does homeowners insurance cover termite damage?

It's hard to believe that termites once co-habited with dinosaurs. Yet, while dinosaurs succumbed to extinction long ago, termites have persevered and built a reputation as fearsome workaholics devoted to wreaking havoc on homes.

Termites may be tiny, but they can cause huge damage to your house should you experience an infestation. According to the National Pest Management Association (NPMA), these pesky critters cost U.S. homeowners an estimated $5 billion a year to control and repair damage.

Homeowners insurance doesn't normally cover termite damage or removal. That's because termite infestations can typically be prevented through routine home maintenance, which homeowners are responsible for.

But if termites were to chew through your home's wiring and cause a fire, for example, your homeowners coverage could step in to help pay for the damages, as fire is a covered peril under most policies. It's important to check with your insurer to see what you are and aren't covered for. If you're an Esurance policyholder, give us a call at 1-800-ESURANCE (1-800-378-7262). Our licensed agents are available to help at these times.

protecting your home against termites

Scientists estimate that it typically takes 3 to 8 years for termites to cause appreciable damage (though some of the more destructive types can cause major structural damage in as little as 3 months). Besides wood, termites can also destroy cloth, carpets, and paper.

And while home insurance won't typically cover damage from termites or other pests — like rodents — there are measures you can take to help prevent infestations in the first place.

To prevent termites from wreaking havoc on your house, the NPMA recommends:

  • Avoiding moisture accumulation by diverting water away from your home's foundation (make sure you have properly functioning gutters, downspouts, and splash blocks)
  • Uprooting any vegetation growing over vents
  • Removing any old tree stumps and roots around and beneath the building
  • Striving for an 18-inch distance between the wood portions of your home and the soil (keep in mind, termites can still gain access by building so-called shelter tubes or chewing through non-wood materials, but barriers can be built to discourage them)

how to spot termite damage in your home

The type of damage your home suffers often depends on the type of termite you're dealing with. The 3 most common types are dampwood termites, drywood termites, and subterranean termites. As the names suggest, dampwood termites prefer wet wood, while drywood termites — which are rare in the U.S. — seek out dry wood.

Subterranean termites are the most fearsome, and are best known for their ability to collapse entire buildings. These saw-toothed pests are more commonly found in the humid southeast region of the U.S., as they require a moist environment rich in soil.

Whether you see cracks and tunnels in your home's wooden panels and beams, swollen floors and ceilings, or odors and droppings — there are various signs of termite damage. A professional pest control company knows best what to look for and will be able to easily identify what kind of insect you're dealing with.

how to fix termite damage: treatment tips for homeowners

If you suspect some of these pests made their way into your house, there are 3 main types of termite treatments you can try (and they can be used in combination with one another):

  • Soil treatments: apply diluted liquid termiticides on the soil to create a chemical barrier
  • Wood treatments: treat infested wood or potentially-infested wood with a liquid termiticide
  • Baits: install bait stations in the ground to attract termites and reduce foraging

It's also a good idea to get a professional inspection done by a reputable pest control company to ensure you don't have a major problem on your hands. It's nearly impossible to eradicate a termite infestation on your own, so hiring a pro is your safest bet — and the least costly in the long run. The NPMA advises getting at least 2 estimates and ensuring the companies have solid references.

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