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The Ins and Outs of Home Pest Control
a.k.a. "I want you out of my house
In this article...
How can I get the bugs (among
other things) out of my pest control program?
Mice everywhere!! I've had an
exterminator but the problem recurs every year. Help!!
NH, do you have a favorite NIGHTMARE STORY
How can I get the bugs (among
other things) out of my pest control program?
I take my hat off to the pest control industry. Through the creative use of
chemicals, they have helped to eliminate disease, protect our property, and
improve the overall quality of our lives. Pest control at home, though, starts
with you. There are a number of simple things you can do to lessen the chance of
infestation, whether it's from termites, ants, or even rodents.
- Don't put out a welcome mat for them. Keep stacks of firewood away from
the house. Keep trees and bushes trimmed from the house so your siding
doesn't get damp and moldy. Don't leave piles of brush or leaves near the
- If your siding is close to ground level, be sure that leaves or brush do
not accumulate and cover the siding. Even if you have vinyl of aluminum
siding, the materials under the siding may not be moisture resistant.
- Have your roof checked by a pro every few years to look for signs of
deterioration in the roof itself and all flashing. One particular spot that
is prone to leakage is the flashing around the chimney. The reason this is
important, even if you do not see any obvious wall or ceiling stains inside
the house, is that damp wood attracts carpenter ants, and once they move in,
they will do considerable damage to your home.
- Bird houses are a joy to many people during the winter months. But the
fact is that the seed does not only attract birds. Rodents also love the
seed, and will more likely take up residence in your house if you supply
them such a fine food source close to great motel accommodations... your
Mice everywhere!! I've had an exterminator but the problem recurs every year. Help!
Much of commercial pest control today is based on the use of various
chemicals. Whether they are injected into the ground to protect your house from
termites, sprayed to repel or kill insects, or left as poison bait for rodents,
the primary thrust is, to use a quaint but appropriate saying, to "close the
barn door after the cows ran away".
Though the small size of insects makes it difficult to eliminate all access
points to your home, the same cannot be said for rodents. Though mice can enter
a home through ridiculously small openings, the fact is that they are unlikely
to use a crack under your front door for access. What they will do if find an
access point that is more concealed and less obvious.
The solution is called exclusion. Simply stated, exclusion means to
eliminate all entry points for the little devils. Nothing really fancy here.
Rodents are creative in their own way, but also lazy. They are not going to chew
away at the outside of your house to gain access. If they can't get in easily,
they will take the easy route and go to your neighbors house. Good riddance!
The hardest part of exclusion is getting to all the possible entry points,
which can be in hard-to-reach corners behind years of accumulated junk. And then
there are the years of accumulated doo-doo you will become familiar with
as you conduct your search! Wear a dust mask, grit your teeth, and do it! Just
think of the nice hot shower you'll truly deserve when you are done!!
A few tips:
- Check all around the perimeter of the foundation... inside and outside.
As you go around, look for evidence of a nest. They love to set up
housekeeping in the fiberglass insulation commonly put in basement ceilings.
If you locate a nest (straw or string, seeds, nut shells, droppings, etc.),
the entry point is probably not far away. If you find an opening of any
size, seal it up. You can use caulk to seal small cracks and holes. An old
and effective remedy for larger openings is to stuff steel wool into the
hole. Of course, if you run into humongous openings, get out the
saw and screw a piece of scrap wood over the opening.
- Obvious places to check are the openings around exterior faucets,
electrical service entrances and other electrical fixtures. USE EXTREME
CAUTION around any electrical fixtures. Turning off the power is
necessary before any removal of fixtures.
- Another easy access point are the metal 'Bilco' doors leading to a
basement. The doors do not seal particularly well. If you find that this is
your homes weak spot, I would suggest installing a secondary door in the
basement. A modern prehung steel door will do a good job of keeping them
Do you have a favorite NIGHTMARE STORY
Here are two stories about carpenter ants from the
Natural Handyman's "I Hate Ants" Fan Club Archives!! Actually, I
shouldn't complain, 'cause these little critters do supply some of us with a
continual flow of new work!!
One of my customers complained about weird noises coming from her bedroom
wall for about a year. Whenever I was there, though, the noise seemed to
stop. One day I finally heard it. Sounded like someone eating Rice Krispies
in the next room, except the next room was outside!
Realizing that the chimney was outside that wall, I went up onto the roof
to check for openings or leaks. Sure enough, there were gaps in the flashing
that were allowing rainwater to enter the space between the chimney and the
wall. There was no staining on any of the walls or downstairs ceiling,
though, so the leak was "silent but deadly."
I sealed the cracks with roof cement (though I recommended she have a
roofing contractor completely redo the flashing, since roof cement is not a
permanent fix for any roofing problem). Then I suggested she contact a
professional exterminator, and she did.
I returned to the house a few weeks later. Surgery occurred at 9:15 A.M. I
cut open the drywall wall, while the Terminator waited, poised for action!!
When I pulled away the first panel, what we found was both enlightening and
disgusting. The contractor who built her home used an aluminum-faced foam
insulation board between the drywall and the framing. This product is a
great way to beef up the insulating value of a wall without the expense of
using 2x6 studs.
What I didn't know, but was about to find out, is that foam insulation
board is heaven for carpenter ants. The noise in the wall was the sound of
the ants chewing the foam insulation! They had taken up residence
between the two layers of aluminum, and had tunneled out about 60 square
feet of the insulation!!
This house was only about 5 years old, and the builder was at fault
allowing inadequate flashing at a critical location. However, had the
homeowner gotten an annual inspection of her roof, this problem may have
And our second story, shorter but no less sweet...
A customer called to complain that his toilet was leaking around the base
and the floor seemed soft around it. I went out to look at the job, and gave
my usual caveat before accepting the work... it could be anything!!
Because there was evidence of water on top of the vinyl floor covering,
diagnosis wasn't too difficult. And since there was no leakage from the tank
or the water supply, it had to be the wax ring.
But to know extent of the damage could not be done until the toilet was up
and out. One problem with having a vinyl floor covering around a toilet is
that any moisture that leaks under the vinyl just sits there forever, never
drying. And the plywood rots, the floor softens, the toilet loosens, and the
leak becomes more severe, until evidence appears downstairs or the crapper
just falls through the floor!!
Well, the fateful day arrived, and, after making all the textbook
disconnections, pulled off the toilet.
And guess what... right, a gazillion carpenter ants see light for the first
time! They had tunneled into the damp plywood floor, and I had to replace
about 16 square feet of floor. Love those ants!!
How did this happen?
The smell of moist wood had attracted the ants. They found the insulation
and the plywood, and moved in... with a growing family! Needless to say, I
was unnerved by the sight of millions of ants streaming into the room!
And this can happen to any of us if we ignore the
warning signs of moisture in our homes!!
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