Termite Damage and Insulation

Sometimes, subterranean termites are found in insulation and this leads to the question as to whether termites eat insulation. The topic of termites and insulation has been well studied in university research programs in areas where termite activity is very heavy.

With the increased emphasis on “green” which translates into energy savings attempts, the use of insulation in new construction, remodeling, and even commercial building has skyrocketed. Also, certain green certifications such as the US Green Building Council’s LEED program, require the use of insulation and energy savings. Further building codes require extensive attempts at energy savings.

Termites are not normally found in fiberglass insulation but they are commonly found in foam board insulation, especially if the foam board goes below grade on the exterior of a structure. Foam board below grade allows a direct conduit through the insulation into a structure. Researchers have concluded that termites do not eat the foam board insulation but they will tunnel through it. Insulation also provides potential protection from predators and also retains moisture, two requirements of termites. Foam board will also insulate so that there is a constant temperature in the foam board, a condition most favored by termites.

Wall & insulation damage from termites:
image of wall and insulation damage by termites

In order to prevent termites from entering a structure by tunneling through insulation, the International Residential Code, the nation’s model building code, prohibits use of foam board below grade in areas the code lists as “very heavy termite infestation” unless there is some method used to protect the foam board. This can be a physical barrier or a treated foam board. If infested, there is no way to treat the foam board and generally the foam board must be removed which is a costly procedure.

Researchers are looking for other methods to protect foam board as it is susceptible to termite attack even in areas which are not designated as “very heavy” termite areas.

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