Does Home Insurance Cover Termite Damage?

Homeowners insurance doesn’t cover termite damage. But you can take steps to protect your home from these tiny pests.

Amy Beardsley
Written byAmy Beardsley
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Amy BeardsleyInsurance Writer
  • 3+ years writing about auto, home, and life insurance

  • 7+ years in personal finance and technology

Amy specializes in insurance and technology writing and has a talent for transforming complex topics into easy-to-understand stories.

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Chris Schafer
Edited byChris Schafer
Chris Schafer
Chris SchaferSenior Editor
  • 15+ years in content creation

  • 7+ years in business and financial services content

Chris is a seasoned writer/editor with past experience across myriad industries, including insurance, SAS, finance, Medicare, logistics, marketing/advertising, and many more.

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Updated March 2, 2023

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Have you ever found yourself drifting off to sleep in bed, only to hear the sound of rustling paper? The noise may be so faint that it’s difficult to discern. You drift off and forget about the sound until you notice a sagging, squeaky floorboard a few weeks later. A creeping thought emerges: “Could it be termites?”

Unfortunately, homeowners insurance policies don’t usually cover termites, according to the National Association of Insurance Commissioners. What options do you have for dealing with this potentially costly and destructive threat? Here’s how to spot the signs of termite damage, and what you should know about prevention and treatment.

Does your home insurance cover termite damage?

You may have heard the expression “It’s the little things that count.” But when it comes to termites, those little things can add up to big problems for homeowners. Sadly, standard homeowners insurance policies don’t pay for repairs from termite infestation.

Homeowners insurance policies cover sudden or unplanned events like fire, accidents, heavy wind, or other disasters. Insurers view termites as avoidable and state that regular maintenance against infestation is the homeowner’s responsibility, according to the Insurance Information Institute.

You can reduce the risk of your home becoming a termite haven with a few preventative steps.

What is a termite?

A termite is a tiny insect that feeds on wood, causing significant property damage to homes and other structures. Termites live in colonies and are quite small — only three or four millimeters long, or about an eighth of an inch. Homeowners typically see two types of termites: the worker and the swarmer. Workers have a cream or pale yellow color, and swarmers are dark brown or black.

When does insurance cover termite damage?

While homeowners insurance doesn’t typically cover termite damage, a few rare exceptions exist. For example, if termites chew through your wiring and cause a house fire, your insurance company can help because fire is a covered peril. Although it’s rare, your policy may also cover a sudden collapse of your house.

Before filing a claim, take pictures of live and dead termites and any termite damage you notice. Your next step is to notify your insurance company as quickly as possible. Your insurer may require you to make necessary repairs to prevent further damage. If you do, keep the receipts for reimbursement and take photos before you start any work.

See More: What Does Home Insurance Cover and What Does It Exclude?

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Does renters insurance cover termite damage?

If you’re renting your living space and suspect a termite infestation, you’ll want to find out what your renters insurance policy covers sooner rather than later. Like home insurance, renters insurance typically excludes personal property damage caused by infestations from termites and other pests.

Keep in Mind

The responsibility for maintaining and repairing the property, including taking steps to prevent infestation, usually falls on the landlord or property owner. If you suspect an infestation, let your landlord know as quickly as possible so they can start the extermination process.

Can you purchase termite insurance?

Termite insurance isn’t an insurance product you can buy from an insurance company. But you may be able to purchase an annual inspection and treatment plan that comes with a warranty through a pest control firm.

Companies usually require you to pay an annual renewal fee to keep the warranty active. You’ll pay an average of $591, but whole-house treatment can cost $2,500 or more.[1] If you have a reinfestation, you can ask the company to return and re-treat the affected area free of charge.

Learn More: Preparing for a Home Insurance Inspection

How to spot termite presence in your home

Insurance companies see termite damage as avoidable and a sign of homeowner negligence, so spotting their presence early is all the more critical. Here are some tips to find evidence of termites, even if you’ve never seen one.

Look for:

  • Mud tubes, which are termite tunnels that run along your home’s foundation and look like the roots of a tree branching out

  • Swarmers that are flying in or near your home

  • Wings discarded by termites

  • Termite droppings that resemble sawdust

  • Wood that sounds hollow when tapped on or that a knife or screwdriver can easily pierce

  • A thin layer of gray-brown dust covering the damaged wood

And remember, termites are masters at avoiding detection. If you suspect bugs in your home, contact a pest control company — many will do a free termite inspection.

How much damage can termites actually do?

A new termite colony might only have 50 bugs.[2] It can take several years to reach a size that can cause damage, and it’s impossible to predict how much harm a colony can cause to a house. Regular inspections and treatment can lower repair costs by detecting problems early.

