The Types of Termites That Can Damage Your Hardwood Floors and How To Fix Them

If you notice something amiss with your hardwood floors, there could be a major underlying issue like termites. Termites are one of the most voracious wood-boring pests, and they often go unnoticed until problems appear. An infestation can cause a tremendous amount of damage to a home in a short amount of time. Early detection and identification of termite colonies are essential to limiting the damage to your home and hardwood floors.

Signs of Termites

The signs of termite damage are not always obvious, but there are certain red flags in your hardwood floors you don’t want to ignore. Known as the silent destroyer, termites mostly feed on dead wood from the inside out, making their presence in a home very discreet. Termites weaken the inner structure of wood causing floorboards to exhibit abnormal sounds and damage.

Different types of termites make themselves known in different ways. Subterranean termites, which dwell underground in damp soil, can cause damage that looks similar to water damage. This can become noticeable in the same way that a leak from a bathroom pipe or rain damage can–through buckling or warping wood, swollen ceilings and floors, and a mildew smell that is actually exuded by the termites themselves.

Drywood termites can cause cracks in the wood they’ve infested once their colony becomes established enough. You may notice this especially in furniture that has become infested with drywood termites, and you may be able to actually see their tunnels in your walls once those cracks appear.

Hollow sounds are created by cavities carved out by termites, and you can listen for them by tapping on the floor with a screwdriver if you think you may have a termite infestation. Hardwoods weakened by termites can also creak or squeak due to movement between loose planks, or because the subfloor and supports are compromised.

Floors that sag and buckle, have loose boards, small holes, or crumbling wood also indicate possible termite damage. A termite infestation can become very dangerous when the destruction causes floors or other parts of the house to collapse, and it’s imperative that you call a pest control specialist as soon as possible once you determine that you have termites to prevent any further damage to your home.


There are a few different pests that can cause damage to hardwood floors such as carpenter ants, powder post beetles, or termites. It is essential to properly identify the insects to determine the right course of treatment.

Worker termites have a soft, pale yellow body, opposed to the hard and dark bodies of other pests. The two wing sets of flying termites are the same size, while carpenter ants have one smaller and one larger set. Beetles have one pair of soft wings protected by a harder set.

If you notice any swarms of winged insects indoors, discarded wings, or pencil-thin mud tubes on exterior walls, you most likely have a termite problem. Close inspection of the insect and the wood damage can give you clues into what type of colony you are dealing with. Termites are classified into three groups: subterranean, dry wood, or dampwood species.

Subterranean Termites

Subterranean termites are the most common termite in the U.S. and cause billions of dollars of structural damages. They live in soil around homes and get in through foundation cracks, by constructing mud tubes, or through wood touching a house like mulch or rotting trees. Subterranean termites commonly chew along the grain of softwood, leaving a honeycomb pattern. They prefer humid and damp areas of the house, such as basements, bathrooms, and attics, so ensuring proper ventilation through your home and keeping humidity low will go a long way in preventing subterranean termites from setting up shop in your home. Subterranean termites are by far the most destructive native termite species, and can cause enough damage to cause entire structures to collapse.

Some communities in California, Hawaii, and throughout the Southern US have become the new home for Formosan termites, another type of subterranean termite that made its way to US soil from Asia. These are even more destructive than our native subterranean termites and their underground colonies can reach 350,000 workers! These termites are very aggressive and fast-moving, so they can cause severe structural damage in just a few months.

Drywood Termites

Drywood termites make their nests in dry conditions and can invade a home through wood exposure or by way of infested furniture. Drywood species tend to eat large sections of wood with and against the grain. Drywood termites can make themselves known through their excrement, which they eject out of their tunnels, similar to carpenter ants.

This waste product will appear similar to fine grains of sand, so if you notice piles of this substance under your furniture or anywhere near your walls, you should check for an entrance to a termite tunnel and examine whether you have an infestation. As their name suggests, drywood termites do not prefer wood that is damp or moist, they prefer drier areas of the home and to feed on newer wood sources that haven’t decayed yet.

Dampwood Termites

Another group of termites are dampwood species. Dampwood termites are attracted to rotting or wet wood on the ground. They can make their way into a home through contact with wet lumber or even water-damaged areas of the house. These termites usually eat wood against the grain, leaving a smooth surface. Dampwood termites are much larger than subterranean termites, and they are attracted specifically to wood that has been damaged by water and is decaying. They can hollow out the support beams of the house, weakening the structure and causing huge amounts of damage. Dampwood termites differ from subterranean termites by the fact that they live in moist wood and do not require soil for their habitat before gaining entry to a home.

Prevention and Treatment

Termites can cause devastating harm to wood structures, including hardwood floors. To help prevent these silent destroyers from invading, keep all rotting wood such as firewood far away from the house. Any wood that’s brought inside should be thoroughly checked, look out for holes or hollowness that could house the insects. Limit the amount of mulch that is kept in close contact with the home and regularly inspect any wood structures that are in contact with the ground. You can also prevent termites by using treated wood outside and installing termite shields. Sealing any gaps and cracks in the foundation can prevent subterranean termites, as they can fix through cracks as wide as a business card. If there is any water pooling near the sides of your house, this can lead to termites, so divert any excess rainwater away from the foundation of your home.

Early detection of termites is essential to limit the damage they inflict on a home. Routine inspections around the house and of your hardwood floors are essential. Take notice of any inexplicable damages to your floor and thoroughly investigate any apparent issues. If you suspect you have termites, it is best to have a professional assess and treat the infestation. After a termite infestation has been treated, it is possible for damaged hardwood floors to be repaired.

For more information on how we can repair your floors, please get in touch with Steve at (215) 515-7355 or



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