Hidden Guests: Are you sharing your home with unfriendly housemates

Owning your own home is the great Australian dream. Buying your first home is a dream come true. Once you get a house you can turn it into your dream home, do anything to that you want – paint, wallpaper, knock out walls…. really put your own stamp on it.

So now you’re thinking 24/7 about renovating.  Putting in a new bathroom, colour schemes, furniture, rugs and cushions! You’re having a ball! You are totally caught up in decorating your home so it’s easy to forget, or decide not to think about, the boring stuff; maintenance, insurance, structural issues.

Time for a reality check! Making your home look and feel great is important, but so are the ‘not so fun’ aspects of owning your own home. The best looking home isn’t going to be so great if there are issues with the structures holding up the walls and the roof.

The ‘not-so attractive’ stuff is really important. Something many home owners don’t think about is termites. Hidden housemates! Worse than any housemate that eats all of your food out of the fridge and leaves the kitchen in a mess! These tiny insects can destroy your dream home. Worse, your home building and contents insurance policies don’t cover termite damage.

Termites Sunshine Coast

Nobody wants to spend money on pest management, you don’t get anything nice to take home and enjoy for the money you spend. Often you can’t even see what you’ve spent your money on, so it’s not surprising that even the most home conscious barely give a thought to termites or pest control.

Often there is a huge eye-opener when friends or family discover extensive termite damage and you see the financial hardship of thousands of dollars in repair bills and the reality of the emotional pain that massive damage to your home causes. You suddenly realise this could happen to you. Once that realisation dawns, what do you do? Where do you start?

Start with a thorough termite inspection performed by an experienced professional pest inspector. Your pest inspector should examine all of the timbers inside & outside your home, including the structural ones holding up the roof. They should use a technique call sounding and a moisture meter, and perhaps, some other technological device to examine areas of particular concern (if areas of concern are located). A thorough inspection should take around an hour and a half for one technician to complete- half the time if two technicians are working together.

Once you receive the report from your termite inspection avoid the trap so many home owners fall into- complacency. A ‘clean’ report- no termites found- doesn’t mean that you can forget all about termites for good. Australian building codes specify that every building should have at least one termite inspection every twelve months. This is so that if termites do get into your home the amount of time they will have to damage it is limited to one year. Those homes you see on TV that have been so extensively damaged by termites that they have to be demolished have generally been infested by termites for several years before they have been discovered.

Between annual termite inspections it’s essential to minimise conditions around your home that are favourable to termites. Termites need just three things- food, water and warmth. Our hot, humid climate here on the Sunshine Coast ensures that termites always have plenty of warmth and moisture so, as long as you have no plumbing leaks that need repairing, focus on minimising food sources.

Termites live on cellulose which is found in all plants- so keep gardens at least 30cm away from your home. Never stack firewood or build compost mounds against your home. Remove fallen palm fronds and choose inorganic mulches- like stones or gravel rather than plant mulches.

Long term termite protection can take many forms. Sometimes termite management is installed during a home’s construction. Other homes will have termite barriers or reticulated systems that need replenishing every five or so years. There are termite baiting systems and systems that use stainless steel and even glass. When you have your annual termite inspection your inspector will tell you what sort of termite management is in place (if in fact there is any at all) and what maintenance your system needs.

Should your worst fears be realised and the termite inspection finds termites already in your home, there are many treatment options. Finding the best solution will involve taking into account many factors including the termite species, size and extent of the infestation, the construction of your home and slope of your land… that’s before you even start considering how you feel about the various chemicals on offer versus a chemical free solution.

If termites have invaded your home anticipate several months of treatment and building repair work costing several tens of thousands of dollars. Which, of course, is why it pays to be termite smart and vigilant in the beginning… so that you can really focus on the things that you enjoy doing around your home, like decorating.

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