Termite Damage or Wood Rot? Charlotte Pest Control Explains How to Tell the Difference
Termites can be one of your home's worst enemies. Silently and steadily, these insects damage the wood on your house by feeding on its cellulose and weakening it. You may not know how bad the damage is until it requires extensive repair, more often than not costing you thousands of dollars. But sometimes termite damage is mistaken for wood rot. How do you tell the difference between the two, so that you can take measures to save your home from further damage? We have some suggestions on how to look for key differences between wood rot and damage caused by termites.
What Is Wood Rot? Why Does It Look Like Termite Damage?
Wood rot, also known as dry rot, is a form of wood decay caused by certain types of fungi, tiny organisms whose main function is to decompose material. These fungi are carried by spores that float in the air and attach themselves to the wood on your house. Once they've attached themselves, their digestive enzymes break down the wood so that they can feed on it. As a result of their feeding, the wood loses a great deal of its toughness.
Like us humans, the fungi need oxygen to survive. But what really causes these organisms to thrive is the warm weather we often enjoy here in the Charlotte area, as well as a source of moisture such as a flooded basement or trapped water in a building cavity during construction. These factors combine to make a recipe for disaster for your wood structures. And, when the wood has lost its toughness and becomes hollow in places, at first glance it can look somewhat like termite damage.
Appearance of Damage: The Differences
It's easy to confuse wood rot and termite damage because channels are created in the wood in both cases. Termites and fungi both feed from the wood by creating channels, but the way they look can provide clues to the type of damage you have.
The fungi that causes wood rot moves moisture through the wood while consuming it. The pattern of the fungi's movement makes the channels look like dry brick or dry block. Another common visual sign that wood rot has is also likened to bricks: the appearance of the fungi spores, which looks like red brick dust.
These insects construct channels by digging mud galleries or "shelter tubes" made from soil particles, water, saliva and fecal matter. The galleries transport termites from the soil to the wood on your house. They have branches much like a tree does, with the main "trunk" leading from the earth to the wood on your house.
If you are still uncertain about whether you have termite damage or wood rot, evidence of live termites might confirm your suspicions. You may see them in channels or galleries in the wood or, more likely, in termite swarms. Swarming is the way termites seek out a new place to reproduce. In the springtime, you may see hundreds or even thousands of termites in a swarm. This usually occurs in warm, damp conditions, such as the day following a rain shower.
While you might see a termite swarm near a tree stump or railroad ties on your property, it does not necessarily mean that your house is infested. On the other hand, if you see a termite swarm indoors, especially near a light at night, you probably have a termite infestation in the house.
More Clues to the Type of Damage You Have
The location of wood damage may help you determine whether the problem is caused by wood rot or termites. For both termites and fungi, access to wooden structures comes from exposure to soil.
Where to Find Termite Damage
Termites, in particular, use the cracks in a building's foundation to access wood from the ground. For this reason, it's a good idea to check spots where concrete connects with wood in an unfinished basement.
Other places in your house that may be prone to termite damage include:
- Swollen-looking walls and ceilings in which termites have created hollow excavations
- Tight-fitting doors or stiff windows that are warped due to damage
- Wood flooring, where blistering may indicate that termites are feeding within the flooring or the subfloor underneath.
Common Locations for Wood Rot
Since wood rot is moisture-loving, it tends to grow in damp, dark corners--indoors or out. While moisture in floors and walls is troublesome, you might also want to check for wood rot in easily accessible areas of your roof such as eaves, fascia boards and rafter tails.
Whether it's termite damage or wood rot, the damage to the wood in your home can be considerable and costly. If you suspect early signs of termite damage, the best way to handle it is to schedule an inspection. An inspection offered by our Charlotte Pest Control team will evaluate possible infestations and damage to your home, property or business. Contact us to request an appointment today.