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Termite Infestation

How Do I Know If My House Is Infested?

Large carton nests in trees, attics, wall voids, etc., are obvious signs of an infestation. Sometimes the damage caused by Formosan subterranean termites is not so obvious. Soft spots, damp or moist patches, bulges, and blistered paint or wallpaper in walls, doors, floors, and other areas may indicate termite activity underneath. Probing these areas with a screwdriver may reveal damaged wood, soil, carton, and live termites. Formosan subterranean termite infestations are recognized by the presence of lots of soldiers.

Subterranean termites crawling above ground build mud shelter tubes because they do not like being exposed in the open to light and air. The tubes keep the termites from drying out and shield them from predators, such as ants, and natural enemies. Shelter tubes are often found on walls coming up from the ground or floor. They may also be found sticking out or dropping down to the ground in crawl spaces, under porches or stairways, etc. Tubes and carton may be in places where they are difficult to see such as stucco or plaster cracks, tree holes, tree crotches, etc. You can break the tubes open to check for termites.

Remember that Formosan subterranean termites swarm during the evening from April through July. Keep in mind that swarmers outside around your home could be emerging and flying in from somewhere else. Check carefully around the premises to see if they are coming from your property.

What Should I Do If I Have Formosan Subterranean Termites?

The best thing to do is to have the infestation professionally treated. There are two types of control available: soil termiticides and baits. The treatment used depends largely on the type and size of the infestation, and which one the homeowner is most comfortable with.

Soil Termiticides

Pre-treatment. Treating soil with a liquid termiticide creates a chemical barrier beneath the structure. Depending on the chemical, the termites will either avoid tunneling through treated soil or die soon after they come in contact with it. Soil termiticides have been the standard preventive treatment for subterranean termites up until the mid-1990s. Termiticides are applied before the foundation slab of a structure is poured. Under ideal conditions, protection should last from 5 to 7 years; but under less than ideal conditions or because of improper application it can be much less. The slightest break in the protective barrier is all that is needed for termites to reach a structure. They can tunnel through areas in the soil where no termiticide is present. Expansion joints, cracks, and utility and plumbing lines are common termite entry points through a concrete slab. Termiticide breakdown, soil erosion, improper application, and careless construction practices (such as leaving wooden grade stakes in the slab or disturbing treated soil) are several ways that the chemical barrier can be broken.

Post-construction treatment. When infestations occur after a structure has been built, termiticides are applied by one of three methods: rodding, drilling, or trenching. In the first, termiticide is injected directly into the soil at specific intervals around the perimeter of the house and beneath the slab with a rodder, an injection tool with a long, hollow, metal rod with an open tip. Drilling involves making holes through concrete slabs, walkways, patios, walls, and floors in order to treat the soil beneath the slab or inside wall voids. Trenching involves digging a shallow trench (about 6 X 6 inches) around the base of the home, applying termiticide to the trench and the backfill and then refilling the trench.

Baits

Baiting systems provide an alternative to liquid termiticides. Developed in the early 1990s, they are also effective against the Formosan subterranean termite. Baiting involves placing bait stations in the soil around the outside of the house. The stations contain small pieces of wood (in some products the stations are installed with both wood and bait) and are checked regularly for termites. When termites are found in a station, the wood is removed and replaced with the bait. The bait is either a paper- or cardboard-like material or textured cellulose that contains a substance that slowly kills the termites. The idea behind baiting is that the termites feed on the bait and get a dose of the active ingredient. Although this does not kill the termites immediately, it gives them enough time to feed the other termites in the colony. Eventually, all the members of the colony are affected. The termites begin dying and the population of the colony is severely reduced or eliminated.

Several different baiting systems are now being used by pest management professionals or are commercially available. Some have insect growth regulators (known as IGRs) as their active ingredient (AI). These are chemical compounds that act like termite hormones and keep the termites from developing normally. Other AIs prevent the termites from getting energy from their food.

