation.
According to Dr. Blake Layton, an entomologist from Mississippi State University, you may unintentionally create optimum conditions for termites to enter your home by:
- Stacking firewood directly against your home
- Using untreated wood to create a deck or stairs that come in direct contact with your home
- Allowing mulch to come in contact with the foundation of your home
- Not tending to leaky pipes
- Not keeping up with regular termite inspections and treatment on your property
While these are just a few of the factors that can create a hospitable environment for termites, there are even more circumstances that encourage termite infestations.
1. Moisture in your home
Subterranean termites build their colonies in soil and are attracted to moisture. Leaky pipes are more than just a plumbing issue and should be addressed before creating an opportunity for termite infestation. Plumbing leaks can also result in severe wood rot if left untreated.
You also need to make sure that your foundation is properly ventilated and trim back or remove any landscaping that could allow humidity to build up in your home's crawl space or foundation. Termites prefer moist, undisturbed places such as crawl spaces. Reduce moisture in your home's crawl spaces by having your home inspected and evaluated for moisture sources and solutions. Termites may also enter slab homes along the perimeter of foundations, especially in areas with mulch or landscaping plants that crowd the foundation.
Remember, even if you take care of these problems, your house may still require treatment for termites.
2. Improper Drainage
Excess moisture near the foundation of your home makes it an especially attractive place for termites to forage. To create a less hospitable environment for termites, start by inspecting, cleaning and repairing your gutters.
Keep the soil next to your home's foundation as dry as possible by repairing any leaking faucets or pipes. Divert excess water from your foundation with properly functioning gutters, downspouts and splash blocks. Use lawn sprinklers and irrigation systems in a way that minimizes water accumulation near your foundation.
3. Wood and wooden structures that come into contact with your home
Even if the soil around your home has been treated by a pest control specialist, wood that serves as a bridge between the ground and your home may create a point of entry for termites. Termites feed on cellulose, an essential component of wood.
Subterranean termites will search out food sources that exist above ground in addition to their more readily available food supplies. Any wood that comes into contact with your home's exterior may create an opportunity for termites to infiltrate your home's interior.
To help lessen the odds of granting termites easier access to your home, remove any stumps, vines, mulch, trellises or other exterior wood such as stacked firewood that is in close proximity to your home's foundation – especially if your home has wooden siding.
Please note that your roof can also be vulnerable to termite infestation. Trim back any tree limbs that are resting on your roof or touching wooden structures such as eaves or window framing.
4. Openings in your home's foundation, roof, walls, etc.
In their search for moisture and food, termites will take advantage of any breach in your home's integrity. Cracks in your foundation's concrete offer opportunities for subterranean termites to gather materials for the construction of mud tubes – the tunnels they use to travel in their foraging.
Periodically inspect your home's entry doors and windows, and reapply caulk where any might be distressed or missing.
Similarly, look for any loose or defective seals where electrical conduit or plumbing lines enter your home. And if you are aware of damage to your shingles, fascia boards or eaves, have it repaired immediately. Even these minor fixes can help you to better defend your home against a termite infestation.
Another landscaping element that termites enjoy is mulch. Made from wood, bark and other organic matter, mulch can be an excellent source of food and water for termites.
If your mulch is too close to the foundation of your home, it can create an easy bridge between termites and your home, potentially leading to an infestation.
If you do choose to use mulch for landscaping purposes, be sure to keep it as far away from the foundation of your home as possible – about six inches, but further, if possible. Meanwhile, pebbles and rocks can be a great alternative to mulch.
You may live in a state or region that is particularly susceptible to termite infestations. Homeowners in warmer, wetter states such as those of the South and Gulf Coast are in areas of higher termite pressure resulting in more frequent infestations.
You can also consult the United States Forest Service's map of Termite Infestation Probability (TIP) Zones to determine your home's level of risk to infestation due to local environmental factors. Though some areas of the country have an increased termite presence, remember that termites are found in every state except Alaska, so don't let your guard down.
7. Not getting inspections regularly can lead to termite infestation By the time you begin to notice the signs of termite damage, these pests may have already been working inside your home for years. That's why it's important to arrange for regular termite inspections, calling in the pros who know what to look for and can more likely detect their presence sooner rather than later.
By conducting these inspections annually, you may help improve your chances of finding termites before they cause extensive and costly damages to your home.
What to do about termite infestation
It can be difficult to detect the presence of termites in your home. These pests hide in dark places, making their homes in the soil beneath your home or tunneling through wooden structures feeding on life-sustaining cellulose. However, you may begin to notice their presence by way of such signs as hollow or warped wood, discarded wings and mud tunnels.
To help get rid of termites, your best bet is to call in a pest control specialist, as DIY methods rarely work.
By the time a termite infestation becomes obvious to the human eye, it's likely already in full swing. Luckily, Terminix offers free termite inspections. And if you have termites, you can rely on our team of termite experts to recommend the best possible treatment using the latest techniques to effectively deal with these pests. Schedule your free termite inspection with Terminix today.