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  • Writer's pictureJonathan Stoddard

How To Identify Termite Damage Vs. Wood Decay (with Pictures)

old home with wood decay and termite damage

As an expert in Wood Destroying Organisms, I recognize the importance of preserving a property's structural integrity by addressing termite damage and wood rot. Homeowners often face termite damage and wood rot, leading to severe structural damage if left untreated.

This post will look at termite infestation indicators, rotting wood, and strategies to stop the decaying process. We will discuss the types of termites affecting your wooden structures, including drywood and dampwood termites.

You'll learn about the various methods for repairing damaged wood caused by termite colonies or fungal growth, such as brown rot or white rot. We'll also cover what you need to know about soft rot and wet rot so you can identify them early on before they cause significant harm to your property's structural integrity.

If you're looking for tips on protecting your home from attracting termites or want advice on repairing water-damaged wood effectively, this post is for you! Following our guidance on preventing and improving termite damage and wood rot repair techniques, you can maintain healthy wooden structures throughout your property for years.

Table of Contents:

  • Understanding Termite Damage and Wood Decay

    • Recognizing Fungal Decay:

  • Identifying Termite Infestations

  • Recognizing Fungal Decay

  • Prevention Measures for Termite Infestations & Fungal Growth

  • Addressing Existing Issues with Termites & Fungi

  • Why Hire Imperial Pest Prevention for WDO Inspection

  • FAQs in Relation to Termite Damage Vs. Wood Decay

    • How does termite damage compare to wood rot?

    • How to tell the difference between wood water damage and termite damage?

    • Do termites prefer rotting wood?

    • Do termites cause dry rot?

  • Conclusion

Understanding Termite Damage and Wood Decay

Recognizing fungal decay, especially in wood, is crucial for safety and maintenance reasons. Fungal decay is caused by certain species of fungi that break down cellulose and hemicellulose in the wood, which can lead to a loss of strength and stability. Here's how you can recognize fungal decay:


  • Color Changes: The wood might display discoloration, varying from dark streaks to large patches. Fungal decay often leads to a darker color, but not always.

  • Fruiting Bodies: Some decay fungi produce visible structures called fruiting bodies. These can look like mushrooms, brackets, or shelf-like structures, and they might be seen growing on the surface of the wood.

  • Mycelium Growth: A white, cottony, or web-like growth, which is the vegetative part of the fungus, might be seen on the surface or in cracks.


  • Soft and Spongy: The wood becomes softer to the touch. If you press it with a tool or your finger, it might feel spongy.

  • Cubical Fracture: The decayed wood breaks down into small cubes or chunks, especially in the case of brown rot.


  • Fungal decay often gives off a musty or moldy odor.

Structural Changes:

  • Loss of Strength: Decayed wood is less strong. This can be noticed if the wood is bending, cracking, or failing under loads it used to handle.

  • Cavities: Advanced decay can lead to the formation of cavities or holes in the wood.

Type of Decay:

  • White Rot: This affects the cellulose and lignin in wood, making it bleached. The decayed wood becomes fibrous and can be torn easily in the longitudinal direction.

  • Brown Rot: This mainly affects the cellulose, leaving behind the lignin. The wood becomes darkened and breaks into cubical pieces when decayed.

Location & Moisture:

  • Fungi require moisture to thrive. Check areas prone to water exposure, leaks, or poor ventilation.

  • Common places for fungal decay include basements, bathrooms, around windows and doors, roof leaks, or near plumbing fixtures.

Insect Activity:

  • Some insects, like carpenter ants or termites, are attracted to decayed or damp wood. If you notice increased insect activity, it might be a sign of underlying decay.

If you suspect fungal decay, especially in load-bearing structures, it's essential to consult a professional for an assessment and advice on remediation. Regular inspections and maintenance and addressing moisture problems are the best preventive measures against fungal decay.

Termite damage and wood decay are two of the most common issues homeowners face. Both can cause severe structural problems if left unchecked, so it's crucial to recognize them and take steps to address them promptly.

