The Chances of Your Home Being Attacked by Termites
Your risk based on geography
If you live in Tasmania, you’re probably not reading this and there’s no need to. For the rest of us, the only part of the mainland that is rated by the CSIRO as Low to Very Low is the narrow strip along the Great Ocean Road west of Melbourne. Which means the rest of us are in Moderate to High to Very High risk areas.
A few years ago, a CSIRO survey reported 32% of homes had a termite presence. This was confirmed by the Institute of Australian Architects whose survey in essence said: of all the homes inspected prior to sale, one third had some termite damage.
Here’s another significant statistic: less than 20% of homes are inspected or serviced by the professional pest control industry. That means more than 80% of us are blithely believing: “it won’t happen to me”.
Your risk based on the type of construction
Inner-city tenement style houses have common walls, often common roofs and usually a suspended wooden floor, often very low to the ground. You’d think that with all the bitumen, concrete and pavers covering the ground in these crowded suburbs there would be no place for the flying colonisers to find a bit of wood in soil to start up. But they do. And, because the houses adjoin, termites may enter your home from a nest that entered a house a few doors up the street. The same goes for more modern townhouses sharing walls and roofs even though they may be on concrete slab floors.
Homesteads/ Queenslanders may have plenty of space underneath their suspended wooden floors and the piers/stumps with antcaps give you a good chance to observe termite tunnels heading up to the floor. The temptation for us humans is to stack all sorts of stuff under these houses which often gives termites something to eat at ground level and, if this stuff is against the walls, it provides some cover so you can’t see tunnels heading upwards.
Rural homes are constructed of all styles but property owners have added threats: they have more sheds, cattle or sheep pens and ramps, wooden bridges and timber that ‘will come in handy one day’etc.
Suburban suspended floor houses are the type which are usually set on the so-called ‘quarter acre block’, with brick piers and foundation walls supporting bearers, joists and flooring boards. The walls may be double brick, brick veneer, weatherboard, fibro or other cladding and a timber framed roof. If you crawled under to inspect every year, termite tunnels would be found and treatment applied before much damage was done.
Concrete slab on ground houses began in the early 1960s. They were cheaper to build and builders paid for physical and chemical termite barriers which lulled many homeowners into a false sense of termite invincibility. As only about 20% of homeowners get their homes inspected, 80% of homes are just sitting there waiting for termites to attack, usually from out of the garden, maybe straight in through a weep hole just above the dampcourse with disastrous consequences to your finances.
Multi-storey apartments are also attacked but termite defence is usually delegated to a Body Corporate. The BC then delegates the inspection and control to a professional pest management company. I hope for your sake the company they chose is PestCert accredited…they have reached and are maintaining the highest formal level in pest management.
The damage bill
The Archicentre website once featured a report that said the annual damage bill to homes was about $1billion. The average cost of professional treatment was around $3000 and the cost of repairs was around $5000…Total $8000. One homeowner I know well, refinanced his home to pay a $70,000 bill. Sure, the kitchen was one area that had to be completely rebuilt so he went the extra and put in new, more modern appliances at extra cost. Extrapolating to today’s money, the average bill for treatment plus repairs would be approaching $15,000 per attacked house and the national annual damage caused by termites would be approaching $2bn.
Apart from the treatment and repairs, there is also the loss of resale value to be considered. If the prospective buyer receives a report of termite presence or even previous damage, they could easily lose all interest in proceeding —or offer you maybe $50,000 less. Then, on top of all this, how do you put a price on the inconvenience and the heartache?