Home Insurance and Termite Damage
Termites can cause costly damage to your home. Learn here when your home insurance covers it and how to prevent it.
Termite damage to your home is not usually covered by homeowners insurance except under highly select conditions. If the infestation results in the house collapsing, it may be covered. In some cases when termite infestation results in damage that is covered by your homeowners insurance policy, such as if it causes fire or a leaking pipe, you may qualify for coverage. If the termite damage could have been prevented, homeowners insurance probably won't cover it.
This article will cover:
- Termite damage that homeowners insurance covers
- How to spot termite damage in your home
- How to prevent termite damage
- The cost of termite elimination
Does homeowners insurance cover termite damage?
Like most damage caused by insects or vermin, termite damage is usually not covered under homeowners insurance. This is partly due to the time frame that termite infestation requires. It usually takes an average three to five years for a termite colony to infest a house. Homeowners insurance usually covers damage that is sudden or accidental, not gradual damage that occurs over the years. Homeowners insurance companies often consider this type of damage as preventable and the responsibility of the homeowner. Therefore, it's usually excluded.
Another problem with termite damage is gauging when the damage happened. If you've changed homeowners insurance in the past few years, there could be some dispute over who was covering you when the termite damage occurred. This is also the case if you’ve recently bought a house. It’s possible the infestation started before you owned it.
There are some times when termite damage may be covered by homeowners insurance. If termites cause your house to collapse, it may be covered. However, there are usually some criteria that need to be present:
- The house must have collapsed or be in pieces.
- The termite damage has to be concealed from sight. If the damage can be seen on wall surfaces, it's not covered. If the damage occurred within the walls, it may be covered.
- The damage has to be unavoidable. If the termite damage can be deemed preventable, it is excluded. For example, if you see indications on the paneling or trim on walls, your homeowners insurance company will probably exclude it because it would be something you could take care of as a homeowner.
If the termite damage causes other damage that is a covered peril in your homeowners insurance policy, some of the damage may be covered. For example, if termites chew through your wiring and cause an electrical fire, the fire damage may be covered, but other termite damage may not be. On the flip side, if a peril covered by your homeowners insurance results in a termite infestation, it could be covered.
Finding termite damage in your home
The most common termite is the Subterranean Termite, otherwise known as the Ground Termite. They are the source of 95% of all termite damage in North America, mostly in warm, humid areas. They build networks of mud tubes underground to travel to and between food sources like logs, fences and homes. Look for mud tunnels running up the foundation of your home, then disappearing beneath the siding or under exposed wood. These are the key indicators of Subterranean Termites.
The Formosan Termite is considered the most destructive type of subterranean termites. They are responsible for $2 billion in property damage in the U.S. each year. They are mostly in Southern states, but have also been found in Arizona, Hawaii, Texas and California. The most common signs of Formosan termite damage are wood that sounds hollow, mud tubes or "carton nests" in walls. Carton nests are called such because they look like packed cardboard.
Dampwood Termites are another common type. Usually, as the name implies, they live in wet, decaying wood. They tend to be found along the Pacific Coast and Southern Florida. They are attracted to homes with moisture or plumbing issues. The damage from Dampwood Termites tends to look smooth and clean, as they eat across the grain of the wood.
Termites can be hard to find, but the damage often isn't. As a general rule, cracks in wood paneling and wood beams, as well as swelling in the floor or ceiling may indicate termite presence.
How to treat termite damage
Termites are difficult to spot, but the damage they cause often isn't. Regular termite inspection is suggested. There are about 45 types of termites in the U.S. alone, and correct treatment for them can ride on knowing what kind of termite you're dealing with.
That said, there are steps you can take to prevent or mitigate termite damage:
- Look for holes, gaps or cracks around exterior pipes and your foundation and seal them. These can be entryways for termites.
- Remove the termite's food sources. Anything that consists of cellulose should go. This includes wood as well as mulch, leaves, paper and boxes.
- If you have a fireplace, check your firewood supply. Firewood can be a playground for termites.
- Reduce the chances of moisture accumulating, as damp wood is a big attraction to termites. Look at damp wood, plaster or drywall in your home for any dampness. You can purchase a dehumidifier to help reduce moisture in the home.
- Clear debris in your gutters before storms. Direct your downspouts away from your home in order to reduce chances of water getting into your home.
- Should you find infested wood that cannot be removed, have it treated with termiticide.
- Placing termite bait stations around areas that are showing signs of infestation can attract termites, reduce their foraging zones and eliminate them.
How much does termite treatment cost?
The cost of removing a termite infestation in your home or property usually depends on how large the infestation is. If you're dealing with a small area, the average cost for treating termite damage is between $330 to $815.
If the infestation is large enough to require home tenting and fumigation in order to eliminate it, the cost averages out to between $1,280 to $3,000, but possibly more in the case of extreme infestation.
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