Different species of termites, including drywood and subterranean termite varieties, often inhabit homes; the former nest within wood while the latter build their colonies in the soil near foundations or walls. Drywood termites nest within the wooden structure, while subterranean termites frequently build their nests in the soil around a home's foundation or walls. To identify an infestation, look for signs such as mud tubes on exterior walls or hollowed-out wood with piles of sawdust nearby.

Recognizing Fungal Decay:

wood decaying fungus in a beam with moisture meter testing

Fungal growth is another problem that affects wooden structures over time. Signs indicating fungal growth include discolored spots on surfaces such as ceilings or walls; these spots may have a musty odor associated with them as well. Common areas where fungal growth may occur include damp basements, crawl spaces, attics, and other dark places where moisture can accumulate over time.

Prevention Measures for Termite Infestations & Fungal Growth

Homeowners should have their properties inspected by professionals at least once per year to check for any signs of pest activity or fungal decay in hidden areas like wall voids and attic spaces that they might not be able to access safely without proper training and safety equipment. Professional inspectors will use specialized tools like thermal imaging cameras during inspections to detect any potential issues before they become serious problems requiring costly repairs down the line.

Don't let existing infestations of termites or fungi rot in your home. If ignored, the pest activity can wreak havoc on the structure of your abode, and fungal growth due to excessive moisture accumulation can cause rot that will cost you an arm and a leg. Get ahead of the game by hiring experienced professionals from Imperial Pest Prevention for their WDO (Wood Destroying Organism) inspection services - they'll be able to detect any potential issues quickly, so you won't have to foot the bill for costly repairs down the line. Hire the experts at Imperial Pest Prevention to conduct a WDO inspection and avert any potential issues before they become expensive to repair bills.

At Imperial Pest Prevention, we have taken pride in providing quality service throughout South Florida since 2011. Our highly trained pest control technicians are certified by The Department of Agriculture and strive to be thorough and efficient when performing WDO inspections. After each job, our customers receive detailed reports outlining our findings, so no guesswork is involved. Our dedication to providing thorough and expedient WDO inspections guarantees our customers the best possible outcomes without any delays.

Realizing the contrast between termite harm and wood decay is imperative to spot and forestall future invasions. Identifying common types of termites found in homes and understanding the distinctions between drywood and subterranean species are critical to prevent costly structural damage.

Key Takeaway: Imperial Pest Prevention is the go-to for WDO (Wood Destroying Organism) inspections. Our highly trained pest control technicians are certified by The Department of Agriculture. With their thorough yet efficient service, they can nip termite infestations or fungal growth in the bud before it's too late.

How To Identify Termite Infestations

termite damage in a piece of lumber with a man holding it wearing white and grey gloves

Termites are considered social insects that feed on wood, causing significant damage to homes and other wooden structures. Homeowners should know the various species of termites typically found in dwellings and variations between drywood and subterranean termite invasions.

The most frequent type of termite found in homes is the subterranean species. These pests live underground and build tunnels to access food sources above ground. Cracks and crevices in foundations or walls can allow these pests to enter the home, resulting in extensive destruction if not addressed promptly. Drywood termites are another pest that may invade your home; they don't need soil contact for survival and will nest inside wood directly without needing moisture from the ground as their subterranean counterparts do. They tend to cause more localized damage than subterranean species since they only consume small areas at a time, but this infestation can still be destructive if not caught early enough.

Calling a professional immediately upon finding evidence of termite infestation is imperative to prevent further structural damage that may become too costly to repair. Professionals utilize thermal imaging cameras during inspections, which detect heat signatures behind walls, signifying possible nesting sites; this allows them to identify potential problems quickly and take corrective measures right away before things get out of hand.

It is critical to recognize the kind of termite invasion to implement appropriate steps for prevention and management. Recognizing fungal decay can help determine if termites or another source has damaged a wooden structure.

