The Annual Termite Inspection: Why you should spend money to save money.
Likelihood of Termite Attack
The risk of termite attack can vary according to where you live in Australia. This map below, produced by CSIRO researchers from survey results, is the most reliable resource for showing the termite trend. It reveals that basically all of Australia's populated areas are subject to high termite activity and a high likelihood of termite attack on houses.
|Source : http://www.csiro.au/files/mediarelease/mr2000/Termite.htm|
What does this mean for you? It is important to note that the main factor affecting termite hazard is temperature, followed by rainfall. If you live in a warm area of Australia – be aware of termites! And if you live in the more tropical coastal areas of Australia – be even more aware of termites!
n short, termites are present and fairly active in most of the densely populated areas of Australia, so familiarizing yourself with them and how to protect your home from extensive and expensive-to-repair termite damage is critical.
How They Get In
Termites are often referred to as white ants (because they are creamy white in appearance) but they’re not actually ants at all. There are more than three hundred and ﬁfty species of termites in Australia but only about twenty or so cause economic damage to houses. Termites can build nests on and inside trees, poles and posts, on the ground, and under the ground. They even tunnel through the soil then build mud shelter tubes up the side of structures to gain access to the building. Unfortunately different species of termites can make more than one kind of the types of nests described above, so it’s not possible to say that any given termite nest is not a problem! It’s better to assume they’re all a problem and guard against attack. Having said that, don’t ever disturb a nest, as that won’t necessarily get rid of the threat, and can make matters worse. The troublesome critters can travel around 50 metres or more underground from their nest to their chosen food source. Unfortunately this means that even if you know that YOUR property is clear of nests, who knows what your neighbours are up to...
Termites are happy to feed on all sorts of ‘cellulose’ materials: the structural timbers of your house, cosmetic lining timbers, plasterboard, carpet, books, electrical insulation and even cardboard and packing crates sitting on the ground underneath a house as illustrated in the picture below.
Termites had a feast on this packing crate and cardboard lying on the ground underneath an old house in Brisbane.
However, don’t think you’re safe if you don’t have a timber house. Interestingly brick and steel framed homes are just as susceptible, if not more, to termite damage due to the moisture traps under the slab and termite access to weep holes in brickwork and foundation gaps.
This photo shows the timbers that fitted carpets are attached to. Out of sight, out of mind, termites ate the undersides of the timber out whilst the carpet was in place.
Under the door trim, where the flooring transitioned from a carpeted bedroom to polished floorboards in the hall, the termites had a go at the floorboards.
Seriousness of Damage
Whilst severe structural damage due to termites is uncommon, cosmetic damage can be extremely costly to repair, rectify or remedy. Not only is the damage inconvenient and unsightly but it can also be dangerous when situations such as falling door frames occur (yes this does happen!!). The ‘not knowing’ how far the termites have infested your house and whether or not you’ve eliminated them all can play a significant role in the seriousness of the damage and how to properly rectify the problem. And of course there is always the question: “Will they strike again?” And of course, they can strike again. Inspections and termite barriers systems are not a guarantee of termites never getting in again – they’re simply a method of making inspections easier and preventing future attacks.
Cost of Repair
Once termites have entered your home the cost of repair will naturally be directly related to the extent of the damage. The cost of treating termites can run into hundreds of dollars or more and repeat treatments may be necessary. For example, the average cost of treatment for a home with termites by a pest contractor is $1500, however the average repair cost per home for termite damage is $4500. In the house featured in our videos (The Damage Termites Can Do Part 1 and The Damage Termites Can Do Part 2), the pine cladding in two bedrooms was so intermittently damaged and so badly damaged in places that it was decided to clad over the sheeting (no need to remove) and the material alone cost over $1400. If you fancy yourself a bit of a handyman then you are lucky as you will only have the cost of materials to repair any damage however, if you are short on time or skills, a handyman or builder will be able to help but probably at a cost of several hundred dollars for labour and materials (and that is just a start!). If major structural damage has occurred however the cost could skyrocket. Most home insurance policies don’t usually cover termite damage and building insurance and warranties can also become invalid – so you have to pay for any damage yourself.
Effect on Resale
Unfortunately there is a stigma associated with a house that has had previous termite damage. When trying to sell a previously termite-damaged house or a house with current termite damage be aware that some buyers won’t touch them, some are super-sensitive and contracts will fall over. In addition, if damage is extensive and obvious, the sale price will be affected. According to Ray Bondzulic from My Abode Real Estate in Brisbane’s thriving West, even old termite damage in a house on the market has a psychological effect on potential buyers. They feel fear and will walk away from properties like this, even if the damage was, say, 10 years ago. Even if a termite inspection uncovers termite activity in the gardens of a house – not even in the house, buyers will walk away. Ray says the best thing to do (to protect your resale value) is to do all you can to avoid the termites getting access to your house in the first place.
Tenants vs Owner living in the house
If you are an owner/occupier you will be aware that should a termite problem occur you will be up for maintenance and repair costs and as a result you will most likely keep half an eye out for “changes or unusual happenings” and investigate any suspicions of termites. Unfortunately, if you are a landlord you can be sure that tenants would not be so aware. If you’re living in the house you have the opportunity to be vigilant – but if you’re a landlord you’ll have to be pro-active and not rely on the tenant.
Not All Termite Inspectors are Alike
Most people would know to get an annual termite inspection, but how do you know what experience, skills and qualifications your pest inspector has? There are stories of one pest inspection telling a home owner that they have no termites present in the house, then another indicating that there is extensive termite activity and that it will be costly to treat. Which do you believe? Regulations and accreditation standards vary from State to State in Australia and many inspectors are uninsured, leaving home owners open to financial risk if problems should occur as a result of an inspection. Fortunately there are ways of finding out who you can trust to inspect your valuable property for termites – and who you can’t trust.
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