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Repairing a House After Termite Damage

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What damage can termites cause your house?

Termites can be a minor or major nuisance. They can live in dead trees and branches outside without causing harm to any person or any structure. But within a single season, they can move from the outdoors to the walls and foundation of a house, slowly and invisibly hollowing out the structure. These cold-blooded insects live in colonies and attack houses from the ground and the air. Subterranean termites live underground and look for warmth, moisture, and wood through cracks in concrete slabs. Dampwood and drywood termites produce swarmers that can fly to various entry points of a house. All three of these termites can cause significant damage in as little as three years, unbeknownst to the homeowner. When termites are discovered, they must be eradicated before repairs are made.


The cost of termite damage

Prevention has its costs, but they are well worth it compared to the expense and frustration of fumigation and structural repairs.

If a section of drywall has been damaged by termites, replacing the area is possible. Drywall is is usually the first layer that is destroyed that needs to be repaired.

A large infestation requires fumigation. A tent is built around the house and sulfuryl fluoride is gassed to infiltrate every nook and cranny. The gas gets to termites behind walls and within wood structures. This is the surefire way to eliminate pests inside the house. Many factors contribute to the cost of fumigation, mainly the size of the house and the amount of time it will be fumigated. Be prepared to be out of the house for several days. The gas is toxic, and the house should not be lived in until the absence of sulfuryl fluoride is confirmed for the protection of humans, pets, and plants.

Minor fixes? Not fun, and could set you back time and money without getting any results if you don’t know what you’re doing. Fumigation? It’s pricey and can have logistical problems, but the experts do the majority of the work so you know it will be done right. Structural repairs? The cost is daunting. There are many online calculators that can give a rough estimate of how much a particular repair will cost. Take the extreme example of a roof replacement using the following assumptions:

  • This is a single story house in Los Angeles, CA.
  • This is a complete replacement, not repairs to existing structure.
  • The roof is clay tile, a common roof material in LA.
  • This is not an emergency.
  • Leaks have not been spotted.
  • Timing is flexible (more than 2 weeks allowed for replacement).
  • Insurance is not covering the termite damage.
  • The resident has the authority to make needed repairs.
  • Financing is available.

Most people do not have thousands of dollars sitting in the bank for an unexpected termite infestation. The work can take weeks, and the house may be unoccupable during the time frame. This is why inspecting for termites is the best investment you can possibly make. We proved this with our Risk-To-Benefit-Ratio Infographic.


How do you know if termites have infiltrated your house?

Prevention techniques are a homeowner’s best friend, and routine inspection is a necessary backstop. Since termites act in a predictable way, there are obvious spots that can be checked throughout the year. Basements and crawl spaces are entry points for subterranean termites. Along interior and exterior walls, termites can make working tubes or exploratory tubes as they move between soil and a food source, the wood within your house. They can find cracks in the concrete slab of a foundation, slowing building a mud tube upwards in search of wood. Swarmers can fly from an adjacent tree to a roof, looking for broken roof shingles or cracks in paint. From there, they begin tunneling through plywood substrate and wood studs. No matter the state, the majority of houses in the US are wood construction. Even brick houses are usually just for show; a thin layer of bricks is applied on the exterior of the wood structure of the house.


Insurance related to termite damage

This statistic from the National Pest Management Association (NPMA) is frequently cited: “Termites cause $5 billion in property damage each year.” It’s a shocking number, and unfortunately, insurance does not cover termite damage. It is considered part of home maintenance rather than a sudden, unexpected event. One of the worst surprises of a house purchase is discovering termites a year after sale. Let the buyer beware! Many homes on the market have already been inspected by a “home inspector”. They are primarily concerned with the safety of residents; they look for concerning issues like water damage, structural failures, pests, electrical systems, plumbing, and HVAC problems. A seller has good reason to have an inspection ahead of sale – some fixes are required to make a house palatable, while other fixes can be pointed out and deducted from the asking price. The buyer can fix minor issues that would be a net loss for the seller.

Less common than a home inspection is a Wood Destroying Organism (WDO) inspection. While home inspectors do look for pests, they look for more obvious and drastic signs of termites. A WDO inspection includes termites and every other pest that could be causing costly damage. Not only is the interior inspected, but the exterior as well. Mulch, firewood, dead trees, wooden fences, etc are all breeding grounds for termites outside. Termites are innocent and essential outdoors, but knowing they are there provides time to take preventative measures.


Items of repair for the layperson vs professional repairs


Replacing wall studs, floor joists, or roof rafters is complicated, expensive, and dangerous for the average homeowner. Contractors will likely offer two options:

  1. Replacement – providing temporary structural support while infested wood is removed and replaced.
  2. Support – leaving damaged wood in place and installing a secondary permanent support.

In either case, the termite infestation needs to be removed first. Using the example of a roof replacement again, plan for several days of disruption. While cost may be a concern for some, it does not make sense to skimp out on the quality of work. It’s possible to build a new roof over an existing roof, but this is a mistake in the case of termites. If the underlying structure is failing, placing a new rain barrier on top does not address the failing structure below.



The longer termites are ignored, the higher the cost of removal and remediation. Professional WDO inspections will determine if fumigation is necessary. When termites are removed, contact a contractor to determine if replacement or support is the most sensible path forward for house repairs. The challenges sound overwhelming, but a termite infestation is a common occurrence in the US and termite specialists will help make life easier. If you’re a homeowner in the ModestoTurlock, or surrounding areas, reach out to us for a free quote.

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