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Termite Damage – A Cautionary True Story

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Recently a friend of mine was told some of the worst news possible about the state of his home – it had termite damage and was still infested with termites. The news came as a great shock, as he had only put off having a pest inspection six months or so beyond his usual annual inspection.

This complacency cost him dearly. A subsequent inspection discovered termites in a number of rooms of the house. This was despite the main part of the home being a cavity, double brick house with only a small extension at the back with timber wall studs & gyprock sheeting.

So, how did it happen?

Good question. The home is an inner-city Newcastle, 1920s Federation-style home. But it was in good, renovated condition.

The pest inspector found a large nest infesting a paperbark tree at the front of a neighbour’s home.  In his opinion the termites had made their way underground directly beneath the home where they surfaced in the diagonally opposite corner of the house, beneath the laundry. Why here, the homeowner asked the technician? He thought the combination of a corroded downpipe and a hot water system outside the laundry meant a large amount of water sat under the house after heavy rain. This damp in the earth beneath the laundry attracted the termites, who began to eat their way up and into the only gyprock wall in the house.

Sections of that one gyprock wall were reduced to little more than paint in a matter of months. Looking at the wall it was difficult to see the damage, but you could poke a finger through parts of it with ease. Once sturdy skirting boards could now be pulled apart with the jab of a screwdriver.

From there some termites made their way into adjacent rooms along the wooden skirting boards and picture rails. Fortunately the damage was limited given that most of the walls within the house were constructed of brick and of no interest to the termites. If the termites had entered a home constructed of a timber frame & all gyprock walls the damage would have been far worse.

The pest inspectors were only called when one of his children pointed out a small nest in the corner of her room, a little like an ant’s nest. Not really expecting it to be termites, he nevertheless realised he was overdue for an inspection and booked it in. The technician immediately suspected the worst, which was soon proven when the aggressive white insects were discovered when the first hole was poked in the wall.

Something my friend didn’t realise was the sound termites made. When disturbed by the technician the ‘clicking’ noise of the annoyed colony could be heard from across the room.

Some termites will move more quickly than others through your home. There are some species who will very quickly eat away a large portion of your home, so regular inspections are a must. A matter of months can make a big difference.

Home insurance did not cover vermin damage unfortunately and the tree with the original nest of termites was on council land. Council considered the termites a ‘natural occurrence’ and their action was limited to an assessment of the trees at the front of homes along the street for structural damage.

My friend has since had the termites treated – a fine dust was applied directly to the visible insects in the wall which was taken back to the colony and spread amongst all those living there. But the damage had been done. Part of the gyprock wall, some skirting boards and picture rails need to be replaced, then painted. Corroded downpipes need to be replaced to keep the damp at bay.

It turned out to be a costly experience for my friend, but it could have been much worse and he has vowed never to miss an annual pest inspection again. Not only that, he plans on being more proactive with maintenance around the property. If the downpipes had been in better condition, perhaps the damp would have been less of an issue and the termites may not have found the entrance to the house so attractive.

If you need to find a builder to repair termite damage on your property in Newcastle, Lake Macquarie, Maitland, Cessnock or Port Stephens visit www.buildlocal.com.au.

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June 4, 2015 |

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