It’s common knowledge that termites eat wood. These insects have voracious appetites that have earned them the reputation of being a destructive household pest – and rightfully so. Termites eat 24/7, and each year, they cause $5 billion in property damage. For most homeowners in the U.S., there are three primary species of termites that pose a threat: subterranean, Formosan subterranean and drywood.

can termites damage drywall

While most homeowners worry about termites destroying wood in their houses, these pests can wreak havoc on other materials as well. One of these is drywall, or sheet rock. Find out why termites are attracted to drywall and learn how you can detect signs of a termite infestation in your home.

Termites in Drywall

Termites feed on cellulose, a naturally occurring substance that gives plants their rigid structure. Their bodies contain bacteria with special enzymes that help them convert the cellulose to the nutrients they need to survive. Humans can’t digest cellulose, but it is present in a number of plant-based products we use every day, including paper, and can even be modified to create adhesives and explosives.

When it comes to sources of cellulose, termites don’t discriminate – they’ll eat virtually anything that contains it. Surprisingly, that includes drywall. Drywall is composed of plaster panels covered in paper, which contains cellulose. It’s this paper that makes the drywall in your home a target for termites.

Signs of Damage

Worker termites, which forage for food to return to the colony, are the most likely to cause damage to drywall and wood. If termites are present, you may notice signs of their activity in your walls and ceilings.

There are a few tell-tale indications of termite damage, and often the evidence of termites will depend on the species present in your home.

Drywood termites – These termites create kick holes, which look like tiny pinpoints on walls. They use these holes to dispose of their fecal matter, also known as frass. This excrement is hexagonal shaped and looks like small wood pellets about the size of coffee grounds. Piles of frass near baseboards may indicate termite activity.

Subterranean termites – Signs of subterranean termite damage can include mud tubes, which serve as highways between their underground colonies and their food sources.

The most common sign of termites in sheetrock would be exploratory mud tubes that sometimes come out of the sheetrock several inches, especially from sheetrock in ceilings. On walls the most common sign is small "pin holes" about 1/16th - 1/8th inch in diameter and capped with a small speck of dirt.

Termite Damage Repair

The unfortunate truth is that termites are a serious problem, whether they’re dining on wood or sheet rock. Termite infestations can go undetected for long periods of time, creating even more damage. As a homeowner, it’s imperative that you take immediate action if you notice signs of termites in your home.

Yes, termites can damage wooden baseboards and drywall. Even more concerning, though, is the fact that they can damage the structural supports of your home. Termites may compromise wooden joists that support load-bearing walls, which are integral to the structural integrity of your house. Often, repairing this type of damage comes with a high price tag.

Many insurance policies do not cover termite damage because insurance companies consider it preventable. If your policy does not cover termites and your house has structural damage as a result of these pests, you can expect to pay a significant amount of money to repair these damages. In fact, the average cost of termite treatment and damage repairs is over $8,000.

Protect Your Home

The best way to avoid the costly treatments and repairs associated with termites is to take preventive action. A pest control specialist can conduct regular inspections to check for signs of termite activity and damage, and they can proactively treat your home to ensure the pests don’t find their way inside. Terminix provides effective treatment options for both subterranean (including Formosan) and drywood termites.