Termites are often called the "silent destroyers" because they can chew through wood, flooring, and even wallpaper undetected. Identifying a termite infestation early is crucial to minimize damage. Here are some signs to help you identify termite infestations:

Mud Tubes:

  • Termites build these pencil-sized tunnels for shelter, typically where the ground meets the house or on walls and crawl spaces. These tubes protect termites from predators and provide moisture.

Wood Damage:

  • Termites eat wood from the inside out. So, if your wood sounds hollow when tapped, it might be a sign of an infestation.

  • Small holes in wood or crumbling drywall can also indicate termite activity.


  • After swarming, termites lose their wings. Finding discarded wings, especially near closed windows, doors, or other home-access points, is a sign of infestation.


  • Drywood termites produce wood-colored droppings as they eat through infested wood. If you notice small mounds of these fecal pellets, it indicates termite presence.

Live Termites:

  • Worker termites are small, white, and wingless. If you see them, it's a definite sign of an active infestation.

  • Swarmers are winged termites. If you notice these flying termites inside your home, especially in large numbers, it's a strong indication of an infestation.

Bubbling Paint or Blistering:

  • If you notice your paint or wallpaper bubbling or blistering, it might be because of termites feeding within or the moisture they introduce.


  • Termites typically swarm in warm weather and after rainfall. If you witness a swarm on or near your property, it's a sign of a nearby colony.

Mud Packing:

  • For some termite species, mud packing, or sealing off their colonies with mud, is common. If you notice mud packing in crevices or on walls, it might indicate termite presence.


  • In quiet settings, you might hear termites feeding. The sound is similar to the noise paper makes when crumpled.

Cracks in the Foundation:

  • Though this might not be a direct sign of termite presence, any cracks can provide entry points for termites.

If you suspect a termite infestation, contacting a pest control professional is essential. Termites can cause significant structural damage if left untreated. Regular inspections, especially in areas prone to termite activity, are the best preventive measures against infestations.

Key Takeaway: Subterranean and drywood termites can cause costly damage to homes if left untreated, so homeowners need to contact a professional immediately upon discovering any evidence of infestation. These experts use thermal imaging cameras during inspections, which help them nip the problem in the bud before things get out of hand.

Recognizing Fungal Decay

wood decay in wood siding of a red colored home

Wood deterioration is often due to fungi that disintegrate cellulose and lignin in the timber, making it an essential element to consider when examining a house for structural impairment. Excess moisture over an extended time typically causes fungal decay. Different types of fungi cause various forms of decay, such as brown rot, white rot, or soft rot. Homeowners must recognize signs indicating fungal growth within wooden structures to take appropriate steps toward prevention and repair if necessary.

When inspecting a home for signs of fungal growth, look out for discoloration on walls or ceilings near windows or doors where excess humidity may accumulate; this could indicate water damage, creating ideal conditions for fungus growth. Additionally, check around areas with plumbing leaks or roofing issues, as these can lead to increased moisture levels in the structure, which could result in wood rot. Fungal growth often manifests with discolored spots on the wall due to mold spores released into the air from decaying wood behind it. These spots are usually black/grayish green but could also appear yellow/orange depending on the type of fungus present.

Fungal decay can be a severe issue if not addressed in time, and it is crucial to recognize the signs of fungal growth within wooden structures. By taking preventative measures such as regular inspections by professionals, homeowners can help reduce their risk of termite infestations or further wood decay.

Key Takeaway: Wood rot is caused by fungi that thrive in moist conditions, so checking for discoloration near windows and doors and any plumbing or roofing issues is essential. Fungal growth can often be identified through its telltale black-grayish-green spots on walls, indicating the need for preventive measures against further decay.

Prevention Measures for Termite Infestations & Fungal Growth

Maintaining the structural soundness of a residence necessitates thwarting termite invasions and fungal proliferation. Homeowners should have their properties inspected by a professional at least once a year to identify any potential issues before they become serious problems. During inspections, professionals look for signs of termites or other wood-destroying organisms such as drywood termites, subterranean termites, fungus, and decay. They also inspect areas around windows and doors, as well as attics and crawl spaces, for evidence of damage caused by these pests.

