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Is that Water Mark a Signs of Termites Damage?

Buckling wood? Swollen ceilings? Scent of mildew or mold? These signs can often lead homeowners to think that they have a water damage problem in their hand, often originating from a leaky pipe or a clogged drainage.

While these signs frequently appear from water damage, it may not always be the case. This could be a sign of something much more annoying and troubling than water damage -- and that is termites.

Signs of termite damage (especially damage from subterranean termites) and water damage are oddly very similar, making it hard to detect if you have simple water damage or a termite infestation in your home. But even if it is hard to detect, here are some ways to differentiate both.

1. Manner of damage

One way to differentiate water damage and termite damage is by looking into how the damage is done. Water damage often breaks the wood into cube-shaped chunks due to rot. When water is present near wood, the wood absorbs as much water and moisture as it can. Once the wood has absorbed more water than it can carry, wood decaying fungi starts to grow due to the excessive water content, which leads to what is often called “cubical rot” or the square-shape breaking of the damaged wood due to the fungi breaking up the cellulose on the plant’s cell wall.

This is different from termite damage, since most termites eat along the wood. Termites often eat along the soft grains of wood known as “springwood” while leaving the harder grains known as “summerwood.” This leaves tunnels – often called “galleries” – along the damaged wood rather than breaking it into chunks like water damage. If you notice hollow tunnel-like spaces running along the wood grains, it’s most likely due to a termite infestation.

2. Signs of mud tunnels

In Indonesia, the most common species of termite is the coptotermes. This species is a subterranean termite that requires a large amount of moisture to survive and generally lives underground.

Because of their strong need for moisture, they often travel to the surface through mud tubes, which they use as a pathway for bringing food from the surface back down to their colony. If mud tubes are present near the damaged wood, possibilities are high that it is a termite infection and not water damage.

3. Pooling water

Pooling water near the damaged area is one clear sign that you have a water damage problem. Since most water damage inside the home mostly comes from a leaking pipe or a clogged drainage, the constant leaking will cause water to pool around the damaged area. If you spot areas around your house that have damaged wood and pooling water near it, it’s most likely water damage.

But wood regularly soaked in water has high moisture content, and this could strongly attract termites seeking food. You’ll have to get rid of the leak first before you could deal with the termites that might have settled in the damaged wood, if any.

While water damage can do considerable damage at home, a termite infestation is proven to be more destructive when left untreated. So, when it comes to termites, spotting the difference between water damage and termite damage in the early stages could save you from major structural damage and risk. It’s good to call professional service to help you differentiate termite and ant risks, identify early symptoms and take quick remedy actions before the problem escalates. Prevention is always better than finding a cure, so see tips on how to prevent termites from damaging your home.