Aboveground bait stations are also available and are used when termites are found in walls, doors, posts, flooring, etc. The stations are placed directly on areas where termites are present so that they can begin feeding immediately on the bait.

Advantages of baiting are:

  • It is non-invasive (the baits are odorless and no liquid is involved so the soil remains pesticide-free).
  • Technicians usually do not need to enter the house (unless in-ground stations are needed indoors).
  • Drilling through floors and walls is usually not required.
  • There is no exposure to the active ingredient because it is self-contained within the bait station.
  • Only a small amount of an active ingredient (sometimes less than 1/20 oz.) is used for an entire treatment.
  • The active ingredients are relatively harmless to humans and so little is used it makes it even safer.

The main disadvantage is that control is not immediate. It may take from several months to over a year to rid the home of termites.

How Can I Keep My Home From Being Infested?

There are numerous ways you can reduce the chance of your home being infested by Formosan and other subterranean termites:

  • Remove any wood or cellulose-containing material (such as cardboard) that is in direct contact with bare ground.
  • Carefully inspect wooden items, especially railroad ties, for termites before buying them.
  • Do not leave wooden items such as planters, tubs, trellises, railroad ties, firewood, and stakes on top of or in bare ground.
  • Anchor wooden posts for fences, decks, porches, sheds, etc. in cement so that no wood is contacting bare ground.
  • Structural wood at or near ground level should be pressure-treated with a wood preservative. Preservatives mainly protect against wood-decaying fungi but are also effective against termites.
  • Maintain a zone of at least one foot around the outside of your home that is clear of plants and other landscaping materials. This reduces soil moisture and makes it easier to inspect for shelter tubes coming up from the ground.
  • Install rain gutters to prevent water from dripping down around the perimeter of your home.
  • Keep rain gutters clear so that water drains quickly and does not accumulate and soak the upper walls and roof of your home.
  • Fix or replace leaky outdoor faucets and water lines.
  • Gutter downspouts and air conditioner condensate lines should empty out at least one foot away from the base of the home.
  • The ground next to your home should slope away so that water does not pool next to it.
  • Keep sprinklers from wetting the walls of your home.
  • Fix leaks in the basement, roof, water heater, appliances, and other sources inside your home. These leaks moisten wood and create damp environments that Formosan and other subterranean termites like to live in.
  • Remove all wooden grade stakes, form boards, supports, and scrap wood after finishing construction or remodeling.
  • Remove dead trees and plants including the roots and stumps, if possible, from your yard.
  • Eliminate or reduce the use of mulch and wood chips around the foundation of your home. This eliminates cooler and moist soil conditions favored by Formosan and other subterranean termites.

Intersted in learning more about ways you can improve your property and avoid Insect Infestations?  Call us today!

Spring Thaw Maintenance Top 5

Can you feel it?  That’s right, that slight anxious feeling when we see the mercury rise ABOVE freezing!  We’re all itching for spring!

However, with the warmer temperatures and eventual  thaw (I promise, it will eventually); there are things to be done.  Time to start on the dreaded Spring Cleaning.  Here at HIP, we’re kicking things off with a Spring Thaw Checklist.  Don’t let those home inspection and maintenance tasks get you down. Here are the top 5 items to help you target the areas that need your attention first and out enjoying the warmer weather when it finally arrives.