Homeowners can take steps to guard their dwellings against termite invasions and fungal development, such as performing routine checks in addition to preventive measures.

Proper ventilation throughout the home helps reduce moisture levels, which can attract termites;

• Ensuring proper drainage around foundations prevents water buildup, which can lead to wood rot;

• Avoid storing firewood against exterior walls since this provides an easy access point for invading insects;

• Use pressure-treated lumber where possible since it is less likely to be affected by rot or decay due to its chemical treatment process.

Proactively preventing termite infestations and fungal growth is crucial, as repair costs can quickly add up. To address existing issues with termites or fungi, it is necessary to understand the risks associated with ignoring them and take appropriate steps for remediation.

Key Takeaway: As a savvy professional, I would summarize the above by saying that regular inspections and preventative measures such as proper ventilation, drainage, and pressure-treated lumber are crucial to staving off termite infestations and fungal growth to keep one's home structurally sound.

Addressing Existing Issues with Termites & Fungi

termite spray treatment of soil

When addressing issues with termites and fungi, homeowners must take immediate action. Ignoring these infestations can lead to costly damage in the long run. The most common and frequent types of termites found in homes are drywood and subterranean species. Drywood termites live inside wood that is not in contact with the ground, while subterranean ones require soil moisture for survival and will build mud tubes from their nest to the food source.

To identify a potential issue before it becomes an expensive problem, homeowners should have their property inspected regularly by professionals who specialize in wood-destroying organisms (WDO). During this inspection, pest control experts will look for signs such as hollowed-out wood or evidence of mud tubes on walls or ceilings that could indicate a termite infestation or fungal decay. They may also use specialized equipment like thermal imaging cameras to detect areas of higher moisture content that could indicate an active colony nearby.

Once an issue has been pinpointed, specific procedures can be taken to address it quickly and competently before any more harm is caused. If dry rot is present, any affected regions must rapidly be excised and substituted with fresh components. Suppose the structure has been compromised due to extensive termite activity. In that case, sealants may need to be applied before rebuilding any damaged sections so that future colonies cannot gain access again quickly through those points of entry into your home's structure.

Hiring professional WDO inspectors ensures you get accurate information about what kind of pests you might have on your property and advice on how best to address them without risking further damage. Imperial Pest Prevention stands apart from other companies because they offer comprehensive services, including inspections, treatments, and repairs, giving you peace of mind knowing that everything related to protecting your home against these destructive pests is appropriately handled.

Acting expeditiously reduces the likelihood of additional harm when tackling current problems related to termites and fungi. Employing a professional pest control company such as Imperial Pest Prevention can give you peace of mind that your WDO inspection will be done correctly and efficiently.

Key Takeaway: To avoid costly damage, getting professional WDO inspectors to identify potential issues with termites and wood decay before they become a problem is essential. Imperial Pest Prevention offers comprehensive services, including inspections, treatments, and repairs, so homeowners know their home is safe.

Why Hire Imperial Pest Prevention for WDO Inspection

Imperial Pest Prevention is a top choice for homeowners when identifying and preventing termite infestations. As experts in wood-destroying organism (WDO) inspections, they offer comprehensive services that go beyond just finding evidence of an infestation. Their specialized knowledge and experience can help identify potential problems early on before they become major issues requiring costly repairs or replacements.

What sets Imperial Pest Prevention apart from other pest control companies?

Their experienced technicians have the training and expertise needed to accurately diagnose the presence of drywood termites versus subterranean termites, which require different treatment methods. Inspections should be done regularly, at least every three years, to check for signs of damage due to wood rot or decay and fungal growth that may attract termites.

Hiring a professional pest control company like Imperial Pest Prevention for WDO inspection is vital in protecting your home from termite infestation and wood rot. Imperial Pest Prevention stands out from other companies' experience and expertise in identifying signs of termite damage, such as decaying, affected, and damaged wood. They also provide preventative measures to help protect against future infestations.

