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.
According to the National Pest Management Association (NPMA), these 24/7 wood eaters cause an estimated $5 billion a year in damages in the U.S. Unfortunately, it's impossible to carry insurance against termite infestation. That means protecting your home against termites is not only smart, but essential.
get to know your local termites
To understand what you're up against, it's important to know how termites thrive. In a nutshell, termites are attracted to wood, especially if it's in contact with soil. They also like to stay hidden, which can make them hard to detect.
There are 3 main types of termites: 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 termites are more commonly found in the humid southeast region of the U.S., as they require a moist environment rich in soil.
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 termites can cause major structural damage in as little as 3 months). Besides wood, termites can also destroy cloth, carpets, and paper.
You may be able to locate termite damage by probing the suspected wood with a knife or screwdriver. But hiring a professional may be your safest bet — and the least costly in the long-run. NPMA advises getting at least 2 estimates and making sure they have solid references.
The NPMA offers the following termite-prevention tips:
- Avoid moisture accumulation by diverting water away from your home's foundation (make sure you have properly functioning gutters, downspouts, and splash blocks).
- Uproot any vegetation growing over vents.
- Remove any old tree stumps and roots around and beneath the building.
- Strive 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.)
There are 3 types of termite treatments, which can be used in combination with one another:
- Soil treatments: applying diluted liquid termiticides on the soil to create a chemical barrier
- Wood treatments: treating infested wood or potentially infested wood with a liquid termiticide
- Baits: installing bait stations in the ground to attract termites and reduce foraging
So why not eradicate all termites on the planet? Believe it or not, these little buggers actually serve an important ecological role, as they convert dead trees into organic matter that nourishes living trees.
The downside is that termites don't discriminate. They're as drawn to a tree stump in the middle of a forest as they are to the wood holding up your home.
With all this talk about damage to your home, it may be a good time to think about homeowners insurance. Although it can't protect you against termites, a homeowners policy will help cover your assets if something happens to your home.
Get a free homeowners or condo insurance quote and customize your policy online today.
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