Chew on This: Does Homeowners Insurance Cover Termites?
Spring is in the air. It’s warmer out and snow melts. It is also termite mating season and your home is more vulnerable to the pests. But wait, you have homeowners insurance, so you’re covered for termite damage, right? Probably not.
Unfortunately, there is no such thing as termite insurance and homeowners insurance rarely covers damage inflicted upon your home. This is because pests, rodents and bugs are considered preventable.
According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), property owners shell out billions of dollars to mitigate structural damage caused by termites. It can be difficult to prevent these wood-eating insects from chewing on your home.
In fact, most people are not aware whether they have termites until they happen to actually see a swarm or discover damages during construction.
Why Doesn’t Homeowners Insurance Cover Termite Damage?
Typically, homeowners insurance covers sudden, accidental damage from a covered peril that is considered unpreventable. Examples include:
- Unexpected water damage (i.e. a burst pipe, but not flooding, slow leaks or sewage back-up)
As you can see below, there are a number of exclusions:
- Power failures
- Bed bugs
- Mischievous acts
Situations Where Termite Damage Might Be Covered
Your homeowners insurance provider might decide that an event such as water damage from a burst pipe is the single reason termites are causing the damage. It’s possible you could get coverage in such a case, but you have the responsibility to prove it is true.
Two possible situations where coverage might occur include: When the infestation is caused by a covered peril, such as damage to the home caused by a severe damage that let’s termites in; and when the termite damage causes the home to collapse.
How to Find Termites in Your Home
How to find termites
A couple of ways to find out if you have termites are:
- Probe exposed wood with a flathead screwdriver or similar tool to find any hollow spots you can explore.
- If you come across a swarm, be sure the insects are not ant swarms.
- Front wings longer than the hind wings
- Antennae bent at ninety-degree angle
- Wings are roughly equal in length
- Antennae are straight; may droop
It can be difficult to detect termites, which live hidden away in places like:
- Under wallpaper
- Support beams
Visually identifying termites and/or termite droppings are the most obvious clues. Also look for signs of damage by termites such as hollow or soft wood, splintered wood, blistering paint or “mud tubes”, also called termite tunnels or galleries.
Termite mud tubes connect different colonies underground to each other and to above-ground locations like your home’s interior. If you discover active or inactive mud tubes, look online for professionals to consider. A professional can diagnose the problem and suggest the best method to get rid of the termites.
Treatments for Eliminating Termites
Ways to deal with termites include chemical, non-chemical, barrier and bait treatments.
Chemicals that treat termites and infestations are called termiticides. Available pesticides have been studied by the EPA to determine whether or not they are not they are considered safe for humans and the environment. Once a chemical treatment is identified as low risk, the EPA registers the pesticide must be used only in strict accordance with label directions.
As of 2021, approved treatments include:
- Termite baits
- Liquid soil-applied termiticides
- Wood treatments
Because non-chemical (no insecticides) treatments, they are not regulated does not regulate them.
- Steel barriers are usually installed during construction.
- Steel mesh and sands can be used as effective barriers.
- Biological control with nematodes and fungi.
Conventional Barrier Treatments
The soil-applied barrier treatment is the most common treatment. It is essential that these methods are used properly to avoid contaminating the home and drinking wells. On top of that danger, when used improperly this treatment will not protect the home from termites.
Certain termite baits help reduce use of insecticides, which have a negative impact on our health and the environment. These cellulose baits contain a slow-acting insecticide.
A chemical wood treatment called Borates is commonly sprayed on the wood items of a home during construction.
How to Deal with a Termite Infestation
Since termites are not covered by homeowners insurance, you’ll need to do some research and pay out-of-pocket. Get quotes from a few different exterminators and find out how long it would take to complete the extermination. Weigh both good pricing and great customer reviews online.
Then, invite contractors to evaluate the termite damage. Get repair recommendations and pricing before picking a contractor.
Prevent Termite Infestations
Termites enter homes foundation cracks and crevices, rain gutters and loose pipes. Eliminating their food sources can help get rid of the termites.
Termites eat cellulose which can be found in the following:
- Other wood materials
Do not store any of those cellulose sources next to your home. Seal entry points into the home.
Other Ways to Prevent Termite Infestations
- Keep the soil around the home’s foundation dry.
- Fix leaks immediately.
- Do not plant trees or plants are too close to the structure.
Be sure to have the home inspected for termites annually. A professional exterminator can answer your questions and recommend things you can do to keep termites away.
U.S. Stats to Consider
Here are some statistics to think about:
- Termites damage about 600,000 homes every year.
- Homeowners spend about $5 billion on termite controls and repairs.
The Good News
As much as you might like to have termite damage covered by homeowners insurance, the good news is termites can be prevented!
Click here to learn about what homeowners insurance does cover.