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How long does it take to see signs of termites?

Termites can cause major damage to homes and structures very quickly if left unchecked. Homeowners often want to know how long it takes for the first signs of a termite infestation to appear. Here is a quick overview of what to expect when it comes to the timeline of a termite infestation:

Initial Infestation

It can take 3-8 years after termites initially invade a structure before any visible signs of damage appear. This is because termites work slowly and out of sight, behind walls, floorboards, and other hidden areas. They chew through wood 24 hours a day, but the cumulative damage builds up slowly over time.

First Visible Signs

Once termites have been feeding in a structure for 3-8 years, the first visible signs of damage may emerge. These can include:

  • Little piles of sawdust around baseboards, flooring, or other wood structures
  • Mud tubes along foundation walls, pillars, and wood framing
  • Hollow sounding wood when tapped
  • Bubbling or peeling paint and wallpaper

These signs indicate termites have severely damaged wood under the surface. Their damage is now becoming visible as they continue to hollow out wood pieces.

Further Damage

After the initial signs are spotted, termite damage can spread rapidly if left untreated. Some of the further damage that may emerge includes:

  • Wood that crumbles easily when pressed due to extensive interior damage
  • Sagging floors, doors that stick or won’t close properly
  • Walls, ceilings, or roofs that appear warped, cracked or drooping
  • Damaged wood trim, frames, studs, and supports

This additional damage can appear within 1-2 years after the initial signs are seen. Termites work 24/7, so they can quickly hollow out wood structural elements once their damage becomes visible.


Another potential sign of an advanced termite infestation is the appearance of swarmers. Swarmers are winged termites that venture out from the nest to mate and establish new colonies. The swarmers emerge from inside damaged wood within the home.

Seeing termite swarmers emerge from cracks in walls, floorboards, baseboards or wood trim likely indicates a termite colony has been present for at least 3-5 years already. The swarmers appear when the existing colony reaches maturity and sends out reproducers.


Here is a quick summary of the typical timeline for termite damage:

  • 0-3 Years: Termites invade structure but no damage is visible
  • 3-8 Years: First signs like sawdust piles and mud tubes start to emerge
  • 8-10 Years: Extensive interior damage causes sagging, cracking, and crumbling wood
  • 10+ Years: Swarmers emerge from damaged wood inside home

The key is to catch termites early, before extensive structural damage occurs. Annual inspections and prompt treatment at the first signs of termites are essential to prevent costly damage. Act quickly at the first signs of infestation for the best chance to eliminate termites and prevent the need for major repairs.