Termite or not termite? How prepared are you?
25 August 2015
Australians are obsessed with property. Mortgagees are on the edge of their seats when the Reserve Bank of Australia announces interest rate changes, home owners follow increases in their neighbourhood’s value with great interest and DIY tops most weekend to do lists in an effort to improve the home and ultimately its resale value.
With so much emotion, time and energy invested in our property, why do many home owners still fail to take steps to protect their most valuable asset from serious damage caused by termites?
The Mallee region, sometimes referred to as Victoria’s “food bowl”, provides a cocktail of perfect conditions for termites (white ants) to thrive in including warm temperatures and lots of gum and peppercorn trees.
Of the hundreds of species of termites found in Australia, several types are found in the Mallee. The main culprit affecting Swan Hill property is the Coptotermes Acinaciformis, which makes up for approximately 90% of termite-related property damage.
Despite liking warm temperatures, termites need moisture to survive and are not fond of daylight. As a result, they travel underground from their tree nest to seek out their next meal and enter homes from below, climbing piping or foundations in search of timber containing cellulose.
Detection and prevention
While we don’t want to roll out a tired out cliché, prevention is certainly cheaper than the cure in the case of termites.
“There are houses that have had white ants and there are houses waiting to get white ants” says Craig Robins, of Craig Robins Pest Control, who, like most busy local pest inspectors, can be in Balranald one day and under a school in Kerang the next.
“It’s important that home owners monitor for termites and have an annual inspection because termite damage is not covered by most home insurance policies” adds Craig.
So what options do home owners have?
Monitoring stations are inexpensive plastic towers or cylinders that are inserted below ground level. Containing blocks of timber, they should be monitored every couple of weeks for any sign of termite damage.
Another more costly preventative option is to place a chemical barrier around the perimeter of a property.
Craig’s tips for home owners
There are numerous other steps home owners can take to reduce the chance of a visit from an army of termites. These include:
- Stop any leaks from taps, gutters, hot water services and air conditioning (termites love moisture in the ground from leaks next to a house)
- Avoid garden materials leaning up against the exterior of the property
- Remove timber from your yard.
Like annual car and home insurance, home owners should consider a termite inspection every 12 months as a means of protecting their investment.
Pest inspectors are usually armed with a moisture meter to detect white ants although another important weapon in the war on termites is the “Termatrac” machine which detects motion and hence “current activity” behind walls.
Treating existing termites
So you’ve taken steps to monitor for termites and, regrettably, one day you detect their presence. What options are available to you?
- If termites have only been detected outside the property in an in-ground monitoring station, then a bait can be placed inside the station for the termites to eat and take back to their nest to pass on for others to die. If termites are found inside a property, above-ground bait can be set up inside the house which has the same effect on the termite nest.
- Chemical liquid treatments and foaming can be used
- “Dusting” is a technique in which a small hole is made in a wall and powder is blown inside
According to Brian Wood at Wood & Co Real Estate, home owners can fall into the trap of thinking the job is done once white ants have been detected and eliminated.
“Home owners shouldn’t forget to repair any damage caused by white ants. Failure to do so can only have a detrimental impact on your property’s value” says Brian.
Craig’s advice prior to constructing a new home
- Consider an exposed slab for your foundation as this reduces the risk of concealed termite entry and allows for a visible exterior perimeter inspection;
- Insist on treated timber or steel frames: treated timber frames usually come with a 25 year guarantee against termite damage provided the home owner has an annual pest inspection;
- Ensure preventative measures covering all ‘penetrations’ – such as home guard pipe collars and perimeter cavities - are put in place in the foundations of your property by a pest inspector during its construction.
Directory of pest inspectors in Swan Hill
- Craig Robins – 0429 863 277
- David Warburton - 0417 057 805
- Northern Victorian Pest Management – 03 5030 2939