Termite Foundation Damage

Termite Foundation Damage

If you live in Alaska, this needn’t concern you. If you live in any other U.S. state, you face the possibility of termites invading your home, and if they get in through the foundation, you’re looking at potential structural damage that’ll cost you an arm, a leg and a lot of sleepless nights.

Your degree of risk hinges on a number of factors other than where you live. The type of foundation your house is resting on plays a significant role in how easy it is for termites to tunnel through in search of food.

That food, of course, is wood, so in most (but not all) cases of termite damage to foundations, it’s not the actual foundation material that’s damaged. Most foundations these days are made of concrete, and termites don’t eat concrete. Instead, they squeeze into cracks in the foundation and build a tiny, insidious city that can threaten your house’s substructure.

Poured-concrete foundations, especially rebar-reinforced ones, are the most secure, but even they can have cracks. Concrete-block foundations are less termite-resistant; in those, there’s the added issue of mortar, which often has more cracks and is easier to burrow through and weaken.

Once inside those cracks, they build mud tunnels. These tunnels protect the worker termites as they make inroads into your home. The termites can slowly widen those tunnels through extensive use, putting pressure on the cracks in the foundation and causing weakness in the structure itself. But that’s mostly if you don’t catch the problem for a long, long time.

The more immediate risk, in the case of concrete foundations, is to foundation-adjacent components, such as floor joists and other structural supports, which typically are made of wood. Also, foundation access can offer direct lines to food sources like porches and basement window frames.

That’s concrete. But there’s another type of foundation that can suffer more immediate and dramatic problems with termite infestation. The pier-and-beam foundation, which you see in homes with crawl spaces, supports a home on an all- or mostly-wooden substructure, offering termites a food source in the foundation material itself.

As in the case of any type of termite problem, there are treatments for foundation infestation and damage, including installing termiticide barriers in the soil surrounding the foundation, treating any foundation-adjacent wood with pesticides, and drilling into the actual foundation to inject pesticides into cracks and holes. These approaches can also be used as preventive measures, or pre-treatment, which reduce the risk of a problem in the first place.

Regardless of your foundation type or the extent of damage, this is one of those cases where you want to bring in a professional. Termites aren’t the easiest pests to deal with, to put it mildly, and your home’s foundation is probably not the place to be learning as you go.

Or, take a huge loss on the house and head to Alaska, where termites dare not roam. Look out for the cockroaches and bed bugs, though: They’re not afraid of the cold.

For more information on termites, home damage and foundation treatments, check out the links below.


Concrete & Termites

There is an urban legend that says that termites can eat through concrete to get into a home. In fact, termites do not eat concrete. They can squeeze through very tiny cracks, so it sometimes seems like they have eaten their way through.

Formosan subterranean termites live in very large colonies. They have been known to enlarge a crack in a concrete slab so that more termites could get through to the food inside the home.

Termites often enter homes by crawling up the foundation. If they must travel in the open, they usually make tubes of dirt so they can stay covered. If the tubes are on the outside of the foundation, homeowners often see them. However, if the tubes are inside the crawl space, the termites often stay hidden for a long time. If the termites can find a crack in the foundation, they can easily travel undisturbed from the ground to the home above.

Homes that are built on slabs often have tiny cracks. Some of the cracks happen while the new concrete is drying. Other cracks may appear if the soil settles under the slab. When termites find these cracks, they move up into the home.

Termites have been found traveling under carpeting from a crack in the slab. The termites were traveling to the nearest wall where they attacked the wooden sill and studs.

Termites also enter homes through expansion joints. Expansion joints are also known as “cold joints”. They happen wherever two slabs meet. Very large buildings often have expansion joints at regular intervals. Warehouses, shopping centers, town homes, and apartment buildings often have expansion joints.

Houses that are built on slabs can also have expansion joints. Bay windows, patios, garages, and carports are often separate slabs from the main structure. There are often expansion joints between these slabs. Termites frequently enter homes through these joints, even if there was felt or some other material installed in the joint.

Homes that are built on concrete slabs have openings in the concrete where pipes enter the home. Some of these openings are barely big enough for the pipe to go through. Others, like the bath trap, can be large openings in the concrete. Termites use these openings to enter the home. They attack the wood inside the wall where the pipe comes into the home.

Experts recommend having periodic termite inspections. Many termite control professionals offer this service. These experts can identify the signs of termite activity. They can also point out any termite entryways that can be sealed or modified.


Will termites eat cement

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2) Subterranean termites can mutate into drywood termites.

3) Termites will even eat pressure-treated wood.

