No structure is safe
In the last 26 years I have seen some pretty extensive termite damage to homes and commercial structures. Some on buildings that have long been forgotten but most on homes that are lived in and the damage was happening right under everyones nose. Just this spring I was asked to try and stop termites from attacking a $20,000.00 boat in storage. Upon inspection we found that the termites had built tunnels right up the trailer tires and almost completely gutted the interior. The simple answer was to hook up to the hitch and move the boat and while this didn’t make my customer all that happy the advice was free and the termite problem was solved. Recently I also treated a 100 year old ‘bunk’ house that is now being used for a hunting cabin. There is so much damage I’m not sure what’s holding the place up but like so many other buildings I’ve seen it’s still standing after all these years and may even be around for another 100 years.
Conditions need to be right
For severe damage to occur there usually has to be a couple of ripe conditions. Moisture is a key element that termites need and if your home provides a steady stream or source your chances go way up. Access is another element and for homes with wood to ground contact, cracks in the foundation or moist crawl-spaces this is no problem. Now I have seen perfectly sound homes (except for the termites) that didn’t seem to provide these elements and it looked very solid and yet we found extensive termite damage. Termites compensate very well and will actually bring moisture up from their underground world into the feeding area to supply what they need to keep from drying out. Access may only be an unseen crack or seam in the foundation no thicker than a business card which allows them to go unseen for years. As a general rule homes that contribute these needs tend to have the most damage but in the termite business you can take nothing for granted.
How fast can termites eat my home
There is no hard and fast answer to this question because it depends on how large the colony is, if it’s just one colony attacking the home and the factors listed above. Most termite colonies take two to three years to become large enough to swarm which is considered a mature colony of 60,000. Subterranean termites can over the years easily get into the millions so the difference of how much wood they eat can be huge. Most estimates say the average colony can consume one foot of a 2×4 in about six months and a home that is about 2300 square feet has about 17,000 board feet of lumber. With some quick math the shocking answer is that it would take an average colony 8500 years to consume your home. This calculation is not for the Formosan termite which is called by most experts the “super termite” and far out paces these numbers. It also may be different because of your home size or amount of wood available.
Tell us what you think
I wrote this article because this question comes up quite frequently in my job. Having never done the math before I was quite surprised at the answer and I’m sure the next person who asks me will be shocked as well. While this number may lull some to sleep don’t let that be you. Termites are ferocious eaters and even in a few short years significant damage can be done. Termites that have free run of a home that never gets treated just don’t stop on their own and work 7 days a week 365 days per year. If you have seen any homes like this I’d love to hear about it. Just leave a comment below and tell us what you’ve seen. Hopefully your story is just one you heard about and not about your own home or worse yet, your boat.