Property 101: Protecting your house from termites

here are over 300 species of termite in Australia, but the vast majority of termite damage in New South Wales is caused by subterranean termites, so called because they make their nests in the ground.

Termites have been known to feed on many materials including plastics, rubber, fibreglass and of course wood.

They attack house frames, wall linings including plaster board, cupboards, skirtings, windows and door frames, carpets, plastic coating on electrical wiring and even books, artwork, clothing and personal papers!

Protection options

The big question is: how can termites be stopped from destroying your home?

You should be aware of the options for termite control so that you can discuss the matter with your builder, and if necessary seek further advice. As we shall see, there are different methods of termite protection depending on whether your home is built on – a concrete slab on the ground or a raised or suspended floor.

Whatever method or combination of methods is best for your home, it is most important that your builder provides “whole of house” protection. You want to protect your whole home, not just the structure.

Don’t make it easy for termites to enter your home from the outside. Here are some tips on how to avoid providing conditions that suit termite activity.

• Don’t attract termites by placing materials such as wood chips against your home.

• Avoid gardens alongside your home, especially if you have a chemical barrier at the perimeter. Normal gardening or use of topsoil may ruin the barrier.

• If you must have gardens alongside your home don’t raise the beds above the existing ground level, especially with slab-on-ground construction. The ground level or finished paving level must be at least 75 mm below the damp-proof course line or the bottom of the weepholes. Never cover up the weepholes.

• Don’t plant flowers or shrubs that will hide weepholes, vents in walls with timber floors or the exposed edge of concrete floor slabs.

• Areas under suspended floors should be well ventilated and dry. Don’t close off sources of ventilation.Attend quickly to any leaking pipes or sources of dampness.

• Be aware that the later construction of unprotected additions such as carports, pergolas, porches, access ramps and steps to your home may allow termites to bridge an existing termite barrier. Even installing something like a new water heater on the outside of your home could damage the termite barrier or make it difficult to detect any future termite activity.Termite protection needs to be considered for all building work.

• Take care when selecting trees to plant. If you plant the wrong tree too close to your home, its roots may damage the termite barrier under or beside the concrete slab or cause the slab itself to crack.