Termites are a $1 billion problem in the U.S., so it’s safe to assume that you receive more than a few calls about them. Here are a few basic tips for tracking down subterranean termites:
- Arm yourself with a flashlight and a screwdriver or a bradawl, then check the basement of your customer’s house. Inspect the crawlspaces and the foundation beams. Use the screwdriver/bradawl to test the wood by seeing how far the tool can penetrate, if at all. Then, systematically tap all the beams to see whether they are hollow. Finally, test the wood with your hands to find out how fragile it is.
- While still in the basement, check for termite droppings. These are fairly easy to spot, since they are usually wood colored (or sometimes dark brown) pellets. Try looking around any of the weakened areas of wood.
- Look for mud tubes, which the invading termites construct to make their comings and goings easier. If the infestation is serious enough, there could be dozens of these tubes and tunnels, most of which are probably concealed in the wall spaces or under the floor.
By contrast, drywood termites are above-ground wood dwellers, although by infesting homes and furniture they can do an enormous amount of damage. True to their name, they seem to prefer dry wood instead of the moisture-laden material that is so attractive to their subterranean cousins. That’s why you’ll usually find them hanging out in attics, chowing down on wooden fences and decks, or hiding inside the furniture.