How Long Does it Take for Termites to Do Damage?

group of termites on a background

Termites take around three to eight years to severely damage a house or building. Don’t be fooled by their small size: Each year, termites’ destructive power causes billions in property damage in the U.S. Read more to learn how long it takes for termites to do damage, how fast they eat wood, and how long it takes to get rid of them.

How Long Does it Take Termites to Destroy a House?

Generally, it takes around three to eight years for termites to do significant structural damage to a house. However, in a relatively short period (approximately one year), termites can do enough damage that the wood they’ve infested may need to be repaired or replaced.

formosan subterranean termite (Coptotermes formosanus)
Photo Credit: Scott Bauer, USDA Agricultural Research Service, / Ipmimages

There is one exception to this guideline: A mature colony of Formosan subterranean termites can destroy unprotected homes within two years.

Here are the key factors that play a role in how fast termites can destroy your house:

  • Temperature: In cold temperatures, termite activity can slow down significantly, as they prefer hot and humid weather. If termites are protected from the cold (for example, if they infest a heated basement), they can continue their feeding activity all year round.
  • Colony size and age: Normally, if left unbothered, the older a termite colony is, the larger it gets. A well-established colony of Eastern subterranean termites is around 50,000 to hundreds of thousands of termites, so they can damage a home much faster than other termite types. 

    Drywood termite colonies, on the other hand, are quite small, reaching about 1,000 termites when mature.
Drywood termites closeup
Western drywood termite (Incisitermes minor)
Photo Credit: Whitney Cranshaw, Colorado State University, / Wikimedia Commons / CC BY 3.0
  • Termite species: The type of termite infesting a house is also a determining factor. Subterranean termites are regarded as the most destructive, with drywood coming in second. 
  • Building material: Your home’s building material can also play a big role. Most termites (especially the ones that are considered structural pests) prefer to eat wood, which contains cellulose, and homes constructed with more wood will be more susceptible. 

    Termites will also chew through anything else that contains cellulose, such as cardboard boxes and carpeting. But when foraging, they can also make their way through plastic and foam boards.
  • Condition of the wood: Subterranean termites prefer and will eat decaying wood faster, so the state of the wood in your home influences how fast termites eat wood. Drywood termites, however, eat through sound wood easily.

A side note: If your home has leaking pipes or water damage, this can form the perfect environment for termites to thrive, since they love humidity. Cracks and crevices on the foundation also give access for termites to invade and wreak havoc faster.

How Fast Do Termites Eat Wood?

termites on wood
Photo Credit: Whitney Cranshaw, Colorado State University, / Ipmimages

Under controlled conditions in a laboratory, a study found that a subterranean termite colony of 60,000 workers can eat a length of 1 foot out of a 2-inch by 4-inch piece of pine in around 118 to 157 days (around four to five months). At this rate, in approximately one year, termites can damage up to 3 feet of your home’s structure.

But how does it begin? At first, a termite colony spreads slowly. By the end of the first year, there are around only 50 termites. In two years, a few hundred. In around five years, a colony matures enough to produce swarmers and invade buildings.

How Long Does it Take to Get Rid of Termites?

anti termite baiting station
Photo Credit: Business / Canva Pro / License

The time it will take to get rid of termites depends on the type of treatment being used: 

Another important factor is the size of your infestation. Large infestations may need more treatments (or a combination of treatment methods) and can take longer to get rid of, needing regular supervision from a pro. Some severe cases even have more than one nest, with termites spreading even to the attic.

An important note: Keep in mind that termite control is a process rather than an instant solution. Even after treatment, preventive measures and professional monitoring are recommended. You can, for example, invest in a termite bond to prevent future infestations and future expenses.

FAQ About Termite Damage

How Long Does a Termite Treatment Last?

The duration of a termite treatment depends on the method being used. Liquid termite treatments and fumigation treatments can last about five years while termite baits can last up to several years with regular monitoring.

How Much Wood Do Termites Eat in a Month?

To put it differently, 2,000 subterranean termite workers can eat up an impressive 5 kilograms (approximately 11 pounds) of wood per month. This means termites will eat a little more than 1 kilogram (or 2.2 pounds) of wood per week. Here’s a video of termites destroying a model house.

What are the Signs of Termite Damage?

grayish film on a damaged wood floor
Photo Credit: Ethen Dell / Canva Pro / License

Some common signs of termite damage are:

  • Saggy or soft wood that sounds hollow when tapped 
  • Termite droppings or frass 
  • Mud tubes running up walls
  • A thin gray film on the surface of walls or furniture

When to Call a Professional

When termites are in the house, the best thing to do is let the pros lead the party. Pest Gnome is here to connect you with the best termite control professionals in your area so you can rest assured the only guests at your festivities are the ones you invited. Get in touch for a termite-free home today.

Main Image Credit: TommyIX / Canva Pro / License

Teresa Joaquim

Teresa is a creative writer who holds a Master's degree in Psychology. Despite being a nature lover, she is terrified of cockroaches. As a native of the tropics, she is used to dealing with mosquitoes, although they still manage to bother her. Her favorite things are art, music, and playing with her two cats.