Termites in wood furniture (Detection, prevention + removal)


Most people know termites can damage buildings but termites in wood furniture can also wreak havoc. When termites infest wood furniture, they can destroy that furniture fast (relative to a building). The good news, though, is that detecting signs of termites in furniture is easier than finding signs of termites in your home’s structural timber.

We will show you how to identify termite activity in furniture. Additionally, we will tell you your options for removing termites from furniture (in case you’ve discovered some). You can skip to a specific section at the table of contents.

Termite pro showing termite-infested cabinets

If you found some termites in your furniture and want help exterminating them, answer a few questions below and we’ll get you quotes from several companies so you can compare and save money.

Types of wood destroying termites:

As you know the common types of termites in North America are:

Formosan termite, eastern subterranean termite, Drywood termite and Dampwood termite.

  • Formosan Termites are always found in soil, rarely venturing above ground. They find better conditions in the soil where there is high moisture and cool air.
  • Eastern Subterranean Termites are wood destroying and have a dangerous destructive behavior, but they rarely infest furniture. This particular type of termites prefers infesting the structural wood because Eastern Subterranean Termites tend to form huge colonies, consuming a lot of wood.
  • Dampwood Termites LOVE wood furniture and if they find their way into your home they’ll undoubtedly be drawn to your wooden home furniture.
  • Drywood Termites like infesting dry wood (hence the name.) This means Drywood Termites exist where outside temperatures are is quite high and that Drywood Termites have no special need for moisture, unlike other kinds of termites.

While most wood furniture is dry and it exists at ambient temperature then it becomes a perfect home for Drywood termites to build their nest.

  • Dampwood termite: Dampwood termites are less likely to be harmful to wood furniture than Drywood termites. These termites want a wet location where there are high levels of moisture and humid air, dry wood furniture is not appropriate for them.

But Dampwood termites have a special attraction to wood, especially the new kind of wood in furniture when the furniture is cold and they say “it’s better for the wood’s persistence”. Yes, it’s great for wood persistence unless it doesn’t get attacked and destroyed by Dampwood termites.

Video showing termites eating an antique piano

How to tell if termites are active in furniture

To identify termite activity in furniture perform a tap test. Grab a screwdriver and gently tap different points of the furniture. If termites are in a part of the furniture, it will sound more hollow than solid wood. Use your knuckles to tap the furniture if you’re worried a screwdriver will damage it.

Additionally, you can look for common signs of termites in and around your furniture. These include discarded termite wings, pinholes, termite droppings, and mud tubes.

Signs of termite activity in wood furniture

The termites’ existence in wood furniture is a dangerous phenomenon that can bring many disappointing results to the homeowner, that’s why such destructive behavior has to be detected. Here are some signs that may help you detect termites in wood furniture.

Video showing termite swarmers (alates) leaving a TV Desk
  • Wet spots: Termite colonies inside wood create what looks like big spots on the outside of the wood. These look like a water leak. This is particularly true of the Dampwood termite colonies because they prefer high degrees of moisture.
  • Dirt or mud tubes: To move safely from their main colony to a food source (or secondary colonies), subterranean termites build mud tubes, somewhat like pencil-width-sized mud tunnels. These mud tubes provide safe routes for termites. So, if you find a mud tube on your wood furniture, you’ve found a reliable sign of termites. Cut it open and check if there are termites crawling its length. You can also follow the mud tubes to clue you into the termite colony’s location.
  • Cracked wood: Any cracks in the wood could be due to the old age of the furniture or possible hot temperature problems. But it is also important to check if some cracks in your wood furniture may be a sign of termite infestation.
  • Small ‘pin’ holes: Small holes in the wood are the ends of galleries inside the wood which provide the termites with sufficient air. Some termites could appear through the small holes in the wood. Therefore, you should inspect some holes, if found, to check if your furniture is suffering from a termite infestation.
  • Fecal pellets: Termites’ feces is very recognizable, so if you discover some fecal pellets near your wood furniture, you should contact an expert to make sure if it is a sign of termites’ existence or not.

The termite-infested furniture can be seriously damaged, even requiring the complete disposal of your furniture.

A colony of a million individual drywood termites can consume 10 ounces (around 280g) of wood a day. In that case, if you have a dry wood desk that weighs 100kg, drywood termites can consume the entire desk in a mere year.

Formosan termites could devour the desk even faster!

Video showing a termite-infested table leg. Notices the cracked surface.

So, you should start thinking of ways to protect your furniture and how to get rid of termites in furniture if you end up getting them.

How to get rid of termites in furniture

The control of termites in the soil could be done in several ways that we cited before, such as baiting.

But when the termites infest wood, especially wood furniture inside the house, the situation gets critical and needs a professional intervention to control the termites and, totally remove them.

You may start thinking of many ways, but here are a few to help you:

GC Termite Control showing what to do about termites in furniture
  • Moisture decrease: Decreasing the moisture may provide inappropriate life conditions to the termites infesting the wood, so either they will die or leave the furniture. To do that, place the infested wood furniture in the sun, so the moisture wood will evaporate and termites will be exterminated. You can also ventilate the nest by applying high ventilating power to the tunnel holes in the wood furniture.
  • Orange oil: Orange oil is extracted of orange peels. It is a great natural remedy which is able to kill termites by simply injecting the oil through the holes in the wood furniture and, typically, in few hours, termites will be all dead. One thing to keep in mind with this method, its that orange oil is flammable. Some people prefer the risk of flammability to the risks of using synthetic chemicals.
  • Electronic termite control: You can use an electric current (90,000+ voltage push) to exterminate termites. This current with high voltage and high frequency will get through wood and kill the termites immediately. It is a useful way but you need to be safe and don’t dispose yourself to any electric danger.
  • Liquid nitrogen: Everybody knows that nitrogen get liquid at -328°F (around -200°C) and this very cold liquid will kill the termites as they can’t resist to a temperature under -20°F. Simply, buy liquid nitrogen and inject it through holes and cracks in the wood furniture.
Video showing termites eating a nightstand

How to protect wood furniture from termites

  1. Keep your furniture dry: fix any nearby lakes immediately and put furniture outside in sun to dry if it gets wet. Termites are attracted to moisture and moist wood)
  2. Paint or polish your furniture: there are some varnishes, polishes, and paints that termites don’t like (or that intentionally have anti-termite ingredients). Applying these to furniture legs (or other furniture appendages that contact the ground) can prevent termites from infesting furniture.

Frequently Asked Questions about termites in furniture

How long can termites live in furniture?

Termites can live in furniture until it they eat all the wood it contains, destroying your furniture (leaving wood riddled with termite galleries). If winged termites emerge from your furniture, termites were in your furniture for 3 to 5 years.

Further Resources for getting rid of termites in wood furniture

  1. Drywood Termites – Clemson University
  2. Featured Creatures: Drywood Termites – University of Florida Entomology & Nematology Department
  3. Termites In Firewood – MyTermiteTreatmentCosts.com
  4. Termites – Washington State Department of Ecology

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