No they can’t, but this type of catchy heading and untruth abounds in the Pest Control industry.


No they don’t, but this is exactly the type of extravagant and untruthful Headline that you will find in pest control media statements, many building industry statements and even in some Government Department websites.

However it is important to be aware that termites do cause major damage to such property as untreated timber power poles and this damage has lead to very destructive fires.

It is also important to understand that although the risks of major economic damage to your house are low, you don’t want to be one of the few that do suffer major damage.

Now, how do I know that termites do not cause major economic damage to houses at least in the Perth metro area and in NSW?

Well I have conducted many many thousands of building and timber pest inspections in Perth since 1993. The incidence of major economic damage from termites that I have seen (or heard of) is minuscule.

In 2002 Reid (Curtin University) undertook a study of termite damage in and around Perth. The study was based on pre-purchase property inspections undertaken by my company over a number of years. The study was instigated by a timber industry company. The study confirmed the findings from a  number of similar studies around Australia and had similar results to those of Tyrells Property Inspections in 1995, that the incidence of major economic damage from termites is low.

The media is partially to blame, with hysterical, headline grabbing statements not backed up by the facts.

Ask any honest Real Estate agent who has been in business for 20 years or more how many houses have they seen with major damage from termites (as found by termite or timber pest or building inspections at sale of a property or during the course of property management over many years). The answers will be the same – almost none.

So can you afford to do nothing about managing the low risks of major economic damage to your home?

No you cant.

The answer to reducing the risks of major economic damage to your home are…

*  undertake regular termite inspections of your property. Preferably get them done by an experienced professional (not necessarily in the Pest Control Industry). For some properties at higher risk of termite damage due to the amount of untreated timber in and around the house, inspections may be necessary at 6 monthly intervals and in some instances even more regular than that.

  • Understand that the key to managing the risks of termite damage, once they are active on or near your property is to enable visual discovery.
  •  Make sure that if you have a timber framed house on concrete floor slab that the slab edge remains visible so that termite tubes can be seen.
  • Do not obscure the walls  of the house with piles of bricks etc.
  • Make sure that there is good access to the sub-floor of the house.
  • Make sure that there is good roof space access.

Note: You may surprised to learn that in many houses the Owners have nailed or glued or screwed shut the manholes to a roof space or the subfloor.

  • Use treated timber or highly durable materials such as steel wherever possible for house construction or even minor structures around your property.
  • Ensure that if you have suspended timber floors that the stumps have properly formed and installed metal termite caps/shields over them.

The jury is still out on the effectiveness of termite baiting systems, but they appear to offer some help in managing the risks of infestation in the house.

Now, about the vexed question of using Pest Control Companies…

It is not possible nor is it desireable to state that all pest control firms tell porky pies (lies) about the effectiveness or safeness of using chemicals to “manage” the risks of termite infestation, but you need to have a good hard look at what they claim.

In my professional life I have seen just as much termite damage to houses that have had a lifetime of chemical “barrier” treatments to those that have had none.

The actual incidence of major economic damage has been distorted by vested interests who include such incidental damage as that done to letterboxes, tap stands, fence posts and minor garden structures.

Remember this also – every time that chemicals have been injected or sprayed or poured into or onto the soil, there is a price to be paid in pollution of the water table.

I can’t tell you how many times that Pest Control “experts” have enthusiastically  informed me that “this new chemical is 100% safe Ray!”

It is better to be safe than sorry, but be properly informed when you make decisions about getting termite or timber pest inspections done, or when you are asked to sign up to a chemical “barrier” treatment.

I have no hesitation in stating to you that you will not be any better off if you follow the chemical “barrier” path than if you choose a healthier alternative.

Want a second opinion?

Ask Jerry Tyrell at Tyrells Property Inspections in NSW. Jerry has been in this business even longer than I have, and is a highly regarded expert in the field.

Raymond Pears

Pears Property Inspections

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