Semi-true. Wood that is treated under pressure with chemicals to resist rot is also required to be termite resistant—but it is not permanently termite-proof. There are two ways that termites can attack pressure treated wood:

a) The pressure-treatment does not fully penetrate to the center of large wood posts. So, if the bottom of a post is trimmed off before it is buried in the ground the core is vulnerable to termites. Manufacturers recommend applying a second treatment of chemicals to a cut end before installing a post in the ground.

b) The chemical treatment of wood that is unpainted and exposed to outdoor weather lasts about 8 to 10 years before it has mostly leached away by rain. Then the termites attack. If you look closely at the rating tag on pressure-treated wood, you will notice that some lumber is rated for “ground contract” and some is not. The ground-contact rated lumber has a higher level of chemical treatment and will resist termites for a longer period.

4) Termites bite like red ants when disturbed.

Wrong. If you have ever actually seen a live termite, this story is especially amusing. Considering the damage they do to a home, they are incredibly tiny insects. There are “soldier” termites that defend the colony against other insect attackers, but their miniature jaws would only hurt another insect and they do not sting.

5) Wood chip mulch in the yard attracts termites.

Definitely no. Research studies by both the University of Florida and the University of Maryland entomology departments found that, while termites will eat most varieties of wood mulch sold at garden centers during the process of underground foraging around a yard, it is not their favorite diet; and, the incidence of termites under areas of mulch was found to be no higher than under areas of bare soil or pea rock ground cover. In fact, the University of Maryland study found the most termite activity under pea rock. Wood chip mulch piled up to the base of a home’s exterior wood siding, however, does provide a concealed route for subterranean termites to enter the wall.

6) Termites steal marijuana.

Not sure. We got asked about this one a few years ago while working in Key West. But if it is true, they might be hungry enough after munching the marijuana to want some concrete.

В В While many of the amazing stories about termites are fiction, their ability to do major damage to your home is very real. Termites cause an estimated $11-billion in damage to wood structures every year in the United States, which exceeds even the annual damage caused by house fires.

While we hope you find this series of articles about home inspection helpful, they should not be considered an alternative to an actual home inspection by a local inspector. Also, construction standards vary in different parts of the country and it is possible that important issues related to your area may not be covered here.
В©2015 – McGarry and Madsen Inspection. –


Can termites eat through concrete?

Question: Can termites eat through concrete? How large of a crack in concrete is needed for termites to access?

ANSWER: Termites cannot eat through concrete. The issue is that no matter how well poured, concrete will crack as it settles. When poured around plumbing, it will retract or shrink from around the pipes. In slab construction, there is a bath trap which essentially is a large square of dirt under a bathtub that is often unseen until it is too late.

To answer your second question, termites need the thickness of two sheets of paper or a business card to enter a building. This is not much! Oftentimes, these cracks are hidden by carpeting, flooring and even walls.

Call us to set up an inspection performed by a qualified Orkin Pest Specialist. Your Orkin Man will provide you with a visual comprehensive inspection, identification of conditions that are conducive to termite infestations, and construction issues around your home that provide ease of access for termites, among a variety of other inspection items. Once completed, the Orkin Pest Specialist will develop a customized treatment solution for either correcting a termite infestation or preventing one.

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Do Termites Eat Concrete?

Generally speaking, No, termites do not eat concrete.

Termites cannot derive any nutrition from concrete, so the only reason they may attempt to tunnel their way through concrete it is in order to get to lumber that may lay behind it.

Most concrete is hard enough that termites cannot chew through it. However, older degraded concrete is occasionally weak enough for termites to make their way through. The same has been known to be true with lime mortar which is common with brickwork. Termites have been known to make their way through the lime mortar between brickwork to get to the wood behind them.

Typically termites will not attempt to burrow their way through concrete without first finding a hole large enough for them to fit through. This does not really have to be very big. A hole just a bit larger than the termite’s head is enough for them to enter and begin tunneling, however, they prefer holes twice this size to allow for two-way traffic: in and out. Still termites are tiny so a hole the width of two termite heads is not very big and easy for termites to work their way through if the concrete or mortar mix is weakened enough for their jaws to chew into.

Can Termites Eat Through Stucco?

Generally, termites can also get through stucco for the same reasons that they can get through concrete—it only takes a tiny crack or hole for termites to find their way through the stucco to the lumber that may lay behind the stucco. However, termites won’t eat stucco for nutrition because stucco is not a cellulose material like wood, paper, mulch, etc.

Can Termites Eat Through Grout?

Again, termites can also get through grout when grout has tiny cracks or holes. You might find termites working their way through grout, like in this video above, when they’re trying to find their way into a house that may have lumber. But, again, termites don’t eat grout for nutrition because grout doesn’t contain cellulose.

Can Termites Eat Through Brick?

Do you think termites can find their way through bricks? Yes?

You’re right. Same deal here as grout, concrete, and stucco. Bricks can crack over time and when they do, termites can find their way through the cracks or holes.

