May 8, 2022


Homeowners Insurance Cover Termite Damage

Termites are invasive creatures that can destroy wood and the structure of your home. They’re hard to detect and even harder to get rid of. If your home has a termite infestation, you need to contact a pest control company immediately to get rid of them. 

According to Orkin and the National Pest Management Association (NPMA):
  • Termites damage about 600,000 U.S. annually.
  • Termite damage costs homeowners an average of $3,000 to repair.
  • American residents spend roughly $5 billion every year to control termites and repair their damage.

What’s worse—in most cases, homeowners insurance policies don’t cover termite damage. However, there are some exceptions. 

In this post, I will discuss:

  • When homeowners insurance covers termite damage (and when it doesn’t)
  • How to determine if your home has termites
  • How to make an insurance claim for termites
  • How much will insurance cover for termite damage
  • What to do if your home insurance policy doesn’t cover termite damage
  • How to prevent termite damage

Let’s get started with this post.

When Does Homeowners Insurance Cover Termite Damage?

Homeowners insurance policies usually consider the damage caused by termites and other pests preventable. However, there are two situations where you are covered:

  • If termite damage causes your home to suddenly collapse
  • When something you’re covered for causes a termite infestation

Sudden House Collapse

The term “sudden house collapse” sounds as terrifying as it is. It involves your home falling down and breaking into pieces. If termites are to blame, your home insurance typically covers it as long as two conditions are met:

  • You had no idea your home had a termite infestation. If your insurance company learns you had prior knowledge of termite activity, it’ll be considered neglect, and they won’t cover it.
  • Your home literally falls down and breaks into pieces. Your homeowners insurance won't cover it if it’s expanding, shrinking, cracking, sagging, or anything else.

Covered Peril

Sometimes termite damage isn’t your fault. If termite infestations are caused by something else you’re covered for in your insurance policy, you may be covered for the damages they cause. 

For example, if a sudden storm damages your roof and termites move in while you’re displaced, your policy should cover it. That sort of roof damage is part of your dwelling coverage, a cornerstone of your homeowners insurance policy. Also, if you have to move into a hotel in the meantime, you won’t be there to take preventative measures when the termites move in. You’ll be covered under these circumstances.

When Doesn’t Homeowners Insurance Cover Termite Damage?

Termite damage is considered preventable because it can be controlled by routine maintenance. Annual inspections can catch the termites early and prevent them from causing extensive damage to your home. 

Even the best homeowners insurance policies rarely cover damage caused by termites. They consider managing them the sole responsibility of the homeowner. Also, as of this post, insurance companies don’t offer any specific termite damage policies.

Where Termites Are Located

Where Termites Are Located

There are three common types of termites: drywood termites, dampwood termites, and subterranean termites.

  • Drywood termites live in wood and are mostly found in Virginia, Florida, along the Gulf of Mexico, and along the Pacific coast.
  • Dampwood termites live in wood and are commonly found along the Pacific coast and by structures built near or over water.
  • Subterranean termites live underground and throughout the U.S., but are more commonly found in warmer climates. 

How To Determine If Your Home Has Termites

Here are a few signs your home may have termites.

You Have Mud Tubes

Mud tubes are made up of small pieces of soil and wood. They help protect subterranean termites from predators while traveling between their nests and a food source. You’ll usually find these near your home’s foundation, so keep items like mulch, firewood, and wood chips away from your house.

Your Doors Or Windows Are Hard To Open

Your doors become warped, and your windows stiff due to moisture and hot weather. However, this could also be because of termites. Termites produce moisture when they tunnel and eat through door and window frames, making them hard to open.

You Find Frass

Frass is a much more eloquent term for termite droppings. They’re wood-colored and often confused with sawdust - if you don’t know what you’re looking for. 

Subterranean termites use frass to build tunnels. Meanwhile, drywood termites push frass out of small holes near their nests’ entrance. When they do, you’ll find small black marks and a powder-like dark substance around the infested area.

You Find Swarmers And Discarded Wings

Swarmers are winged termites that have left their nests to find a mate. They tend to appear shortly after rain, both day and night, at various times of the year. When swarmers take flight, they’re also shedding their wings. If you find a pile of discarded wings near your home’s foundation, they could belong to termites.

Your Wood Is Blistered Or Sounds Hollow

Termites typically consume wood from the inside out, leaving behind a thin veneer of timber—or sometimes just the paint! When you tap or knock on an infested area, and it sounds hollow, it’s because the termites turned your timber into lunch. 

You might also find cracks in your home’s interior walls. These cracks could also indicate that you have termites eating and tunneling through your timber, causing it to blister.

