Can Termites Invade a Home’s Foundation in South Carolina?

Jul 7, 2017

Categories: Foundations

As the premier foundation repair company in South Carolina, CNT is often asked if termites can invade a home’s foundation. We would like to clear up the urban myth that termites cannot enter a home’s foundation if the foundation has been built of concrete. Termites CAN and WILL enter your home’s foundation if given the opportunity. In this article, we will offer several ways in which subterranean termites can enter and destroy your home’s foundation and discuss the prevention of further damage.

How Can Subterranean Termites Invade and Destroy a Home’s Concrete Slab Foundation in South Carolina?

Subterranean termites look for food and that food is wood. In many cases of termite damage to foundations, it is not the actual foundation material that is damaged. Most foundations today are made of concrete, and termites do not eat concrete. Instead, they squeeze into cracks in the foundation and build a tiny city that can threaten your house’s foundation.

Poured-concrete foundations, especially rebar-reinforced ones, are the most secure, but even they can also have cracks. Concrete-block foundations are less termite-resistant and in those cases, there is the added issue of mortar, which often has more cracks and is easier to burrow through and weaken.

Once inside those cracks, they build mud tunnels. These tunnels protect the worker termites as they make inroads into your home. The termites can slowly widen those tunnels through extensive use, putting pressure on the cracks in the foundation and causing weakness in the structure itself. But that is mostly if you do not catch the problem for a period of time.

The more immediate risk, in the case of concrete foundations, is to foundation-adjacent components, such as floor joists and other structural supports, which typically are made of wood. Also, foundation access can offer direct lines to food sources like porches and basement window frames.

There is another type of foundation that can suffer more immediate and dramatic problems with termite infestation and that is the pier-and-beam foundation. The pier-and-beam foundation, which you see in homes with crawl spaces, supports a home on an all, or mostly all, wooden substructure, offering termites a food source in the foundation material itself.

As in the case of any type of termite problem, there are treatments for foundation infestation and damage.

Treatments to mitigate subterranean termite damage include:

  • installing termiticide barriers in the soil surrounding the foundation.
  • treating any foundation-adjacent wood with pesticides
  • drilling into the actual foundation to inject pesticides into cracks and holes.

These approaches can also be used as preventive measures, or pre-treatment, which reduces the risk of a problem.

It only takes a small crack in an otherwise secure concrete foundation to let termites in. Poured concrete is the most reliable, but if you have a block foundation, the mortar is likely to provide open spaces for termites to enter your home. Expansion joints between home sections are another invitation to pests, as is any area where pipes or wires enter the house.

Termites are incapable of digesting concrete, and therefore they do not eat it. However, they love wood. Wood contains cellulose, which is the organic compound that makes up the cell walls of plants. Although wood is their preferred source of nutrition, termites can also ingest a variety of other materials, including drywall, foam, and plastics. In some cases, termites have even been found to chew through thin lead and copper sheeting.

If there is wood on the other side of your concrete foundation, termites will do whatever they can to get at it. Termites are persistent and they will keep looking for entry points until they find one, making their way inside and start eating.

Once inside, termites build tunnels out of dirt, saliva and waste materials. These tunnels become wider over time, so even though the insects are not eating your foundation, they can cause a great deal of damage as pressure builds up and widens existing cracks. This slow process may go unnoticed until it becomes serious, thus, making regular inspections of your home and foundation an important part of pest control.

Things to look for to determine if subterranean termites have invaded your home:

Small holes in wood in and around your home.
Sagging or hollow wood can indicate termites are beneath the wood’s surface. Homeowners can use a screwdriver to tap against walls to find soft spots that might be the source of a termite infestation.
Mud tunnels., as mentioned above. These tubes are usually brown and about the size of a pencil in width. These termite highways generally are found in a home’s walls or foundation.
Termite frass. Frass is a termite’s waste material and it resembles small pellets. Discarded wings may indicate that a swarm is off to find a new location for a colony.

How Can I Help Prevent Subterranean Termites in My Home’s Foundation in South Carolina?

The problem with termites is that you can never really know the extent of an infestation. Discovering dirt tunnels on the side of your foundation or seeing termites around the house could indicate a much larger problem.

Once the termites have been removed, take the following steps to make sure they do not return:

  • Clean up any wood around the yard or near the home that might serve to attract them. Termites can also be attracted to mulch, scrap lumber and firewood, so keep these away from your home’s foundation and above ground.
  • Seal all the cracks you can find in your foundation to keep them from coming back.
  • Trim plants, shrubs, and trees away from your home or sheds so that they do not provide a pathway for termites to enter your wooden structures.
  • Remove tree stumps that could provide an enticement for termites to stick around.
  • Fix leaks in roofs or gutters, as moisture can attract termites.
  • Repair leaky faucets and hoses, as these also draw termites.
  • Improve ventilation in crawl spaces and attics to deter pests from entering.
  • Use proper grading to promote drainage.
  • Clean your gutters and downspouts to provide good drainage.
  • Fix leaks immediately.

Termite damage to a home’s foundation can quickly become a critical issue. Should you discover that your foundation has been invaded, call the professional at CNT. We have the experience to eliminate these unwanted house guests.