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Termite Damage vs. Wood Rot: Know the Difference

September 21st, 2022

Termite control in Phoenix

Wood is a major structural component of houses and buildings across the world. Hearing wooden frames groan and creak occasionally may be expected, but soft spots on the walls, cracking sounds, or odd stale smells point to a serious underlying problem. Wood damage is detrimental to a wooden structures’ integrity, but you need to know if you’re dealing with termite damage vs. wood rot before you can fix it. Here is all the information you need to determine the cause of your property damage.

What Is Termite Damage?

Many species of termites live across the United States and are a leading cause of property damage. The creatures destroy nearly 600,000 homes in the U.S. and account for about $40 billion in wood damage across the globe each year. These tiny pests live in large colonies ranging from 60,000 to 1 million insects.

Termites live in colonies that comprise soldiers, workers, and queens and rely on cellulose, a complex sugar derived from timber, as their food source. Subterranean termite species prefer sourcing food from damp wood found close to the soil, like home foundations.

Other termite species inhabit relatively dry wood, making them the ultimate residential pests. As the worker termites take great pleasure in munching the wooden components of your home, the queens reproduce. An unrestricted colony can rapidly replicate and cause severe damage to your property.

What Is Wood Rot?

Rotted wood damages about 20 billion board feet in the U.S. yearly. The rot is due to a wood-decaying fungus that breaks down wood into lignin and cellulose for food. Unlike dry rot, damp wood called wet rot is prevalent throughout the States. Wet rot and dry rot are the main subtypes of wood decay. 

Wood rot is common in water-damaged areas like:

  • Leaking plumbing system
  • Damaged roofs
  • Shower and bath trays
  • Damp walls
  • Blocked and leaking gutters

The moisture seeps into the timber, providing ample conditions for the fungus to thrive. 

Dry rot is a more serious form of wood decay that occurs on damp wood with 20%-30% moisture content. Dry rot spores circulate within poorly ventilated homes and look for optimal conditions to take root.

The germinating fungus can generate moisture and feed from digesting timber to sustain itself. Once the dry rot starts, it readily spreads to other parts of the wooden structure.

How To Spot the Difference: Termite Damage vs. Wood Rot

You can easily mistake termite damage for wood rot and vice versa, but there are a few defining characteristics that distinguish the two. These features include:

Shrunken Wood

Wood rot starts from the outside, where moisture promotes fungal growth. The rotting wood shrinks from the breakdown of cellulose which also prompts rigid, cube-like pieces to start crumbling away. 

On the other hand, termites start eating wood from the inside. The damaged wood appears normal until there’s extensive destruction from a termite infestation.

Distinctive Smell

Decaying wood has a distinct musty, earthy, and fungal odor. Termite damage is usually odorless except when the pests choose to invade rotten wood.

Wavy Wood

Termites tend to leave wood with a wavy, rippled, or curly appearance. The wood is often an empty husk when there’s any noticeable termite damage from the outside. Meanwhile, decaying wood has dark discolorations with a spongy or stringy texture. Minor paint problems like blistering, bubbling, or flaking also point to prevailing wood rot.

Discarded Wings

The most conclusive warning of termite damage is actually seeing the pesky creatures. Termite signs include the presence of larvae, termite husks, discarded wings, severed limbs, and droppings called frass. You can also start hearing chewing or clicking sounds in the walls from active termite colonies.

Small Holes

Termite bore or create holes to enter the wood. The creatures then tunnel through the wood, setting up a mazelike home in termite damaged wood. They reinforce the intricate network of passages with soil, wood, and saliva, creating unique trails called mud tubes. Wood decay doesn’t have these holes or passageways.

Presence of Fungi

The presence of wood-decaying fungus is definitive evidence of wood rot. The fungal infestations start when spores develop into hyphae on damp wood. The hyphae have a delicate white tendril-like appearance that penetrates and digests the wood.

Numerous distinct hyphae combine to form a cotton-wool-like substance called mycelium. In the final stages of growth, the fungus develops a mushroom-like body that produces spores that become airborne.

Budget Brothers: The Termite Experts

Homeowners need to take appropriate action when signs of property damage become evident. Wood rot and termite damage can go hand in hand and wood is considerably vulnerable to wood decay and termite damage without proper maintenance or protection.

You can contact Budget Brothers Termite and Pests to evaluate your home for this silent but significant threat and help you prevent wood rot. Our termite experts have over 25 years of experience dealing with termite infestations. We also offer the best pest control services and packages for people in Phoenix and all surrounding cities. 

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