Like HowStuffWorks on Facebook!

How to Tell if You Have Termites

Termites can do a world of hurt, so monitor for them closely.
Termites can do a world of hurt, so monitor for them closely.

If you want to scare a homeowner, there's one sure way to do it: Mention the word termite. These destructive little wood-eating pests cause upwards of $50 billion in property damage every year -- and that's not sawdust. If you aren't paying for an exterminator to check for termites on your property periodically, learn the signs and perform your own informal termite hunt every few months. But even if you're as thorough as they come, we highly recommend a professional termite inspection once a year.

Termites can be very hard to spot. They eat wood from the inside out, preferring the soft spring wood growing in layers deep inside wood construction materials, fences, fallen branches, firewood and even wood mulch. You might not be able to see their handiwork until they've caused a lot of damage and even spread to multiple locations on your property. Termites do leave a few clues to their presence, though. Grab your work clothes and a pair of walking shoes. We're going to take a trip around your property to look for subterranean termites, the most common termite species active across the U.S.