Texas Living

Join the War on Termites

By Kristy Alpert and Eric Butterman 4.16.14

There are more than 10 quintillion bugs in the world, according to the Smithsonian Institute, but not all of them live in Texas — it just seems like they do.

It may surprise you to learn that termites actually have a useful place in nature. These subterranean nuisances are great for breaking down cellulose into nutritional matter — unfortunately that makes them one of the most destructive pests for homeowners, causing billions of dollars in damage each year.

According to a leading extermination company’s website, one in every 30 homes per year will get termites, at a cost of more than $8,000 to the homeowner. So, termites love our homes, but the feeling’s not mutual. So how can you prepare your home for the battle against them?

How to Spot an Infestation

  • Age is key. Alex Cantaboni, owner of Plano-based Safe Pro, says you can prepare by considering the age of your home and how conducive it is to the little critters. “It happens [more often] on a house between 8 and 15 years old,” he says.
  • Look for mud tubes against the house. “This is how they survive and protect themselves from the air,” Cantaboni explains. Nail holes that have punctured sheetrock are another indicator.
  • Check the pipes. Inside your home, termites will be going through your plumbing. “You won’t know until you see the damage,” he says. “Sometimes we open up a wall and it’s hardly anything, sometimes it’s destruction.”

Acting quickly is essential: Once it starts, a one-floor infestation can quickly hit the second level. It’s a good idea to schedule an inspection twice a year with a professional, who can also keep a lookout for other potential issues.

How to Prevent Damage

There are a lot of things you can do on your own to prevent termite damage before it becomes a problem.

  • Use termite-resistant materials in your home’s foundation. Concrete, steel, masonry, treated wood, or woods that are naturally resistant to termites, like tea tree, turpentine tree, and white cypress.
  • Remove all sources of moisture. That includes standing water, leaking pipes, dense shrubs, and unnecessary ground cover.
  • Eliminate wood-to-soil contact. Check fence posts, trellises, door facings, and untreated wooden porches.
  • Store wood indoors if possible, or far away from your home and any foundational structures if you need it in your yard.
  • Use the 6-inch rule. Wooden siding should be at least 6 inches above the soil and landscaping mulch should never be closer than 6 inches to the home.
  • Monitor your home’s openings. Check roof vents, windows, and doorways for proper weather-stripping and a good seal. Any holes or cracks in the foundation and siding should be repaired immediately. Nail polish is a great quick fix to window and door screens.
  • Create a dry environment. Good ventilation and air circulation discourage these humidity-loving pests from making themselves at home.
  • Pay close attention to light sources at night. Termites tend to colonize near these areas, specifically between March and November.

Remember that termites aren’t typically covered in a property insurance policy — so this is one expense that can be quite costly!

Call your local Texas Farm Bureau Insurance Agent today to make sure you have the coverage you need to protect your property, and learn more here about things that want to eat your home.

Coverage and discounts are subject to qualifications and policy terms and may vary by situation. © 2014 Texas Farm Bureau Insurance