A little known fact is most home insurance policies do not cover termite damage. They can be eating away at the timbers in your house and garden for years before you even notice the damage — hidden inside walls, floors, roofs or behind paint on hollowed out woodwork. So taking termite prevention measures is a good investment for maintaining the value of your property.
In an extreme case, a single colony of subterranean termites was discovered in a house in southern England in 1994 and was thought to have arrived about 30 years earlier. It was considered such a serious issue that the discovery was mentioned in parliament and the UK government issued a contract for its complete extermination to prevent further infestation.
This turned out to be more difficult than anyone had realised because the biology of the species was not well understood — showing how important it is to know about your local termite species. Not long after the colony was discovered scientists even decided to reclassify it as a new species of termite, called Reticulitermes grassei!
If you are lucky enough to be able to build or design your own home, then there are specific choices you can make to minimise the risk of a termite infestation:
Poor building design is one of the most common reasons for infestation, so architects have a lot to answer for!
If you are buying a house in a termite prone area, then check with an expert that good design features are incorporated into your desired house.
Good design can make it easy to inspect the possible entry points of termites and the structure of the building, such as beams and posts and the fittings such as skirting boards.
Subterranean termites prefer softer wood so the type of timber and wood treatment used in the building can prevent termites feeding on the wood. However, one type of timber that is resistant to termites in one part of the world may not be resistant in another, so getting local advice is important.
How do termites get in your house?
Termites are sneaky creatures, they are able to find a way into your house in the search for the holy grail of wood feasts. Good design can also prevent termites from accessing ‘weak points’ such as:
The key is to keep them away from the ground or separated from the building.
Termite Prevention Tips
How to protect yourself from termites:
Ensure that vents to subfloor areas are kept free of blockages to keep the humidity low, thus making the area less attractive to termites.
Make sure water from rain runoff, air conditioning overflows etc , drain away from the side of the house.
Repair leaking taps and pipes.
Don’t let climbing plants, trees or bushes grow against the house, especially plants with strong root growth that might penetrate the house structure and provide a highway for the termites.
When you have building alterations make sure they do not affect any termite barriers.
Make the garden a barrier
Most advice on keeping termites away from your house focuses on the inside of your home. However, you shouldn’t neglect the outside areas of your property, as garden features and plant matter can attract termites closer to your house.
Garden fences & decking: most garden fences are made from wood and so are vulnerable to attack. Only use treated wood or keep wood out of the ground, for example by using metal post holders for fence posts.
Firewood: firewood is just a large pile of food for termites, so store it well away from the house and raised off the ground if possible.
Dead trees: you should either remove or monitor dead trees and tree stumps. They are ideal food sources for subterranean termites, especially as a large part of them is underground.
Water sources: reduce any leaks from watering systems and outdoor taps. Subterranean termites need moisture to survive so water sources in your garden help them to expand their territory closer to your house.
Photo: Termites swarming from a tree stump
Unobtrusive bait stations are placed around the edge of your property. The bait stations attract the foraging worker termites which feed on the bait. These workers are also responsible for providing food to other termites, so they take the poisoned bait back to the colony and share it with other termites. Gradually the colony is reduced in size till it can no longer survive.
Physical termite barriers
Termites can gain access to a house through tiny cracks in concrete foundations or around conduits and pipes. Physical barriers are a form of termite treatment designed to target the weak points in and around your house to reduce the risk of invasion.
A chemical barrier creates a treated soil zone around the house that prevents or kills the termites passing through. It is a proven method that can be used as part of a prevention plan or to treat a termite invasion.
The main lesson to learn is that taking precautions as early as possible will pay off in the long term and protect your investment in your home. As mentioned above, there are various simple measures that you can take to prevent infestation, such as removing termite food sources from your garden and making regular checks to monitor any termite activity in the ‘weak points’ around your home and property.
However, for the best protection of your property it is worth getting professional advice from our termite experts who have extensive training in termite inspection, knowledge of the best technologies, and, importantly, local knowledge of the termite risks and measures to take in your area. Visit the Rentokil website for more details of the help and advice available to you.
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Take a look at this video on the damage termites can do and the impact they can have on the value of your home.