Revised: March 2014
Every year termites cause more than $5 billion in property damage, according to the National Pest Management Association. And while they can be a very real threat to your own home, you should know that termites are generally not covered by a homeowners insurance policy. That's because standard homeowners policies provide coverage for perils that are sudden and accidental; they're not designed to cover damage from termites and other pest infestations, which are preventable through proper home maintenance.
Here are some suggestions from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) on measures you can take to prevent a termite infestation from happening in the first place:
- Prevent water from accumulating around your home. To help with drainage, make sure the soil is graded (sloping down away from the foundation) and that gutters and downspouts are free of blockages and that they divert water away from the house properly.
- Fill cracks and other gaps in your foundation, and around utility openings in walls, with caulk, grout or other appropriate sealants.
- Avoid planting shrubs too close to your home; don't allow foundation plantings to grow against any wood surfaces on the structure.
- Keep firewood or any scrap wood piles at least 20 feet from your home.
- Treat wood portions of the building that come near soil with a proper sealant. The National Pest Management Association recommends maintaining a one-inch gap between the soil and any exposed wood on your home.
Periodic home inspections are also key, and may help uncover an infestation in its early stages. The EPA offers suggestions on how to diagnose a potential termite problem:
- Look for termite tunnels, called mud tubes, which are made of mud, excreted wood and other debris (the termites will appear as creamy white insects, the EPA says). Look for them around the foundation or other areas around your home where there is exposed wood.
- Look for signs of decay or damage on wood surfaces, both inside and out. Use a hammer to tap the wood (listening for a "hollow" sound) or use a flathead screwdriver to gently probe the wood and expose any cavities, which, according to the EPA, might indicate an infestation.
Some people mistakenly identify termites as flying ants, but the EPA says there are two distinct differences between the two. While ant antennae are bent at a 90-degree angle, termite antenna are straight; and while the front wings of ants are larger than the hind wings, termites have wings that are equal in size. If you suspect termites, the EPA suggests contacting a state-licensed pest professional.
While termite coverage isn't generally part of a homeowners policy, talk to an Allstate agent to learn other ways of protecting the people and things that matter to you most.