Can Termites Eat Cement? How to Protect Your Home from Termite Invasion

Termites are destructive pests known to have the ability to damage structures by chewing their way through the wooden walls and ceilings. However, there are some instances where homeowners claim that these little crawlers can also destroy concrete houses. Gnawing through their concrete foundation eventually making them at risk of collapsing. If this is the case, can termites eat cement?

The answer is no – simply because termites only eat materials that have cellulose on them. Another reason is that their digestive system is not designed to break down cement, so they do not seek it as a potential source of nutrition.

Termites Can’t Eat Cement, But They Can Destroy It

Although these pests can’t chew their way through your concrete foundation, the structure is far from being safe from the damage that termites can cause. Because even though termites can’t eat cement, they can destroy it. 

We all know that cement is hard and solid, except it’s not flexible. As soon as it dries, the foundation will have hairline cracks formed over time. These cracks will serve as pathways for termites to go inside the concrete. Once the worker termites are inside the gaps, they will build “mud tunnels” or cavities. It is by excavating the soft part of the wall to make them wider and easier to pass through.

termite tunnels on cement

These tunnels will act as their roads inside your walls for them to reach the food source. As a result, the longer the termites are actively purging the wooden structure on the other side of your cement wall, the wider the “tunnel-like” pathways they leave. These cavities will weaken your structure’s foundation and affect the stability of the whole building.

What Do Termites Eat?

Did you know that termites’ colonies have strange diets? In these colonies, only the worker termites could eat. They digest the food and give the nutrients to the other termites of the colony through the process of Trophallaxis. Because of this process, the termite workers do not sleep. That is why they need to eat a lot to stay active and maintain a high level of energy. Let’s find out more plant-based materials that termites love to eat.

Cardboard Paper

These pests will eat anything that has celluloses, including cardboard. Although cardboards are manufactured in factories, they are still made of wood, sometimes plants that are rich in cellulose. That is one reason why you always see termites or “white ants” in old books and boxes.

termites eating cardboard box

Fabric

Many fabrics are made of cellulose material. A good example is cotton fabric and other hand-woven fabrics. The main biological structure of these types of fabrics is made of plants, thus making them rich in cellulose.

Water

Yes! A termite’s diet includes water, and they can even transport water through their mouths and give it to other termites in the colony. Termites can take up to half of their body weight in just one drink. They also use this water to soften up the wood, build soft clay structures for the colony, and a steady source of water to stay hydrated.

Common Misconceptions About the Termite Diet

Since we have disapproved of the urban legend that termites can eat cement, here are the other misconceptions about a termite’s diet.

Termites Can Eat Drywall

The answer is yes and no, just because drywall is typically made up of plaster with a paper filling in between. Paper is made of plant-based materials that contain cellulose. The termite is not eating the drywall perse, but rather the paper in between. Like cement, termites can burrow through the plaster until they reach the paper material. 

Termites Can eat Painted Wood

Good news to homeowners, termites don’t eat paint that is why they won’t eat through painted wood. However, always remember that a termite only needs a hairline-like crack or opening in the material for it to burrow and eventually reach the food source.

slab of wood damaged by termites

Termites Can Eat Metal

Often we see cartoons and drawings of termites chewing through metal with their sharp set of teeth. However, metal doesn’t contain any cellulose like cement and plaster.

Termites Can Eat Plastic 

There are some people who believe that termites can eat plastic. However, this is not true. Just like cement and metal, these insects cannot digest plastic. Instead, they will chew their way through the plastic walls like PVC pipes to gain access to their food.

How to Get Rid of Termites at Home

Termites may be the scariest pest one may face as a homeowner. Mainly because they will cost a lot of money for pest control and they will do extreme damage to the overall foundation of the house. If you think that you have this type of infestation, then this article is for you. Here are four steps on how to get rid of termites at home.

Track Down The Infestation

The first thing that you need to do to get rid of termites is to look for signs of the infestation. 

  • Holes in woodworks (cabinets, doors, window panels, hollow parts in the foundation)
  • Damage under your wall paint or wallpaper.
  • Small insects wings
  • Mud tunnels
  • Termites swarmers

Establish The Type Of Termite You Have

There are two common types of termites, the subterranean termites, and the dry wood termites. It is important to know what type you are dealing with because each requires its own treatment method. 

Subterranean Termites

Subterranean termites can be found in both wood and any compost pile such as soil in the garden. These termites have jagged-tooth, are narrow in shape, and can be seen in brown, white, and orange color. These termites are more destructive than the other types of termites. There are several ways you can get rid of Subterranean termites.

  • Use termite bait that you can install around the perimeter of your home to attract the worker termite. This is a proven method as the chemicals used as baits kill the termite slowly. Thus allowing it to bring the pesticide into the colony affecting the other termites. This method will kill the colony.
  • Use direct chemicals to spot and directly shoot the termites. This method can be used at home as it is odorless and eventually evaporates. This method can only last less than two months.

Dry Wood Termites

Dry Wood are termites that require contact with soil to leave. You can get rid of them by using the following method.

  • Use spot treatment by drilling holes in the affected area until you reach the nest and fill it with termiticide.
  • Use a mixture of orange and neem essential oil with two cups of water. All you have to do is to spray it directly into the infested materials to slowly kill the pest.

Final Thoughts

Termites cannot eat cement, but no matter how skillfully poured your concrete wall or foundation it will have cracks and crevices as it dries. These pests will then burrow themselves into these cracks until they reach their main source of food which is mainly your wooden panels. But do not worry, by knowing the prime source, you can take steps to better protect your home from termite infestation.