In most cases termites get into houses without being noticed – they are very secretive. To understand why they might be attacking your house and how they get in, you need to know a bit about termite biology and foraging behaviour.
Where do termites live?
The main termite species that do most of the damage in Australia are subterranean termites, which mean they live underground. From their underground nests they create tunnels in the soil to various food sources. When they appear above the surface, they normally create mud shelter tubes to protect themselves from predators and to stop them drying out.
Termites like dark, moist, undisturbed areas.
How do termites find food?
Fallen trees or timber lying on the ground create a ‘shadow’ – an area protected from the sun and therefore cooler and more moist than the surrounding area. This difference in temperature is a good signal to termites that there might be a food source worth investigating. A combination of moisture in the ground and chemicals from the wood that have leached into the ground, attract termites.
Your home creates a large shadow on the ground! This tells the termites that they might have found a big food source (they have!).
Why are termites attacking your house?
The bottom line is that termites are everywhere. Experienced termite professionals could probably find termites in the gardens of most houses on the Gold Coast. So if you do not have an active termite management plan for your property, it’s really only a question of when, not if, termites will attack your house.
Whereas most homeowners might consider themselves unlucky to be attacked by termites, there are certainly some key factors that make one home more attractive and susceptible to termite attack than others.
The first key factor is soil moisture. Termites like moist soil, so if it is moist around and under your house, it immediately makes it attractive to termites. Poor drainage, poor ventilation, leaking gutters and leaking pipes / taps are the main culprits. Conversely, if it is dry around the perimeter of your home, this acts as a significant deterrent to any termites approaching your home.
Any internal leaks – showers and bathrooms are the real hotspots – will likely take moisture, with chemicals from the structural timber in the walls, into the soil under the home. This gives termites a real point of interest. Even roof leaks, which may also find their way through internal walls into the soil under the home, may encourage a termite attack. If the leak has been in place for a while, the wood will have started to decay, making it even more attractive to termites.
Many properties, including new properties, have construction flaws that can allow termites to get in un-noticed. Homes on a concrete slab need to have every gap in the slab protected during construction to prevent termite entry. This includes all pipe entry points and joins in the concrete slab. Sometimes the appropriate protection is overlooked or forgotten. In addition, cracks in a poorly laid concrete slab will never be protected and so become an easy entry point.
For older homes on piers, quality metal ‘ant’ capping should be in place, to stop termites coming up through the middle of the pier un-noticed. With these in place termites trying to get into the home have to build their mud tubes around the metal capping. If they do this they will be spotted (if you have regular termite inspections).
Obstructions (storage and landscaping)
Well-designed houses are built to prevent termites getting in without being noticed. In the case of a home on piers, the metal capping forces them out into the open. However, if stored goods block the visibility of the piers, the termite activity may be missed.
For homes on concrete slabs, if no termite management system is in place, the edge of the slab should be visible. As termites need to climb over the edge of the slab to enter the home (through a crack in the brickwork), keep the slab edge visible allows their activity to be spotted. However, if there is soil (garden beds), paths or decking built over the edge of the slab, the termites have another opportunity to get into your home without being noticed.
Can termites build a nest in my home?
Whereas most termite attacks come from nests outside the home (termites can travel up to 100m from their nest!) or rare occasions termites can build their nest underneath the home. This can happen when termites from the mating flight find their way into your home and the conditions are right in the soil under your home.
A professional termite inspection will not only pick up any termite activity but will give you a report which details any conditions which may make your home more susceptible to a termite attack. By fixing these conditions, you will significantly reduce the chances of a termite attack, which when coupled with a termite management system / termite treatment and regular inspections will provide the strongest protection from termites.
So suffering a termite attack isn’t really bad luck, as it is within your power to stop it. Don’t tempt fate - protect your home!