What Kind of Termites go Through Concrete, Stucco, Grout, or Bricks?

Usually, it’s subterranean termites that make their way from below the ground (sub-terranean) up the foundation to the concrete, stucco, bricks, grout, etc. Theoretically, it’s possibly for drywood termites to find their way through concrete, stucco, grout, or bricks as well, but more likely than not, if you find termites have found their way through such places, they’re subterranean termites.


Can Termites Destroy or Penetrate Concrete?

When termites invade a home, it can seem as though they’re getting in everywhere, including through the foundation. This has given rise to the belief that these pests are able to eat into concrete, a material which is supposed to be secure. Though there’s no truth to this story, your home’s foundation can still be a way for termites to enter your home and cause significant damage.

Can Termites Eat Concrete?

The short answer is no. Termites cannot digest concrete. Although wood is their preferred source of nutrition and what they are well-known for eating, termites have also been known to eat drywall, foam, plastics and even thin lead and copper cheeting materials especially when it’s in the way of them getting to wood.

If there’s wood on the other side of your concrete foundation, termites will do whatever they can to get at it. Termites are persistent, so they’ll keep looking for entry points until they find one, make their way inside and start eating.

How Termites May Find Their Way Into Your Home’s Concrete Foundation

These small sneaking little things can find their way into your foundation through small cracks and crevices including expansion joints and those places where pipes and wires enter your home.

Once inside, termites start tunneling through the walls leaving behind what looks like little mud tunnels, which widen over time. The longer they are active, the wider the tunnels get. So, just by their activity, these tunnels cause additional pressure as the cracks in your foundation widen. This gradual process may go on, unnoticed, until the point at which it becomes serious, making regular inspection of both your home’s exterior and your foundation a necessary component of your ongoing pest control.

Wondering how to know if you have termites? Here are some things to look for:

  • Small holes in the wood in and around your structures.
  • Wood or paint damage can be a sign that termites are having a buffet. You can take a screwdriver and tap it against wooden door frames and walls to locate soft spots. If they are active, cracks can form and sometimes you will see the cracks in the paint. It can often mimic water damage.
  • Mud tunnels that serve as highways for these pests. These tiny tunnels look like their made of mud hence the name and are usually light brown and thin and run through your house’s foundation or walls.
  • Termite frass or wings near entry points. Frass is termite feces which is one of the things used to build the mud tunnels. By itself, it looks like small brown pellets or even tiny wood shavings. Random discarded wings can also be a sign you have termites. Look for them near windows or doors.

Dealing With Termites

Since most of the termite damage is internal it can be hard to know if they are there and how much damage they’ve caused. Once you find evidence of them, you could have a big problem on your hands and a whole lot of damage to your home. That’s why it’s often best to call in the pros when dealing with these sneaky pests.

Once the termites which have infested your home have been removed, you can do the following to help prevent them from coming back:

  • Discard any wood in the yard or around the home that may attract new colonies. Mulch, firewood and scrap lumber can also lure termites onto your property, so keep these above ground and away from your foundation.
  • Seal any cracks or gaps you can find in and around your home’s foundation.
  • Trim trees, shrubs and plants to that branches don’t provide termites with a welcome mat to damage your wooden structures.
  • Have tree stumps removed by a lawn services company which can give termites a hiding spot.
  • Fix any and all leaks because termites like moisture.
  • Increase ventilation in attics and crawl spaces to discourage pests from coming inside.

Protect Your Biggest Investment

The pest control specialists at ABC Home & Commercial Services are fully equipped to inspect your home for potential termite entrances and to develop a treatment plan to address the current problems and protect your home into the future. Our thorough approach not only covers the concrete parts of your home, but also the yard, interior, and anywhere else termites might be hiding. You can rest easy, knowing that you are protecting your biggest investment against these small insects that can cause considerable damage.


Can Termites Eat Through Concrete?

Contrary to urban legend, termites cannot eat through concrete. And, they do not have super jaws that can chew through steel. They simply eat wood and other cellulose materials, which is amazing since cellulose is indigestible to most creatures. And termites are constantly searching for new food sources to feed their growing colonies. Termite control requires persistence and attention to detail similar to that which drives termites to create mud highways across your concrete foundation to get to your yummy wood frames.

Physical Barriers Only Go So Far to Control Termites

Concrete slab floors are common in Australian homes built since the 60s and provide effective barriers to termites. However, concrete can develop cracks over time ( have a look at the hairline cracks in your garage floor). Cracks need to be wider than 3mm to provide passage to the good wood inside the home. The expansion joints between large slabs of concrete can provide access either to any framework crossing it or timber, books and other cellulose items stored straddling these joints.

Termites will not eat chipboard, MDF, laminates or other wood mixed with glue. They may travel over these materials to get to the “good stuff” like your timber infrastructure and built-in framework.

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