Nothing strikes fear into the heart of a homeowner like the idea of termites. Known for their silent destruction, these pests can cause lasting damage to your home. As they bore into wooden structures, they create cavities that ultimately compromise its structural integrity.
Perhaps the most difficult part of getting rid of termites is recognizing the problem itself. Termites often leave few surface-level clues that they are present, leaving homeowners to discover them only after damage is done.
There are several types of termites and many ways they can cause damage. For the engineered hardwood flooring in your home, it is important to get a jump start on any warning signs. Termites rarely limit their damage to the superficial or visible part of the floor, as they prefer softer wood often found in the subfloor and other supporting floor components.
Let’s take a closer look at these floors specifically, identifying the signs of termites in hardwood floors:
1. Sagging or Buckling
If a termite infestation is left untreated, it can weaken wood over time. When it comes to hardwood floors, this can result in a sagging or weakening of all components of your floor, although you are likely to first notice it as buckling or sagging in your hardwood.
2. Small Holes
Another sign of termites in hardwood floors is the appearance of small holes. Sometimes a termite infestation first appears as small holes in your hardwood floors. As termites consume wood, they create tubes, tunnels and cavities, most of which are hidden from immediate view. Occasionally, however, they will leave surface level holes that should be investigated for potential damage.
3. Squeaking Floors
Weakened floors are more prone to make noise, as they flex with weight and movement. Termites can cause damage to the structural components of floors, from the subfloor and supports to floor joists and hardwood floors themselves. As floorboards rub against each other or against nails and joints, they will produce a squeaking sound, which you should investigate as a potential sign of termites.
4. Mud Tunnels
Termites construct and use mud tubes or mud tunnels as a means of transportation within wood. Usually dark brown in colour, these tunnels are readily visible to the naked eye, as they are usually about the width of a pencil. In order to test if you have an active termite colony at work, cut away a section of the tunnel. If it is rebuilt within a few days, you likely have an active colony.
5. Hollow Sounds
If you suspect you may have termite damage, one of the first things you can do is to explore a little further by knocking on your floors. The mud tunnels and cavities created by termites will produce a give-away sound if they have done enough damage. Use the end of a screwdriver to tap your floors and even baseboards—if there is significant termite damage, you will hear a hollow sound as you tap.
6. Visible Mould
Mould is a problem in itself and a sign that wood is decomposing. The presence of mould, often caused by pooling moisture and poor ventilation, causes decomposition, which in turn attracts termites. If you find mould around your floors, try to remove a section of the floorboards and look for further signs of termite damage.
7. Faeces or Frass
Finding the faeces of an animal or insect is never a good sign. Termite faeces appears like sawdust but is dark brown in colour. When termites infest hardwood floors, their faeces can sometimes be found along cracks between floorboards or even in wall cracks. Try to avoid touching termite frass and wash your hands immediately, if you’ve touched it by accident.
8. Spongy Areas
Once you are suspicious that termites could be an issue, perhaps from other visible clues, use a screwdriver to test for further damage. While you may have already tapped the floors, looking for hollow sounds, try penetrating your floor, both mid-board and in the seams, to see if you are met with resistance. If the boards can be easily penetrated, feeling almost spongy, you could easily have a termite issue.
9. Raised / Detached Floorboards
Sometimes, if enough termite damage has been done, floorboards will actually rise and detach from the glue that binds it to the floor. This happens when termites eat through structural elements, such as floor joists, and even the glue that holds floorboards in place.
Hardwood floors are a beautiful, clean addition to almost any home. When properly cared for and occasionally refinished, they can last for generations. Depending on the age of your home, the humidity level and its general maintenance, you may be at higher risk for infestations, including termites.
Because termites can be so destructive, it’s better to be safe than sorry and seek the help of pest control services as quickly as possible. Once you are aware of the signs of termites in hardwood floors, you’ll be better prepared to take action and protect your home.