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Does Home Insurance Cover Termites?

A standard homeowners insurance policy rarely covers damage caused by termites, unless the infestation is a result of a covered peril or if the structure of your home collapses.

Homeowners insurance only covers sudden, unforeseen damages. Since most termite infestations take three to eight years to inflict serious damage on a dwelling, home insurance carriers do not consider the damage to be "sudden" or "unforeseen."

Does My Homeowners Insurance Cover Termite Damage?

Some home insurance carriers and policies will pay out for a claim related to termite damage and destruction. There are two basic situations, each of them rare:

  • The structure of your house collapses due to termite damage. The interior and exterior structure of your home is covered by the dwelling component of your home policy.

  • Your house is infested by termites as a result of a named peril. You'll find the "named perils" on the declarations page of your policy.

Of course, every home insurance carrier is different, so it pays to find out what your policy covers and doesn't cover before you sign on the dotted line.

Why Is Termite Damage Not Covered by Home Insurance?

Home insurance carriers expect their policyholders to be responsible, conscientious homeowners, making regular property inspections and keeping up with routine maintenance.

Home insurance carriers expect policyholders to identify, combat and eradicate termites before any damage becomes critical.

Eradicating termites can be a hassle, but the homeowner has an obligation to identify and combat a termite problem before it becomes severe. In short, a standard homeowners policy does not recognize owner negligence, pest infestations or everyday wear-and-tear.

What Is a Termite?

A termite is a saw-toothed insect that eats wood and other cellulose-rich materials, such as flooring and wallpaper. Measuring four to six inches in length, termites live in colonies, and a thriving colony can nurture between 50,000 and 2 million members. Finally, a termite colony's queen can live up to 30 years and lay thousands of eggs every day.

A termite colony can house up to 2 million termites, and a termite colony's queen can lay thousands of eggs every day.

Of the 45 termite species in the U.S., three types are the most common, according to the National Pesticide Information Center (NPIC):

  • Dry wood termites

  • Damp-wood termites

  • Subterranean termites

While dry wood and damp-wood termites live in wood, subterranean termites live in soil. Termites can cause severe damage to a home in as little as three years, according to North Carolina State University (NCSU).

Signs of Termite Damage

Homeowners should look for evidence of termites on the inside and outside of the house. If you find tell-tale signs of termites in your walls, floors, ceilings, attic, trim, eaves, siding or anywhere else on your property, you should call a professional; in fact, many exterminators offer a free inspection and estimate. Here are some tell-tale signs of termite activity:

  • Wood that is damaged

  • Wood that sounds hollow when tapped with a solid object

  • Wood that is easily probed with a sharp or edged solid object

  • Wood with maze-like patterns

  • Walls with tiny holes

  • Drywall that is discolored

  • Paint that is peeling

  • Narrow, wood-colored tubes, or tunnels, which can appear on a house's exterior and interior and on the surface of the surrounding grounds

  • Loose tiles

  • Floorboards that are creaky or bowed

You can also spot the presence of termite activity by a brown-gray residue that feels like it contains sandy particles.

Common Places To Find Termites

If you have trouble opening a door and or window, it may be due to the settling of your house, but it could also be due to the warping caused by termite damage. Here are some other places to find termites and termite damage:

  • Support beams inside the house

  • In the corners of rooms and at the tops of walls

  • Kitchens, bathrooms and other damp areas

  • Closets, crawl spaces, basements, garages and other storage spaces

  • Siding, exterior concrete walls and painted or varnished wood trim

  • Piles of wood

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What To Do If You Have Termite Damage That Is Not Covered

  • As soon as possible, employ an exterminator or other pest control specialist to eliminate the termites, eradicate the termite colony and stop further damage.

  • Employ a contractor to repair the damage. Most contractors offer a free estimate, and some even specialize in termite damage. The best way to find a cheap price is to shop around.

  • Take steps to prevent any future termite activity. For example, ask your pest specialist about a "treatment barrier," which is basically a chemical shield that surrounds your house and poisons termites and, eventually, the termite colony. Termite barriers can last up to eight years, and there are eco-friendly options.

How Do I Prevent Termites?

The best way to prevent termite damage is to conduct regular inspections of your house and property, looking for tell-tale signs of termite activity and taking immediate action to eliminate the problem.

In the springtime, for example, keep an eye out for winged, flying termites, which are attracted to the light of sunny days. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has some other great tips for preventing termite damage:

  • Keep the soil around your house's foundation dry through proper grading and drainage, which includes properly functioning gutters and downspouts.

  • Use cement, grout or caulk to fill in the hair-line fractures and cracks that can appear in foundations and utility penetration points.

  • Fix leaks as soon as possible.

  • Keep vents unobstructed.

  • Don't plant trees, shrubs and other foliage too close to the home.

  • Store firewood and other wood away from the house.

  • Combat termites before they can establish a colony.

Is Home Insurance Eating Away at Your Budget?

Termites love to eat wood, whether it's dry or damp. A standard homeowners policy rarely covers termite damage: Home insurance carriers expect the policyholder to be a vigilant and proactive homeowner, and serious termite damage indicates negligence. However, some policies may offer compensation if a named peril causes a termite colony to form on your property or your house collapses due to termites.

Above all, homeowners should take steps to protect their investment by looking for tell-tale signs of a termite infestation and immediately hiring a pest control specialist before the problem escalates.

Even though most termite problems are not covered by homeowners insurance, you'll need a policy to protect you from other unforeseen and sudden losses, such as water damage or damage caused by a windstorm.

SmartFinancial offers free, real-time homeowners insurance quotes that fit your budget and needs. Using the app, within minutes you can pinpoint the best, cheapest home insurance rates in your area. Just enter your zip code below or call 855-214-2291 to get started.

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