Termites, or the ‘silent destroyers’ as they are commonly known, are the bane of any homeowner’s existence. These tiny critters have the ability to gnaw through wood in record time, leaving you with gaping holes in your walls and even foundation. Once they have done considerable damage, your home will no longer be safe to inhabit.
Luckily, if you catch them early enough you can definitely avoid the extensive (and expensive) repairs that may ensue. But are squeaky floors a sure sign of infestations? Keep scrolling in order to find out how you can tell if you have termites in your home, and what to do if you do.
Squeaking floors don’t always indicate that a floor is infested with termites, but floors infested with termites will almost always squeak. Other signs to look for include hollow sounding boards, blistering/peeling paint, piles of sawdust, buckling floorboards, holes in the carpet, live termites in carpet.
Squeaking Can Indicate Termites: Why?
You’re walking through your house and you pass over that same spot that always seems to create an unruly squeak. It could possibly be due to the age of the floorboards if you live in a relatively old home, or the contraction and expansion of the wood as the temperature changes throughout the day, but it could also be caused by the dreaded termites!
As you know, termites feed on wood and moisture, so if termites have begun to attack your floorboards, then you may experience squeaking at the location of the damage.
This is due to the fact that termites tend to be attracted to the softer wood underneath, such as the floor supports or subfloor. The termites have now weakened that specific site in your home through their tireless gnawing at the wood.
Once the area becomes weak, it becomes much more susceptible to even the smallest movement. The squeaky noise comes from the weakened floorboards or nails rubbing against each other as you take a step and cause them to shift.
Termites can become a prolific problem in a house constructed mainly of wood. This is one of the reasons a squeaky floor can cause buyers to walk away from the home, even if the squeaks have perfectly innocuous origins.
Other Signs to Look out For
Termite damage can represent itself in a variety of ways, other than squeaky floors, so it is important to be aware of the other signs to look out for so that you can prevent extensive damage to your floors and home. Knowing what else to look for can also help you know if you should be worried about your squeaky floor or not.
One sign to look out for is if any wooden areas of your home sound hollow or empty when knocked. This hollow sound could indicate that termites have completely consumed the wood underneath the area, and depending on the damage, you might even be able to break right through the wood quite easily.
Another characteristic of termite damage that you should be aware of is if your wooden floors appear to have water damage, when there is really no indication that it should be occurring. Some termites will leave behind paint peeling or a ‘blistering’ appearance on your floors or walls that appear to be water damage but on closer inspection, is not.
If you start to notice a lot of small piles of sawdust around your home, it might be time for further inspection as these can be the after effects of termites. You might also see small insect wings around your home, which could be the discarded wings from the termites.
Another sign of a possible termite infestation is the appearance of buckling floorboards. If your floorboards appear to be lifted at the edges, or just not fitting quite right, then you could have a termite infestation on your hands.
If you have carpeting covering your wooden floors, then obviously identifying termites using the above signs might prove a little difficult. If you are lucky (or rather, unlucky), you will be able to see live termites crawling around your carpet. You might also notice some holes in your carpet as the termites eat through the fibers, or you could hear some squeaking as you step on certain areas.
Treating Termites in Wood Flooring
So, you have identified that you have termites, possibly by noticing one of the many signs outlined above. Now comes the more complicated part of treating the problem.
If you caught the infestation at the earlier stages, then you could get away with a good extermination effort and a few minor repairs that you can do yourself, without the need for hiring a professional.
One way to kill termites in your flooring would be to use a liquid chemical termite barrier, ultimately a pesticide, around the foundation of your home and other affected areas. This can also be used as a preventative measure, so you can apply it even before you see termite damage just to be safe.
A cheaper and less toxic alternative would be to use Boric Acid (amazon link) in its powder form and spread the powder evenly along your wooden flooring. Within a week the termites should all be killed.
If you are unfortunately the victim of an intense infestation of termites, you might need to fumigate the entire house, possibly making use of Vikane gas, and then address the damage.
Can the Floors Be Fixed (or Must They Be Replaced)?
Depending on the extent of the termite damage to your wooden flooring, you might be able to simply repair them rather than replace the entire floor.
If you caught the infestation early enough, and the damage to your flooring is quite superficial, you might be able to simply use some wood filler to top-up any holes, sand the floorboards and then refinish them later.
If there is a bit more damage, you might need to rip off the floorboards and replace them all, which can be a costly and time-consuming job. If there is damage in only a select few sites of the floor, then perhaps you can get away with purely replacing the damaged boards.
Should you end up with some hefty repairs on your hands, then make sure you investigate rebuilding those sections with pressure-treated wood for the subflooring and framing. Pressure-treated wood is resistant to termites. Another trick is to encapsulate the crawl spaces beneath the flooring as this will prevent water from collecting in these places and attracting termites and other insects.