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Termites cause billions of dollars in property damage annually in the United States. While the exact figure is debated, the fact remains: termites pose a significant threat to homes.

Termite behavior is predictable, as these tiny pests are attracted to moisture and thrive in warmer weather. An infestation requires a professional exterminator and structural reconstruction. Remaining proactive about termite control protects your home from termite damage. 

Here’s what you need to know about termite risks, behaviors, and how to protect your home. 

Where Are Termites Most Common?

The areas of the country with the top risk of termite damage are in the southeastern part of the U.S., along with California. In addition to these areas with extreme risk, areas with high termite risk extend to Massachusetts, Texas, Oregon, and most of the states in between. Only very cold states like Maine, Montana, and North Dakota have low risk. 

A recent report from Orkin identified which U.S. cities have the worst termite problem. The report looks at first-time termite treatments between Feb. 1, 2020, and Jan. 31, 2021, providing a snapshot of current termite problems. For many Florida residents, it may come as no surprise that Miami lands in the #1 spot as the top termite city. 

U.S. Cities with Most Termite Damage

  1. Miami, FL
  2. Los Angeles, CA
  3. Tampa, FL
  4. Washington, D.C.
  5. Atlanta, GA
  6. West Palm Beach, FL
  7. New York, NY
  8. New Orleans, LA
  9. Orlando, FL
  10. Dallas, TX

What Parts of the Home Do Termites Damage? 

Termites damage homes by eating the wooden support beams, floor joists, and other organic fibers. They can also eat drywall or plastics, but it’s not the majority of their diet. Basements and crawl spaces are the most common areas that termite inspections occur because damage usually happens from the ground up, and termites thrive in damp, out-of-the-way places.

Major interior areas damaged by termites are:

  • Wood materials, including structural beams within the home’s crawl space or basement. 
  • In the basement, window frames can also be damaged by termites. 
  • Items made from paper, fiberboard, and fabric can also be damaged by termites. 

Outside areas to check for termites include:

  • Exterior wood materials, including a home’s siding, skirting, and wooden doors. 
  • Tree stumps or wood piles left near homes are attractive to termites. 

How Much Damage Do Termites Cause? 

Termites cause so much damage because of their ability to remain undetected. Many homeowners only discover a termite problem after a colony has been destroying their homes for years.

Termites are a risk in every state except Alaska, and each year, about 600,000 homes are damaged by termites. On average, it costs a homeowner about $3,000 to repair termite damage. However, termite problems can be so pervasive that they can affect your home’s resale value. Homes with termite problems can sell for 20 percent less. 

Early Detection Is Key To Minimizing Termite Damage

Termites won’t go away on their own, and the earlier you discover a termite problem, the less damage you could face. Remember, termites could be inside:

  • Crawl spaces
  • Walls
  • Floorboards
  • Beams 
  • Other wooden materials

To find termites inside your home before major damage occurs, listen for hollow-sounding wood when tapped. If it sounds hollow, termites may be burrowing inside, creating hollow cavities. If you suspect termite damage, you may want to investigate further by using a screwdriver to look for termite tunnels or uncover interior damage.

Another indicator of a termite infestation is visible mud tubes. These are created when the insects make a pathway to travel from the home’s foundation and up the wall. You may also find evidence of termite activity such as brown or gray insect droppings. 

If you uncover winged termites inside the home, either alive or dead, this is a major indicator of a larger infestation. If you suspect termites inside the home, contact a professional exterminator immediately. 

Reducing Moisture Helps Reduce Termite Risk

Termites enter a home looking for food and water sources. Because termites can only live a few days without water, resolving water problems is an important way to make your home less attractive to termites. 

Take these steps to protect your home from termite damage: 

  • Install a sump pump and/or a dehumidifier to your home and add professional waterproofing to the basement or crawl space.
  • Fix leaky pipes promptly and add exhaust fans.
  • Clean gutters each season and direct runoff away from the home so it doesn’t pool against walls and basement windows. 
  • In your garden and yard, use termite prevention soil treatments. 
  • Avoid placing mulch close to the foundation, remove wood scraps from the yard, and install termite shields along the home’s foundation. 
  • Use treated wood when building new outside structures like decking. 

The Structure of Your Home Can Help Protect Against Termites

Protecting your home from pests, including termites, costs much less than fixing a problem after it occurs. 

A key way to prevent termite damage is to install crawl space encapsulation or basement wall systems. This can act as a physical barrier, making it harder for termites to get inside. Plus, when termiticide-integrated materials are used, the pests won’t survive if they try to eat through your barrier. Professional installers also know to leave a termite inspection gap, making it easy to spot any problems. 

Another termite prevention step is to ensure your foundation is healthy with an annual home inspection. Not only can foundation cracks be an easy way for pests to get inside, but foundation damage also coincides with water problems in your basement or crawl space. Making the foundation repairs that help you eliminate water problems can lower your termite risk. 

To stay ahead of pest problems, schedule an annual pest inspection from termite specialists, and get yearly maintenance checkups for your waterproofing and encapsulation systems. 

Learn more about how your home’s structure can help you protect against pests with a free inspection from your local basement waterproofing and foundation repair experts.