When inspecting a property, Imperial Pest Prevention takes the time to thoroughly examine every area that could be vulnerable to termites or fungal growth. This includes checking windowsills, door frames, attic spaces, crawlspaces, basements, and more for any signs of activity or potential damage. In addition to looking for evidence of existing colonies or decay caused by drywood termites or subterranean species, they will check for water sources that may attract them and damp areas where fungi can grow.

The benefits of hiring professionals are numerous when it comes to WDO inspections. Professionals have the knowledge and experience to identify early warning signs before significant repairs become necessary due to damage caused by these pests over time, which can be costly if not caught soon enough. They understand how different types of wood rot occur (brown rot vs. white rot) so they can properly diagnose the problem quickly while offering solutions for handling it with minimal disruption, including repairs if needed, all while keeping safety in mind at all times during the process.

FAQs in Relation to Termite Damage Vs. Wood Decay

How does termite damage compare to wood rot?

Termite damage is much more severe than wood rot. Termites consume the cellulose found in wood, causing extensive structural damage to buildings and other wooden structures. Surfaces like walls, ceilings, floors, furniture, and books can all be affected by termite damage. Wood rot, on the other hand, typically affects only the surface of a material, such as paint or varnish, without damaging its structure. While termite damage and wood rot can be costly to repair, termite infestations require professional extermination services, which are significantly more expensive than simple repairs for rotted wood surfaces.

How to tell the difference between wood water damage and termite damage?

Wood water damage and termite damage can be challenging to tell apart, but there are some key differences. Wood deterioration due to extended contact with moisture can result in warping or rotting. Termites feed on wood and cause structural damage, including small holes in the wood surface and tunnels inside the wood. To differentiate between these two types of damage, inspect for signs such as mud tubes near foundation walls (termites), soft spots in wooden structures (wood water damage), or areas with visible mold growth (wood water damage).

Do termites prefer rotting wood?

Termites primarily feed on cellulose, a major component of wood. While they can and will consume rotted wood, they don't necessarily prefer it over sound wood. Here's a more detailed look at termite preferences:

Moisture Content:

  • Termites, especially subterranean termites, are attracted to moist environments. Rotted wood is often moist, which can attract termites. However, it's not the rot itself that attracts them but the moisture.


  • Rotted wood is softer and easier to tunnel through, making it more accessible for termites. This ease of access might make it seem like they prefer rotted wood, but they're just taking advantage of an easier food source.

Presence of Fungi:

  • Rotted wood is often associated with fungal decay. While termites primarily feed on cellulose, some studies suggest that certain termite species might also consume fungi. However, it's unclear if this significantly influences their preference.

Other Sources of Cellulose:

  • Termites will also consume other sources of cellulose, including non-decayed wood, paper, and some types of insulation. Given a choice between rotted and non-rotted wood, they don't necessarily show a clear preference solely based on decay.


  • Rotted wood might be associated with other decay organisms or predators that could pose a risk to termites. In such cases, termites might avoid heavily decayed wood.

Do termites cause dry rot?

No, dry rot is not caused by termites. Dry rot is a type of decay that occurs when wood becomes saturated with water, and the fungi in the wood break down its cell structure, weakening it over time. Termites readily feed on cellulose found in wood and other materials but do not cause dry rot as they do not create moisture or introduce fungal spores into the material they consume.


Comprehending the distinctions between termite harm and wood rot and learning how to spot each is essential. With proper prevention measures, homeowners can reduce their risk of experiencing costly repairs due to either issue. However, existing problems are present with termites or fungi growth. In that case, hiring a professional such as Imperial Pest Prevention for a WDO inspection with experience dealing with pest infestations and fungal decay that may be causing structural damage is best.

If you are experiencing termite damage or wood decay, it is essential to take immediate action to prevent further destruction. Contact a professional pest control company today for reliable solutions and long-term protection against these costly problems.

This blog post was revised on October 5, 2023, to incorporate enhanced descriptions and detailed identification of feces from various animals and pests, enhancing its credibility and depth.


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