What termites can do to homes

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•        Termites are native Australian insects which live in the ground and feed on cellulose-based materials, including some we use for building homes, returning this organic material to the soil.

•        When people lived in trees and caves, termites were less of a problem!  The trouble started when we began to build homes in holes dug in the ground, using wood and similar materials.

•        Termites tend to be most active in warmer and wetter climates, the most destructive place being Darwin and the least, Tasmania.

•        Estimates of the damage termites cause to Australian homes range upwards from $100 million per year.  Some estimates of the total economic cost of termite management are as high as $750 million pa.

•        Once building warranties run out, almost all of the damage cost is borne by homeowners.  In any case, building warranty insurance will usually only cover termite damage if the builder has been proven negligent.

•        Some limited insurance plans are available, but they are usually tied to regular - and sometimes expensive - periodic inspections.

•        Even if you rely on inspections, be aware of their limitations.  Not all inspection specialists have the necessary skill and experience to detect current and past infestations.  Some infestations may elude even the most experienced inspector.

•        The problem is growing in high-population areas because of the way we build homes - and the physical and chemical methods we use to keep termites out - have changed over the past few decades.

•        At least four basic factors affect the termite damage risk to your home - and your pocket:

    • where your home is located,

    • how its foundations are constructed,

    • what concealed structural materials are used, and

    • how vigilant you are in inspecting and maintaining your home.

•        After you've built your home, it is usually too late to change your mind about the termite management system which protects your investment.

•        Builders can and should be a major source of advice - but make sure you ask the right questions about system effectiveness, lifetime cost and warranty protection.