Termites and the three not so wise monkeys
Most homeowners are like the three wise (or not-so-wise) monkeys in the ancient Tendai Buddhist proverb “see no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil.” Except that in our case, the saying should be changed to “see no termites, hear no termites, please don’t talk about termites!”
Too often, we are called to homes that have significant termite damage with active termites happily chomping their way from room to room. Most of the time, the homeowner was completely unaware their home was at risk of a termite attack. Like the three monkeys, there seem to be the three standard replies when homeowners are asked about their home and termites:
1: “The (very old) pre-purchase inspection said I didn’t have a termite problem..."
2: "I did notice termites in my fence but I read online it was best to leave them there – better in your fence than your home...”
3: “…but my home has Termimesh!"
Let’s put the Termimesh question to bed right now. Termimesh is a great product and, if laid correctly during pre-construction, does a good job at what it was designed for. Specifically, it was designed as an ant-capping to force termites out into the open so you can see them attacking your home. Termimesh will not stop termites from finding other ways into your home. In fact, one major drawback of Termimesh is that many homeowners have unrealistic expectations and believe Termimesh makes their home effectively termite-proof. But there is a very good reason why Termimesh comes with a warranty that requires an annual inspection.
Whilst annual termite inspections don’t stop termites, they will identify if termites are attacking your home and early detection will be the key to damage minimisation if termites are present in your home. If you’ve had the home inspected in the past or maybe it was the pre-purchase inspection when you first brought the home and have decided not to continue with a annual inspections as the report came back clear, this does not guarantee that your home is safe from termites forever. Subterranean termites are creatures that exist within a dynamic and ever-changing environment, and they thrive or die by the changing climatic and environmental conditions.
So because you had a few “clear” inspections a few years ago means nothing now because anything can change and in the few years since your last inspection the climate and environment may have changed in a way that subterranean termites are thriving and colonies are seeking a food source to sustain their growing nest.
There is a reason why termite infestations are so common in homes. This is because your home is most likely the largest collection of timber on your property, and termites will always be attracted to large sources of food.
Question: so why do the Australian Standards AS3660.2.2000 recommend a full termite inspection by a licensed and certified termite inspector at least every 12 months for homes south of the Tropic of Capricorn, and every 6 months for homes north of that tropic? Why, in the fine print of most mortgage documentation, do banks insist that you have annual termite inspections? And why does every chemical or physical termite barrier installed around your home require an annual termite inspection?
Answer: These experts know the very high risk termites pose to your home. Some (like the bank) have a vested interest in ensuring your home remains termite-free and undamaged. You wouldn’t go to a mechanic and ignore them when they tell you to replace or fix your vehicle’s brakes, so why would you ignore the sensible advice given to you by the Australian Standards, your insurer, and your bank? If you do ignore the advice given, you and your home are likely to be included in the following statistics:
Termites damage more than 180,000 Australian homes/buildings each year and cost over $700 million in treatments and repairs.
1 in 4 Australian homes are attacked by termites every year.