Does homeowners insurance cover termites?

Homeowners insurance generally does not cover termite damage or any other type of pest infestation, except for a rare set of circumstances.

Elissa Kara McGinley

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Elissa Suh

Elissa Suh

Senior Editor & Disability Insurance Expert

Elissa Suh is a disability insurance expert and a former senior editor at Policygenius, where she also covered wills, trusts, and advance planning. Her work has appeared in MarketWatch, CNBC, PBS, Inverse, The Philadelphia Inquirer, and more.

&Kara McGinley

Kara McGinley

Editor & Licensed Home Insurance Expert

Kara McGinley is an editor and licensed home insurance expert at Policygenius, where she writes about homeowners and renters insurance. As a journalist and as an insurance expert, her work and insights have been featured in Kiplinger, Lifehacker, MSN, WRAL.com, and elsewhere.

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Termites — the wood-eating insects that cause up to $5 billion in property damage each year — are generally not covered by homeowners insurance. [1] This is because insurers consider it your responsibility as the homeowner to take care of the general upkeep of your home. However, under certain circumstances, you may be able to file a claim for termite damage.

Key takeaways

  • Insurance companies generally won’t cover damage caused by termites or other types of pests because they’re considered home maintenance issues that can be avoided.

  • If a termite infestation causes your house to collapse or a storm or burst pipe directly leads to a termite infestation, your insurer may help cover the damage.

  • Blistered wood and bubbles in your wallpaper can both be signs of a termite infestation.

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Does homeowners insurance cover termite damage?

Termite damage is generally not covered by homeowners insurance. Insurance companies consider pest infestations to be a preventable maintenance issue and on you as the homeowner to take care of. 

Unlike property damage caused by bad weather — like a windstorm ripping the roof off your home — a termite infestation generally occurs over a long period of time, and insurers consider it something that could have been avoided with proper maintenance

Since maintenance issues aren't covered by homeowners insurance, if a termite infestation eats through your front porch or kitchen floors, any claim you file with your insurance company will likely be denied

When homeowners insurance might cover termite damage

It’s a long shot that your homeowners insurance will ever cover damage caused by termites, but it is theoretically possible under two rare circumstances: 

  1. A windstorm, fire, burst pipe, or another covered peril directly causes an infestation

  2. The damage is hidden away and causes your house to collapse 

If the termite damage is caused by a covered peril

If a termite infestation was the direct result of a covered peril, insurance may cover the cost of repairs. 

For example, say a pipe suddenly bursts and causes water damage — which is a covered peril — and it then results in a termite infestation. Your insurance company could cite the internal water damage as the “proximate cause” of the termites, meaning the underlying cause of the infestation. This would mean that the termites would otherwise not be in your home were it not for the water from the burst pipe. In that case, your insurer may cover repair costs.

If the termite damage is hidden away and causes a collapse

It depends on your insurance company and policy, but if a termite infestation is hidden away from plain view, like under the floorboards, and you were unaware of it and it causes a portion of your home to collapse, your policy may help cover the cost of repairs.

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What to do if termite damage isn’t covered by homeowners insurance

If you notice termite damage in your home, you might be able to treat it yourself if you catch it early enough. Here are a few other steps you can take if you have extensive termite damage and homeowners insurance denies your claim.

  1. Consider a termite inspection and extermination. The costs of termite treatment can run anywhere from $200 to $2,500 depending on the severity of the infestation, the size of your home, and the type of treatment that's needed.  [2]

  2. Get multiple quotes from different exterminators. You should do this to make sure you’re getting the best deal. 

  3. Consider hiring a professional contractor to make repairs. If there’s extensive damage to the structure of your home, you’ll need to hire a contractor to make repairs to your home.

6 signs of termite damage in your home

While termites are more common in warm and humid climates, houses and buildings in all environments are susceptible. Termites are attracted to moisture and feed on all forms of cellulose, including wood, cardboard, paper, and even cotton. Known as silent destroyers, they can eat away at your home undetected. 

Walls, support beams, cabinets, floors, and ceilings are the most common places in your home for termite infestations, according to the National Pest Association. They also have a list of examples of what termite damage looks like, including:

  • Blistered wood that looks splintered or carved

  • Soft or hollowed wood that sounds hollow when tapped

  • Bubbled and uneven paint or wallpaper

  • Mud tubes or small tunnels the width of a straw that start at the exposed wood’s foundation and snake up the walls in a vine-like pattern

  • Evidence of termite colonies like discarded wings, which may signal a new swarm

  • Pellet droppings that resemble coffee grounds or sawdust

Before you purchase a home, look out for signs of termite infestations.

If you suspect there’s termite damage in a home you’re planning on purchasing, try asking the seller to cover the cost of extermination. However if the damage is active and extensive, you may want to either reconsider your purchase or ask for a price reduction.

How to prevent termite damage in your home

Vigilance and routine inspection can go a long way in preventing termite damage. Your home is most vulnerable to termites in springtime, as the weather warms up, the snow melts, and termite mating season begins. 

Take these steps to help prevent termite infestations in your home:

  1. Repair rotted roof shingles.

  2. Repair leaking pipes, faucets, and air conditioners.

  3. Reduce moisture by diverting water away from the house with gutters or downspouts.

  4. Keep mulch and soil away from any wooden parts of your house.

  5. Store firewood above the ground and away from your house.

  6. Routinely inspect the foundation, windows, and doorframes of your home.

  7. Schedule annual pest control checkups.

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Frequently asked questions

How does termite damage affect home value?

When you sell your home, you are legally required to disclose information about termite infestations to buyers. When you put your home on the market, you typically get an appraisal of the home so you know how much its market value is.

If you have a large termite infestation or extensive damage to your home, the appraiser may value your home at a lower price than if it didn’t have the termite damage. Depending on the buyer, they may ask you to treat the infestation before they purchase it. They could also potentially use the infestation as a way to haggle down the buying price.

Is termite damage obvious?

Termite damage is not always obvious, especially if it’s not in plain sight — like if there’s a large infestation under your floorboards. Blistered wood, hollow sounding wood, and bubbled wallpaper are all signs of a termite infestation.

How do you get insurance to cover termite damage?

It’s rare that homeowners insurance will pay for termite damage or treat the infestation itself. The only times home insurance may pay for termite damage is if the underlying cause was a covered peril, like if a pipe suddenly bursts and causes a termite infestation. Keep in mind this can be hard to prove. If the termite infestation is out of plain sight — like in your ceiling or floorboards — and that causes parts of your home to collapse, you may be covered.