Termite damage costs homeowners an average of $3,000 per incident, but it depends on the type of destruction.[3] Drywall repair can run from $300 to $1,000, while fixing a crawl space can incur expenses of up to $15,000.

How much you pay depends on the severity of your infestation and how long the termites have been dining on your house. In severe cases, their feeding can lead to structural damage, making the home unsafe to live in. Paying for temporary living arrangements can quickly add up to significant expenses on top of repair costs.

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What to do if you have termites in your home

Termites may be tiny, but they have a big appetite for destruction. If left unchecked, these wood-munching pests can cause significant damage to your home. It’s essential to take action as soon as possible if you suspect termites have moved in.

Your first step is to contact a pest control company. But choose carefully. Most states require firms providing termite services to have a license, according to the Environmental Protection Agency. You can ask to see the company’s license and contact the state pesticide regulatory agency if you have any concerns.

Next, you should do the following:

  • Schedule a home inspection to gauge the type of termites and extent of the infestation.

  • Discuss treatment options with the pest control company and choose a plan.

  • Safeguard your home to prevent future infestations.

  • Set up regular inspections to continuously monitor termite activity.

Important Information

Treating a termite infestation can be a complex and time-consuming process. It’s best to leave it to the professionals and skip the DIY methods. Termite extermination companies can safely address the issue and offer a guarantee for no-cost treatment if you discover termites in the future.

See Also: Homeowners Insurance Inspection Checklist: DIY Inspection Checklist

How to prevent the return of termites

Dealing with a termite infestation can be a headache, and the last thing you want is for those tiny bugs to make a comeback. It’s a good idea to take a few simple steps to prevent termites from returning and keep your home safe from further damage.

You should take the following steps:

  • Keep the ground near your house dry by checking for plumbing leaks, improper grading, and leaky air conditioners.

  • Eliminate wood-to-ground contact and replace soil with sand.

  • Remove tree stumps and avoid stacking firewood against your house.

  • Leave six inches of space between the ground and wooden decks, patios, and porches.

  • Use termite-resistant wood where wood must touch the ground and pre-treat when building or renovating.

  • Avoid water buildup by clearing gutters and downspouts.

  • Cover outside openings with termite-resistant steel mesh.

  • Schedule regular termite inspections for your home.

Regular inspections, routine property maintenance, and prompt treatment of any issues can go a long way toward keeping your home termite-free.

Homeowners insurance and termite damage FAQs

Discovering termite damage can lead to a lot of questions about what your home insurance coverage includes. Here are answers to some common questions from homeowners.

  • Does homeowners insurance cover rotten wood?

    No. Most home insurance providers don’t cover rotten wood. It’s seen as a result of normal wear and tear, which homeowners are responsible for protecting against. As a homeowner, you should take proactive steps to regularly maintain your property to prevent this type of damage.

  • Do termites live in my state?

    Termites live in every state but Alaska, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.[4] They’re highly adaptable and can thrive in a wide range of environments, from desert climates to humid coastal regions. However, termites are most common in the southeast United States because they prefer warm, moist environments.

  • What do termites look like?

    Termites can range in color from light cream to dark brown or black. They’re about three to four millimeters long, which is about an eighth of an inch. At first glance, you might think you’re looking at an ant. Termites have front and hind wings that are the same size and twice as long as their bodies, while ants may have wings that are longer in front and shorter in back.

  • Why do termites come into your home?

    Termites seek out food, water, and a place to establish a colony, and they can find all three in the comfort of your home. The insects rely on wood as a primary food source, and they require moisture to survive. Even the tiniest crack or crevice in your home’s foundation can provide a means of entry for termites, which is why taking preventive measures is crucial.

  • What time of year are termites most active?

    Termites are a year-round threat, but they tend to be most active during springtime when they often swarm in search of a new colony to establish. If you’re concerned about a potential termite infestation, keep an eye out for swarms from April to July, when they’re most likely to occur.

Sources

  1. University of Kentucky. "Protecting Your Home Against Termites."
  2. Mississippi State University. "Termite Biology."
  3. Home Advisor. "How Much Does a Termite Treatment Cost?."
  4. U.S. Department of Agriculture. "Subterranean Termites - Their Prevention and Control in Buildings."
Amy Beardsley
Amy BeardsleyInsurance Writer

Amy is a personal finance and technology writer. With a background in the legal field and a bachelor's degree from Ferris State University, she has a talent for transforming complex topics into content that’s easy to understand. Connect with Amy on LinkedIn.

Chris Schafer
Edited byChris SchaferSenior Editor
Chris Schafer
Chris SchaferSenior Editor
  • 15+ years in content creation

  • 7+ years in business and financial services content

Chris is a seasoned writer/editor with past experience across myriad industries, including insurance, SAS, finance, Medicare, logistics, marketing/advertising, and many more.

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