Damp: Why Termites Love It And You Should Not

Termites and damp go together. In fact, a moisture meter is one of the stock-in-trade tools for termite inspectors. But there are more reasons to avoid damp than just termites. 

Moisture content in walls is a warning sign for a termite inspector. They use moisture meters to detect moisture behind walls because it can indicate termite activity. Termites need water to survive, just like you and me. They also need it to build their distinctive mud tubes and to soften timbers ready for eating.

Did you know that termite damage in Australian homes totals $4 billion per year.

Dampness is bad in a number of ways, not just for making termites comfortable in your home. A good inspector will pick up on dampness and the problems associated with it, whether they’re termite related or not. In this article, we’ll have a look at some of the things Richard has seen recently and brought to his client’s attention.

Termites and water don't mix (1)
Termites love damp, which is why you don't. (Click me to make me bigger!)

Poor Drainage, A Termite Trap

Below we see a simple mistake. The downpipe is not properly connected to the drain below. This is allowing the water to overflow into the garden around it. This can lead to extended period of damp in that area. Notice that is is also right up against a wooden deck. 

Termites travel underground which means they can easily move from the ground to the timber deck. The deck is perhaps made from treated timbers. That doesn’t stop the termites from building a way to and from the home under the deck area. 

You might also notice that some of the timbers around the downpipe are rotting. Whether they have a termite problem or not, they definitely have a damp problem. This should be addresses. 

Downpipes that are not connected or broken can cause drainage issues which relates to termites 1

Dampness Causes Mould

Damp conditions can lead to mould, which can be unsightly and unhealthy. 

When mould occurs inside your home, it can have a terrible effect on your health. Some people are more susceptible to it than others. 

How does mould affect health

Mould associated with damp buildings can trigger nasal congestion, sneezing, cough, wheeze, respiratory infections and worsen asthma and allergic conditions.

People who are more susceptible to these symptoms and other serious health effects include those with:
- weakened immune systems
- allergies
- severe asthma
- chronic, obstructive, or allergic lung diseases.

You should seek medical advice if you are concerned about the effects of mould.

Better Health Vic

For more information about the health effects of mould please see Better Health Vic.

These image show the kind of damage water and dampness can cause.  This kind of hidden mould is possible in any spot where dampness is allowed to persist, such as in ceilings and in subfloors. 

It’s not uncommon for Richard to find dampness and associated rot and mould under sinks.

Leaks can readily occur where flexible hoses connect to taps. The o-rings will dry up and rot, making them less efficient and leading to leaks. 

It’s also worth remembering that flexible hoses are prone to bursting. Our friends at Hilton Plumbing And Gas have provided the image below. It shows a flexible pipe that is ready to blow. 

Flexible hoses can split.

In case you’re wondering what happens when your flexible pipe bursts, this video below is Jason (from Hilton Plumbing And Gas) walking in a client’s bedroom.

Avoid Damp: Don't Give Termites A Home

In the video below (in which you can hear Richard talking in the background and a dog barking) you see an air-conditioning pipe that is dripping into the garden.

It’s right up against the wall, keeping this area damp all summer long. Termites can’t exist without moisture. Keeping the soil damp like this makes for ideal conditions for them. (And if you think a brick wall will keep the place safe then you should read our article Can Termites Infest A Brick House.

Play Video

Another place where you can get more insidious leakages is in your ceiling. A small leak in your roof might not present until you get visible mould or the leak becomes big enough to see water. 

Richard sees enough damage inside the ceiling space to know what kind of problems can follow dampness in the ceiling. For instance, the image below shows a broken roof truss. This damage was not caused by termites. It was purely water damage and the resultant rot. 

Wood decay leaking roof timber truss
Water Timber Damage

Damp timbers are a perfect meal for termites but you don't need termites to have a problem. This timber was damaged by a leak in the roof causing water to drip into the timber each time it rained. 

And sometimes your roof truss damage gets a little help from termites…

damage to trusses in roof
Termite Timber Damage

When termites get into timbers the damage can be far more extensive. Whether damp was a factor in this incident or not, damp in timbers will greatly increase the chances of termites taking advantage of the timber for a ready meal.

Dampess Leads To Rot, Mould and Termites

As you can see from the examples we’ve given, dampness leads to rot, mould, and termites. None of those are any good in your home. Make sure you address dampness wherever it occurs and check the hidden spaces (sinks, ceilings, etc) for any signs of dampness. 

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