Powder post beetles can cause extensive damage to wooden structures in homes, but does homeowners insurance provide coverage for this type of pest damage? Unfortunately, the answer is usually no.
Standard homeowners insurance policies generally exclude damage caused by insects, vermin, rodents, and other pests. This means any damage to your home’s walls, floors, furniture or other wooden elements caused by a powder post beetle infestation would not be covered.
However, there are some exceptions and steps you can take to get coverage for powder post beetle damage. In this comprehensive guide, we’ll explain:
- What powder post beetles are and how they damage homes
- Why standard policies don’t cover their damage
- Exceptions – when damage may be covered
- Can you buy additional powder post beetle coverage?
- How to prevent infestations
- How to identify signs of an infestation
- Treatment options for powder post beetle damage
- Is the home seller responsible for not disclosing an infestation?
- Can you hold the exterminator responsible?
- What to do if your claim is denied
What Are Powder Post Beetles?
Powder post beetles are a group of small, wood-boring insects that can cause significant structural damage to homes. There are several different species, but the most common in the United States is the anobiid powder post beetle.
These beetles are usually reddish-brown and around 1/8 to 1/4 inches long. The larvae are the damaging stage – they feed on wood fibers and can extensively damage wooden elements of a home.
Powder post beetles are especially attracted to softwoods like pine, fir and cedar. They also damage hardwoods like oak, walnut and maple.
Over the 1 to 5 years the larvae develop, they bore intricate tunnel systems through wood. This severely compromises the strength and integrity of structural beams, flooring, furniture and other infested wood elements.
Eventually the larvae emerge from the wood as adult beetles and the cycle continues. The beetles fly at night and are attracted to lights.
Why Isn’t Powder Post Beetle Damage Covered by Homeowners Insurance?
Most standard homeowners insurance policies explicitly exclude coverage for damage caused by insect, vermin and rodent infestations. This exclusion applies to powder post beetles as well.
According to the National Association of Insurance Commissioners (NAIC), damage or losses from insects, rodents and vermin are excluded because they are considered preventable through routine home maintenance and care.
In other words, insurance companies view powder post beetle infestations as a home maintenance issue that is the responsibility of the homeowner to prevent.
Some key facts about the powder post beetle exclusion:
- Applies to all forms of policies – HO-2, HO-3, HO-5 and HO-8
- Damage to the home itself and personal property inside is excluded
- Removal and treatment costs are not covered
- Exclusion applies whether the home is owner-occupied or rented
The insect damage exclusion is standard across insurance providers. So if powder post beetles damage your home, you can expect your claim to be denied unfortunately.
When Powder Post Beetle Damage May Be Covered
While powder post beetle damage is broadly excluded, there are some scenarios where you may be able to get coverage:
1. Resulting Loss from a Covered Peril
If an infestation results in another type of loss that is covered, you may be able to make a claim for that resulting damage.
For example, let’s say powder post beetles compromise the structural integrity of your floor joists. Eventually this leads to a collapse of your first floor into the basement. While the insect damage itself is not covered, the resulting collapse loss may be, depending on your policy specifics.
The same concept would apply if an infestation caused electrical wiring damage that led to a fire. The fire damage itself may be covered, even though the initial beetle damage is excluded.
2. Faulty Workmanship or Materials
If powder post beetles gain access to your home as a result of faulty workmanship or defective materials used in the construction, you may have a case for coverage.
For example, let’s say the contractor used low-quality, beetle-susceptible wood that quickly becomes infested. Or they left gaps in the foundation that allowed the beetles easy access.
In these cases, you may be able to successfully file a claim if you can demonstrate the infestation resulted from workmanship or material defects. Your policy’s limitations and exclusions would determine the potential coverage.
3. Home Seller Did Not Disclose
If you purchased a home that had a pre-existing powder post beetle infestation the seller did not disclose to you, you may have legal recourse against the seller for compensation.
State laws require sellers to disclose any known issues or defects with the home prior to a sale. Intentionally hiding a beetle infestation could make the seller liable for any resulting damage the new homeowner experiences.
Can You Buy Powder Post Beetle Insurance Coverage?
Since the standard homeowners policy excludes their damage, some people want to know if you can purchase a supplemental policy or endorsement specifically for powder post beetle coverage.
The answer is – sometimes, but it is very rare. Only a few insurers offer endorsements or coverage options for insect-related damage.
If powder post beetle damage is a major concern for you, here are some tips for finding coverage:
Search for a “wood-destroying insect endorsement” – some insurers offer this for termites, carpenter ants and beetles.
Ask your agent specifically about powder post beetle or insect damage coverage.
Contact specialty or excess and surplus insurers who offer non-standard policies.
Work with a broker who has access to many markets and can shop around for you.
While available, coverage for beetles and insect damage carries a higher premium. Carefully weigh the costs versus your actual risk of an infestation. Ultimately prevention is more cost effective than paying for coverage you hope to never use.
How to Prevent Powder Post Beetle Infestations
Since insurance protection for powder post beetles is very limited, your best bet is to prevent infestations in the first place through proactive home maintenance. Here are some tips:
Remove Food Sources
Keep firewood and lumber piles away from your home’s exterior and off the ground
Clean up any fallen trees, stumps or logs on your property
Store lumber and wood materials like crates indoors
Address Moisture Issues
Fix plumbing leaks and other sources of excess moisture
Improve ventilation in crawl spaces and attics
Make sure wood materials are properly kiln or air dried
Seal Entry Points
Caulk and seal openings along sills, eaves and foundations
Ensure windows and doors seal tightly when closed
Screen attic, crawl space and foundation vents
Look for shot holes, frass and other signs of infestation
Listen for hollow tunnels when tapping on wood
Hire a pest control professional for biannual inspections
With diligent prevention, your risk of powder post beetles can be substantially reduced. An ongoing maintenance plan is your best protection.
How to Identify a Powder Post Beetle Infestation
If prevention fails and your home does become infested, prompt identification and treatment is critical to limiting the damage. Here’s what to look for:
Holes in Wood Surfaces
Small, round holes around 1/32 to 1/8 inches in diameter are a tell-tale sign of an active infestation. These “shot holes” are made by adult beetles emerging from the wood.
You’ll often see light-colored powdery sawdust, known as frass, near the holes. This is beetle excrement from the larvae tunneling inside the wood.
Tap on wooden structural elements, trim, floors, furniture etc. If you hear a hollow, tunnel-like sound, it indicates larvae boring inside the wood.
While the larvae do the damage, catching the adult beetles flying around is confirmation of activity. Install fly traps or screens to capture specimens for identification.
Beetles may also congregate around windows and light fixtures attracted to the light. You’ll see them on the floor below.
A subtle musty, stale odor from larval waste material is another clue. The frass has a distinguishable scent when concentrated inside an active infestation.
Noticing any combination of these signs indicates a powder post beetle problem. Have a professional inspect and confirm once suspected.
Treatment Options for Powder Post Beetle Damage
With an active infestation confirmed, treatment is crucial to eliminate the beetles and prevent further damage. Here are common treatment methods:
For localized infestations, targeted applications of insecticides may be used. This involves spraying borates into shot holes and entry points
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