Termites are often referred to as white ants due to their creamy colour and ant shape. Australia is home to over 350 species of termites, 20 of which are the lumber eating kind. They love damp and dark environments and if left unattended, they can do extensive damage to a home.
One of the real challenges presented by termites is that their presence frequently goes undetected for extended periods of time. They can steal the structural strength of the building slowly and quietly without you even knowing that it is happening, until the damage is done. As a matter of fact, termites can stay concealed in wood for years without you knowing it. Unfortunately, it often takes a timber collapse before you realise what is going on. By then it is too late to avoid the financial and emotional impacts of having to deal with it.
A National Problem
Archicentre, the Royal Australian Institute of Architects’ building advisory service, estimates that 650,000 Australian homes have been damaged by termites resulting in a cost of $3.9 billion for treatment and repair over a five year cycle. The five year cycle refers to the time period that it usually takes from the point of infestation to treatment and eradication. They reported that thousands of Australian homeowners are unknowingly providing a smorgasbord of opportunities to termites and allowing them to eat their homes. The estimated annual cost on a national level is $780 million.
A Growing Problem
A study conducted by Griffith University revealed that approximately 10% of the homes in Australia have had, or will have, infestations of termites. In some areas of the country, that figure rises as high as 65%. Other, more recent industry surveys are suggesting that almost a third of all unprotected homes are subject to attack.
The risk of termite attack is present in most homes in Australia. Severe termite damage has been on the increase since the removal of the longer lasting soil barrier chemicals in 1991 and the widespread use of softwood building materials. Other driving factors are damp conditions, poor ventilation, landscaping timbers, automatic watering systems and landscaping that encourages termite activity.
The highest risk areas are along the coast, which of course is where our urban centres are. There is a growing concern over the damage and long term ramifications of termite damage to wooden buildings in urban Australia. In addition to the costs there are also public health and environmental consequences related to frequent application of termiticides in urban areas.
Repair costs for termite damage vary from case to case and can run from a few thousand dollars to tens of thousands of dollars. Some estimates for repair costs show an average cost of repair of around $4,500. The primary determining factor is whether or not the little pests have done any structural damage. If so, you will likely need the services of a licensed engineer as well as a professional contractor.
Of course this can all be averted simply by having periodic pest inspections done by a professional. Considering the modest cost of these inspections, the prevalence of termites in Australia and the money that early intervention can save you, it goes without saying that this is an easy and wise decision to make.