Even if they’re starting from the ground up, your attic rafters, ceilings, and wooden beams are susceptible to termite damage as much as your floors. Keep an eye out for hollow sounds, blistered wood, or sag in your floors and baseboards.

You Can Hear Them

If you’ve heard clicking noises in your walls, it could be the sounds of their heads banging against the wood while eating it, or their shaking bodies if they sense danger. They’re noisy eaters, so if you lean in to listen to them, you’ll hear them going to town.

How To Make An Insurance Claim For Termites

Since insurance companies usually don't cover termite claims, you need to be as on top of the process as possible. Here’s how:

  • Document the evidence. Take photos and videos of the damage caused by termites, and proof that they’re in or near your home. Detail the damages they are causing before you call your insurance provider. 
  • Call your insurance company. Contact your provider to see if you have a valid homeowners insurance claim. If you don’t, you’ll either have to fight it (more on that later) or pay for repairs out of pocket. If you do, they’ll send you paperwork to file a claim. Do that ASAP, so that the claims process can begin. 
  • Wait for the claims adjuster. The insurance company will send a claims adjuster to investigate the damage termites caused. More importantly, they’re there to determine if the root cause of your infestation is insurable due to neglect. If insurable, they’ll estimate how much it will cost to repair your home. 

Finally, get your home inspected for termites if you haven’t moved in yet. You don’t want to get settled into your home, only to notice frass, discarded wings, or chewing sounds just days later. The previous owner should be responsible for taking care of termite infestations, not you.

How Much Will Insurance Cover For Termite Damage?

If your insurance coverage covers termites, you’re entitled to reimbursement up to your policy’s limits. Typically, this is part of your dwelling coverage limit, which is outlined in your homeowner’s policy. Dwelling coverage is specific to your home’s structure. It only makes sense that termite damage is covered here. 

If termites chew away at your personal belongings, you’ll be covered up to your personal property coverage limits or sub-limits.

What Should You Do If Your Home Insurance Policy Doesn’t Cover Termite Damage?

Unfortunately, most homeowners insurance policies won’t cover termite damage. When this is the case, there are two ways to reduce your costs when removing them:

  • Compare quotes from companies to find the cheapest, best professional exterminator for your home
  • Determine if you can remove the termites yourself

Getting rid of termites can cost anywhere from $500 to $5,000, depending on your home’s infestation size and location. Often, these quotes don’t cover the cost of repairs. 

Of the two options, I recommend doing your research and then hiring a professional. If you attempt to get rid of the termites yourself and fail to remove the entire colony, they’ll return and continue to do more damage. Then, you’ll have to hire a professional anyway.

How To Prevent Termites

How To Prevent Termites

The most cost-effective way to deal with termites is to catch an infestation early or prevent them from invading your home altogether. Here are a few ways to avoid a termite infestation before it even starts:

  • Get an annual inspection. Regular inspections done by professionals are the easiest, most efficient way to prevent termites from encroaching on your property.
  • Clean your gutters and pipes. Like mold, termites love dark, moist places. Debris-filled drain and pipes left neglected after a storm makes for a great home for termite nests.
  • Caulk and seal your cracks and crevices. Don’t leave openings in your foundation. Seal off before critters can move in. You should also seal off your doors and windows as needed.
  • Check for water leaks. If you have a burst pipe or other water leak, get it fixed immediately. Not only can leaks do costly water damage to your home, but certain termite species need moisture to survive.
  • Choose mulch wisely. Some types of mulch contain wood, which in turn can attract termites. To prevent this, get mulch made from other materials, like gravel or rubber.
  • Keep wood away. Don’t leave tree stumps in your yard or stack firewood next to your home. If you’re building a patio or deck, leave six or more inches between the structure and the ground. Protect yourself further from property damage by getting termite-resistant wood. Termites are attracted to the cellulose in wood, so you don’t want to tempt them. 

Final Thoughts

It’s unlikely your homeowners insurance will cover termite damage, so I recommend focusing more on preventative measures than crossing your fingers. The faster you deal with termites, the less damage they’ll be able to cause. However, if the damage is caused by something out of your control, document the damage and file a claim immediately.

Keep reading on Does home insurance cover rain damage? What about fire damage? Find out the answer to this commonly asked question.

About the Author

As a native Washingtonian, Carlos Reyes’ journey in the real estate industry began more than 15 years ago when he started an online real estate company. Since then, he’s helped more than 700 individuals and families as a real estate broker achieve their real estate goals across Virginia, Maryland and Washington, DC.

Carlos now helps real estate agents grow their business by teaching business fundamentals, execution, and leadership.

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