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The Critical Eye!

Michael Leavitt’s professional inspection related blog.

Termites Feast Upon Drywall

Termites Feast Upon Drywall

THIMichaelLeavittA recent client was shocked to learn that Northern Utah subterranean termites can tunnel through drywall. The blog title “Termites Feast Upon Drywall” is kind of a misnomer because they don’t enjoy the gypsum, other than it makes a very easy substrate to bore their tunnels to get them to the really good wood in the home. What the termites do enjoy is the paper skin on both sides of the drywall. But I guess the title “Termites tolerate the gypsum in order to feast upon the paper skin on the outer surfaces of the drywall” is just not that catchy.


Subterranean termites love soft wood, moist soft wood, and almost any type of cellulose products. They especially love to migrate through moist soil to the heated portion of basement slabs near the furnace, and then they find some hairline crack or gap in the basement slab to start their investigation in the home. Their quest is to find the tastiest of wood products.


Subterranean termites hate hard wood, cold soil, dry soil, and being exposed to the natural air. You will never see them marching across a floor like ants. Instead, they build tunnel systems to stay protected.


Yes, termites are very finnicky.They remind me of one of my neices when she was young. When it came time to eat, the rest of the family gathering was at the mercy of whatever this young gal wanted to eat. If I remember right, it was always Taco Bell, but I digress. Termites are the very same. They do not love all wood. They can start to feast and then immediately stop and look for another piece. They will skip one two by four and devour another. Sometimes they will eat the softer portions of a hardwood flooring, and other times they will build a mud tube (surface tunnel) over one piece to get to another. Finnicky is a perfect decription!

Drywall2Look at the way the paper is completely eaten away and exposing the gypsum.


When looking for subterranean termites in finished basements, I have to look very close at the drywall finishes to see if there is tunneling evidence right up against the paint layers. That’s right, they will bore through the gypsum right along the paper skin while ingesting the paper and leaving the layers of paint. By pressing against the minor tunnel bulge you can collapse the passage. If the passage is currently active, then within minutes the termites will build a spittle mud tube covering to enclose the passage once again. More often than not you will NOT see any current activity.


That is a great question, and the answer is “Yes!” You would naturally think that all is okay if termites are not present in the exposed portions of the passage. The reality is that if there has been no termite treatment performed on the home, then all of the tunneling is in place for the termite’s return.


That’s right, Utah subterranean termites live away from the home in an underground colony and they migrate through their tunnels looking for cellulose products to bring back to their colony.

Drywall3On the right side you can see the spittle built tube and to the lower left you can see the passageways through the gypsum.


Termiticide poison is placed around the foundation and around the basement via drilled holes every 14-18” in the floor slab and this creates a poison barrier. The termites in the home die because they can’t get back to their colony and termites coming towards the home sense the poison and turn and go elsewhere away from the home. Can you say “Hey neighbors, watch out because they are coming your way!” That’s right, the last thing you want to hear is that your immediate neighbor treated for termites.


Baiting can be very effective, but are usually combined with long term monthly payment contracts that pad the pockets of the treatment firms. When activity is discovered, a delayed killer product like Termidor is used that allows the termite the ability to ingest and take back the posison to kill off its colony. The drawback is that if another colony finds the open passages, then they still have direct access to the structure. Liquid treatments offer more protection than baiting programs, but they are more expensive up front.

If you have not had your house inspected for temites recently, then call Michael Leavitt at 801-636-6816 and schedule your inspection today!

Michael Leavitt - Orem, Utah - - Michael Leavitt & Co Inspections, Inc.

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