In most cases, termite damage is not covered by a standard homeowner's insurance policy. That's because damage caused by wood-destroying insects isn't due to a sudden or unexpected peril. The loss associated with termite damage occurs over several years; therefore, your insurer isn't going to see it as an accidental event.
So what does the insurance company expect homeowners to do? It expects you will prevent termite damage through proper home maintenance. That means getting rid of the pests before they eat their way through your home, or taking steps to protect against a termite infestation in the first place.
What Homeowner's Insurance Will and Won't Pay
Termite control is a serious concern for responsible homeowners. In fact, the National Pest Management Association estimates that termites cause about $5 billion in property damage to homes every year. That's a lot of damage not normally covered by homeowner's insurance.
Even though your homeowner's policy won't cover structural damage, such as a ceiling, wall, or floor that gives way because of termites, it may cover furniture and other personal belongings that are damaged or destroyed in the collapse.
However, if termites eat through a support beam so badly that the roof can't bear weight and collapses, your homeowner's insurance may pay to repair for damages to your home's ceilings and walls. Your policy won't pay for the damaged support beam, which can be expensive to replace. For more information, contact John C. Beckett & Associates Inc. or a similar company.
Preventive Steps You Can Take
Plant shrubs and other vegetation at least 12 to 15 inches away from your home's foundation wall. Prune shrubs often and cut away plants, such as vines and ivy, growing against your home's foundation and outside wood surfaces.
Stack firewood at least 20 feet away from your home. If you pile firewood, lumber, or newspapers near your home's foundation, you not only give termites a food source, but you also give them a way in.
Clean gutters and downspouts to keep water directed away from your home's foundation. Water will pool around the foundation if the gutters get clogged.
Make certain that the soil surrounding the foundation wall is sloped enough to drain surface water away from your home.
Apply mulch in a layer only two to three inches deep. Although mulch kills off weeds and adds nutrients to the soil, keep it back away from your home's foundation. Mulch retains moisture, and moisture attracts termites.
Fill any cracks and other tiny gaps in your home's foundation where termites can enter.
Regularly inspect wood structures on the inside and outside of your home for signs of damage. Tap the wood with a hammer and then listen for a hollow sound that may indicate a cavity inside. Use a flat-head screwdriver to probe the wood. The wood will chip or break easily if there's termite damage.