Termites can cause major structural damage to a property in just six months, and can completely destroy a home in two years.
More facts about termites
Termites feed on wood and the easier they can access wood, the more likely they are to invade. Termite entry can occur at a slab edge, through cracks, joins or imperfections in concrete or in areas surrounding service pipes and plumbing.
Look out for termite mud tubes (built from dirt and other materials) or termite damage around piers or stumps, subfloor areas, foundations, skirting boards, architraves, cornices, moulding and roof timbers.
Other things worth looking out for include soft floorboards and bulging, staining or ripping of painted timbers. When wood has been damaged by termites it has a hollowed-out sound when tapped. You may notice dried mud falling from joints in walls when tapped, which is an indicator of termite damage. Some species of termites make a ‘clicking’ noise which is usually heard at night time.
Subterranean Termite (Schedorhinotermes)The average length of this termite species is 3 – 7.5 mm. The major soldiers have round, bulging heads. The minor soldiers are usually about two-thirds of the length of the major soldiers. The identification of this species is a specialist task.
These termites mostly nest in stumps and in the root crown of living, dead and debilitated trees. They also make their nests in timber buried in the ground, under houses, under filled-in patios and in the ground immediately under fireplaces.
The various species of Schedorhinotermes occur throughout Australia, but their particular areas of occurrence is:
- Schedorhinotermes intermedius occurs from Southern Queensland to Nowra in New South Wales and is mainly coastal
- Schedorhinotermes seclusus occurs in coastal Eastern Australia from Cairns in Queensland to Taree on the Central coast of New South Wales
- Schedorhinotermes breinli occurs in the Northern Territory southwards to Newcastle Waters and in Coastal Queensland north of Gladstone
- Shedorhinotermes actuosus occurs in Northern Australia from Geraldton in Western Australia, through Alice Springs to Cairns in Queensland
- Schedorhinotermes derosus occurs in North Western Australia
Subterranean Termite (Coptotermes)The average length of this termite species is 5 – 6.6 mm. The soldiers have pear-shaped heads. This is the most destructive termite species in Australia.
These termites mostly nest in trees, stumps, poles or filled-in verandas, where timber has been buried. This species is a non-mound building, however it builds mounds in Queensland and other tropical areas of Australia.
Soil contact is desirable for this species, but not essential, provided that there is an assured moisture supply. Colonies have been found on the top of multi-story buildings, where there is a constant water supply, but no ground contact. Large colonies have also been found inside wooden barges that do not have contact with the ground, with moisture being supplied through the timber from the fresh or salt water.
This species can also damage electrical wiring. A case has been reported in Sydney in New South Wales, where a fire was caused due to an electrical wire that shorted because of termite damage to the electrical cables.
The various species of Coptotermes occur throughout Australia, with the exception of:
- A few high rainfall areas in Australia
- Some of the Eastern coast line from Jervis Bay in New South Wales to Cape Otway in Victoria.
Mastotermes darwiniensis is confined to the top part of Australia, mostly in the tropical areas.
MicrocerotermesThe average length of this termite species is 3.15 – 7.75 mm. The soldiers have long rectangular heads. In most cases the identification of the species is a specialist task.
These termites’ nests are small mounds on the ground, but they may also nest underground. They are also known to make nests in trees or on top of posts.
The various species of Microcerotermes occur throughout Australia, but their particular areas of occurrence is:
- Microcerotermes turneri occurs along the East coast of Australia from Townsville in Northern Queensland to Port Macquarie on the Mid coast of New South Wales
- Microcerotermes distinctus occurs mainly in the inland areas of New South Wales and Victoria
- Microcerotermes serratus occurs in Queensland and some Western parts of New South Wales, Western Australia, Northern Territory and into South Australia
What should I do to prepare for a termite inspection?
Where possible, please ensure that skirting boards, door and window frames are accessible.
Examples of termite damage
Supporting posts of a house. These posts look fine from the outside, but are completely destroyed and not supporting the structure at all.
A large termite nest located. Termites have used building materials and pipe works to gain access causing a major destruction to this building.
How to prevent termite infestations
- Have regular inspections of the building carried out to Australian standards by licensed and experienced consultants and inspectors
- Ensure you have a termite management plan put in place, with installation of a chemical perimeter barrier for added protection
- Materials such as firewood should not be stored against the building for long periods
- Remove untreated timbers that are in close proximity to the building
- Construct retaining walls and fences with termite resistant materials
- Built-up gardens and shrubs should not be planted too close to the perimeter of the building, obstructing the weep holes or creating insufficient slab edge exposure
- Fix any moisture problems such as leaking pipes, shower recesses, leaking hot water service outlets, leaking sprinklers too close to the building, inadequate drainage or drains not connected to the stormwater
- Ensure there is adequate subfloor ventilation