Wood damage is something many homeowners fear due to costly repairs and indications of pest infestations, but knowing the signs of possible pest-related damage can help you be diligent and catch problems before they get much worse. While wood damage might make you think of termites, there are many kinds of creatures that can damage wood in your home. Keeping an eye out for pest-related damage can be narrowed down to three major things.
Holes or Mud Tubes
Many insects that damage the wood in your home, from termites to carpenter ants to beetles, have to get in somewhere. This usually means holes in the wood face where they can enter and exit whatever tunnels they've made within. They may not always be obvious, so be sure to check all sides of any exposed wood. You may find them near the ground on the outside of your house or in the rafters in your attic or garage, so this could get a little time intensive.
Occasionally there are more obvious signs to make things a little easier. Insects like termites will also occasionally build mud tubes, which lead from their home to their source of stable food (i.e., your home). Mud tubes are built for established colonies,and will look like small brown snakes leading up the wall from the ground. This is a much more obvious sign of pest intrusion and can help you narrow down their location much faster. You may also notice concentrations of insects around certain areas of your home; if you see ants or any flying insects hovering near a section of wood, check that area out quickly.
If you do notice any of these signs, even if an infestation itself isn't immediately evident, call an exterminator for a prompt inspection.
Hollow or Easily Damaged Wood
One problem with damage to your home's wood is that much of it happens beneath the surface, meaning you may not realize that any damage has occurred until an infestation is well under way. Occasionally, when wood weakens enough, parts of it may crack or fall away, leaving the inside revealed, which is typically full of tunnels.
The first thing to look for is any wood that seems to be cracking or warping. Even if there aren't any holes or tubes on the outside, these signs are definitely worth a closer look.
The second thing to look for is the structural integrity of any wood you think might be subject to infestation. When wood has been chipped or eaten away at, it will be much weaker, and the outside layers will easily collapse under pressure. Take the tip of a flathead screwdriver or other probing tool and gently tap it against the wood. If it caves easily, there are tunnels underneath, and you need to call an exterminator.
Wood And Pest Residue
One common sign of wood-destroying pests is frass, which is the residue of wood-boring creatures. It looks a lot like sawdust and can clump up in the same way. This will usually show up near the entrance of wherever the creatures are boring into your wood. Unfortunately its likeness to sawdust may cause it to go unnoticed, especially if it shows up somewhere like a garage, so be extra diligent when you see piles of what you suspect may be frass.
You may also see wood chips in larger chunks, and this is because mice will sometimes gnaw at wood to use in their nests. Check the corners of wood posts and any secluded areas for signs that a rodent may have been nibbling on the wood to build their home. Nests themselves are usually composed of an amalgamation of materials, but if you find either a nest or signs of gnawing at wood from something larger than insects, an inspection is definitely recommended.