Spotting a Termite Problem Before You Buy a Home

Termite colony

Buying a home is one of the biggest decisions we make. The process of hiring a realtor, finding the right property, getting your finances together, and making an offer is a big time and energy commitment, all with the hopes of finding your dream space to live, rest, and play in. It’s all too easy to get carried away in the excitement of the house-hunting process. But while you’re thinking about location, interiors, and renovations, don’t forget to investigate and confirm the structural integrity and cleanliness of the building itself! 

Now, the last thing a home buyer wants is a surprise termite infestation. Unfortunately, some unlucky folks end up buying homes that they didn’t know were already being run by pests. Termites don’t make good housemates, and they sure won’t help you pay your mortgage.

One of the smartest things a prospective home buyer can do is to conduct a thorough termite inspection of the space to rule out the possibility of termites. Can you imagine — you’ve already put down a down payment, just to find your future living space is teeming with bugs? And not just any bugs, but termites– one of the most dangerous pests a home can get.

What Damage Can Termites Cause?

Termites threaten the structural integrity of your home. Any structure made of wood is vulnerable to termite infestation. Termites are wood-eating pests who thrive off chewing through the wood — delicious for them, a nightmare for homeowners. Don’t let your humble abode become a termite’s dinner.

Once they start, they multiply exponentially fast. A termite queen can lay 6 to 12 eggs within just a few days or weeks after mating. Eventually, queen termites can lay up to thousands of eggs per day! The big issue with termites is that they live in massive colonies of up to tens of millions. The speed at which they chew through a structure depends on how large the colony is and how many colonies (yes, there can be several at once) live in the home. 

Health Risk of Termites

Besides the obvious damage that termites cause to wooden structures, they also present a health risk. Termites bite and sting, which cause allergic reactions in some people. While they don’t carry diseases like other insects, their droppings present another trigger of allergies or dermatitis. When they chew through the wood, they disturb mold and mildew, releasing spores into the air and through the house, which may trigger asthma or allergic reactions. 

You wouldn’t rent out a room without knowing who your roommates are–  so why would you close on a home without knowing whether or not winged creatures have already settled down there? Before you buy a home, make sure you have ruled out the possibility of a termite infestation. You can do this by looking for the signs of infestation. 

There are five tell-tale signs of a termite infestation:

Discarded wings

Finding discarded wings is often the first, most obvious sign of a termite infestation. In the spring, once colonies reach maturity, winged termites known as “swarmers” fly away from the colony to reproduce and form new colonies elsewhere. Once the job is done, they shed their wings which they no longer need and leave them behind in the previous colony. As you look through the home, check for discarded wings in areas in or near crevices and entryways, including doors and windows. If you find a pile of discarded wings, you very likely have a termite infestation. If you’re not sure, calling PurePest to run an inspection is always a good idea just to make sure. 

Mud tubes

Termites form mud tubes to connect subterranean colonies with food sources above ground. Just like New York’s subway system, mud tubes provide quick and easy transportation for a colony. They form them by squishing pieces of soil and wood together to create a channel about the width of a pencil. Mud tubes are visible inside the home or outside leading toward the home. If you spot snaking lines of dirt going upward along the wall from the ground, it may be a mud tube. Besides creating a convenient transport system, termites also use mud tubes for protection. The channels of soil provide protection from potential predators like ants and cockroaches and they also lock moisture in. The three kinds of mud tubes are:

  1. Working tubes, which connect termite nests to wood sources,
  2. Exploratory tubes, a path that extends only from the soil
  3. Drop tubes, paths that link wood to soil on the ground. 

Mud tubes can be found on drywall, stone, concrete, wooden structures, or around termite nests. If you find a mud tube in or outside the home, termites are likely present. 


It is normal for a little dust to collect in a house– but how do you distinguish regular dust from telltale termite dust? Their “dust” is actually piles of their poop resembling tiny salt grains or light to dark brown pellets. Unlike sawdust, termite droppings are shaped like granular pellets of sand; sawdust more closely resembles shiny slivers or tiny wood shavings. Without a microscope, it is easy to mistake termite poop for sawdust. When termites eat through drywall, they create tiny holes called “exit holes” through which they push out their excrement. Mounds of pellets by drywall are a sign of a termite infestation. However, because they are so small and look similar to sawdust, it may be difficult to confirm the presence of termites by these small mounds alone. It is better to call on expert pest control services to determine for you. 

Damaged Wood

In addition to discarded wings, mud tubes, and dust, damaged wood is one of the clearest ways to identify a termite problem. If termites are present in the home, you may find wood that appears rotten or discolored. This is the after effect of their chewing through the wood. If you look carefully, you may find tiny holes in drywall, spots that look like water damage, or maze-like designs carved into wooden structures. 

Hollow sounding wood on knocking

It may sound strange, but if the wall sounds hollow when you knock on it, it could be a sign of termite presence. This is because they create cavities inside wooden walls, baseboards, and floors. Naturally, they create gaps in the wood as they eat away at it.

It is important to check for these signs of termite infestations before buying a home. But at the end of the day, you’re not a pest expert. The best thing to do is to call Pure Pest to arrange a professional home inspection conducted by pest control experts.