Your New Home

Congratulations on contracting to buy your new home. Termites are things you won't want to think about just now, but they might cost you an awful lot of money, perhaps even your house and your marriage.

Think!

Apart from fire and flood, probably the last thing you’ll be thinking about as you plan take possession is an insidious attack from a bunch of social cockroaches, but please spare them some thought before you move in. These little creatures, properly called termites, can sneak in and slowly eat your property from the inside out. It may be years before you discover that they have caused serious damage. Think about them as you plan your landscaping and before you make any changes.

Check

Hopefully, your home comes with a pre-installed termite barriers and hopefully these will be a least-toxic alternative. If you don’t already know, please ask the vendor. These barriers can help prevent termite attacks that you can’t see. It is very important that you don’t do anything to make life easier for the termites. Make your future life easier instead.

Basic termite info - subterraneans

Right away, the most important threat is from subterranean termites. As the name suggests, these will quickly attack from tunnels in the soil. Often their nest may be 50 metres (150 feet) away. These termites look for food using comfortable paths which usually means they keep out of the light and look for damp soil or timber. These termites live in colonies ranging from around a hundred thousand to more than a million. They work in a cooperative, coordinated manner and will quickly ramp up the attack on a new food source and keep using it for years and years. It is only when something collapses or they venture out that a homeowner is likely to bump into them.

Basic termite info - drywoods

This is the other main pest type. They don’t like to tunnel in the ground and usually nest right in the wood they want to eat. This means that their attack typically means a couple of termites flying in, finding new food and starting a colony. The colony may stay quite small, a few hundred or thousand and even this takes several years. These aren’t usually a day-one concern in new construction built with new materials, but a building can eventually support hundreds of colonies, so they must not be ignored.

The new house termite Do’s

  • Do make things hard for the termites.
  • Do keep the ground around and under your house as dry as possible so that termites have a long way to walk between food and drink.
  • Do make sure that your termite barriers are not buried or damaged by gardens or landscaping.
  • Do plan your garden to avoid watering near walls.
  • Do keep shrubs, sheds and other obstacles (that might prevent the drying actions of sunlight and air flow) away from your walls.
  • Do have regular competent inspections and follow your termite barrier supplier’s maintenance instructions.
  • Do consider an ongoing “termite contract” as these can greatly reduce your liability and are often required by local laws.
  • Do make sure that gutters, down spouts and drains take water well away from the house.
  • Do make sure that the land around your house drains away from and not towards the walls.

The new house termite don’ts

  • Don’t store timber on the ground
  • Don’t ignore your gutters and downspouts (they can block quickly)
  • Don’t have leaky taps or air conditioner outlets that can give termites an easy drink
  • Don’t have ponds, ferneries or fountains near the house
  • Don’t ignore letters from your pest control company
  • Don’t forget that you need to inspect
  • . . . and if you live in a risk area, don’t forget to include drywood termites in your maintenance procedures.

Words about termite warranties

I’m a cynic who thinks that a warranty or guarantee is usually more of a marketing document than a reliable promise. Usually you'll still need to do things and spend money to keep up your end of the bargain, so even if the initial promise in big letters say 20 or 50 years, make sure that you read all the “out clauses” and are prepared to do what it takes to keep the guarantee valid. Make sure that the warranty covers all the possible pest types. In some places, especially with urbanisation and rapid climate change, pest termites are on the move and the new species that move in may not be listed in your original promise.

Termite contracts

In many parts of the USA, local State laws require an ongoing relationship between the termite service provider and the property owner. Check your state to find out if this applies and if it does, obtain and read their consumer advisories. Check that your contract fits the expectations. Make sure that the periodic inspections are completed on-time and in a thorough manner. Beware the ‘drive-by’ or ‘over coffee’ termite inspection.