  1. Caulking
    • Inspect and refresh any caulking around windows and doors.  Start by brushing along the area where the window meets the wall to remove any dust or debris that will hinder your visual inspection. Examine the entire caulked area and look for cracks or caulk that has pulled away from the surface of the wall or the window frame.  While looking for worn caulk, push gently with an unsharpened pencil or wooden dowel and note if the caulk returns to its original shape after the pencil or dowel is removed. The dowel is used to check that the caulking still has its elasticity. Elasticity is the ability of the caulk to stretch and not break the seal from around the window. If excessive cracking is observed or the caulk has lost its elasticity, the window will need to be re-caulked.
    • If the caulking needs to be replaced, the old caulking will need to be removed first. Even though it may seem appealing to simply apply new caulk over the worn caulking, don’t do it because it will be impossible to ensure a proper seal.
      To remove the caulking from around the window you will need to have a utility knife, a putty knife or a painter’s 5-in-1 tool.  On painted wooden framed windows, lightly score the line between the paint and the caulk to eliminate paint damage while removing the caulk. Slide the putty knife into the caulking, tilt the putty knife so the blade is at an angle and pull the putty knife along the caulked seam. When the caulking gives way and you can grab it with your fingers, pull gently on the caulk. The majority of the caulking will pull easily away from the window frame. If the piece breaks off, re-insert the putty knife and restart the process.  Any caulking that remains after the initial removal can be scraped away with either the putty knife or the utility knife. 
    • To reapply window caulking, the first step is to make a 45-degree cut across the nozzle of the caulking tube. The hollow nozzle has a taper that is smaller at the top and grows larger as it reaches the caulk tube. Make the cut so that the hollow opening matches the size of the caulk bead required to fill the gap around the window. Start by cutting up high and make additional cuts until the nozzle hole diameter is the appropriate size. Then place the caulking tube into a caulking gun.  Gently squeeze the handle of the caulking gun, while the nozzle is pointed at the gap, about 1/8th inch away from the window gap. Next, drag the caulk gun along the entire length of the seam. After all seams have been caulked, use a wet finger or a Popsicle stick to smooth out and finish the caulk.
    • And Hey, while you’re already working with the caulk gun, why not inspect the bathroom areas as well.  Note this may require a different type or style of caulk.
  2. Furnace/Humidifier
    • Furnace Filters were originally designed to remove airborne particulate and dust that could harm your furnace’s internal components.  Today, consumers can choose from filters of many materials designed to improve air quality and even the scent!  Furnace filters should be examined monthly and replaced immediately as necessary. 
    • Be sure to buy the proper type and size filter for your home and furnace.  Periodic maintenance and occasionally installing a new furnace filter will keep your home’s heating system working at its best and enhancing indoor air quality.
  3. Gutters
    • Depending on the surroundings of your home, gutters should be cleaned twice each year.  Keeping gutters clear of debris will help to ensure that water does pour into or down areas you don’t want it.
    • The easiest way to clean gutters is to have someone do it professionally!  This generally costs around $100.  If you’re a do it yourself sort of person, you can save yourself some money. 
    • Start by removing debris from the gutters.  This can be done by hand or using a garden hose and spray nozzle or a leaf blower.  Be sure to use protective gear when using these methods. 
    • Lastly, inspect the downspouts to be sure they are free of anything that will block the flow of water. 
    • Gutter guards do not always prevent debris from entering the gutters or downspouts.  When purchasing, be sure they are removable for necessary cleaning.
  4. Roof
    • Roof repairs can be quite costly.  A quick but thorough look around your roof can help you catch would be problems before they cause significant damage.   Inspect your roof for missing, damaged or loose shingles.  Curling, Cracks or Tears, even loss of Texture are all signs of wear.
    • Carefully examine areas of flashing such as a chimney to be sure all pieces are properly connected and complete.
    • Examine Gutters, vents and overhangs.  Looking for rotted areas or signs of open joints.
    • Note any areas of the roof that may appear to be sagging or growing moss.
  5. Attic
    • Your attic might be one of the places within your home that you never visit.  However, it can be the one place that easily tells you the condition of your roof.
      1. Now that you’ve inspected the roof thoroughly, take a look at it from the inside.  Again, look closely around areas of chimney, skylights, or valleys. 
      2. From the attic, look for any evidence of leaks.  Dark stains can indicate areas where water has been leaking.  Assess any dark areas.  Dry, firm wood indicates an old leak that may have been repaired or remedied.  Damp, wet or soft wood, may have already begun rotting.  Assess again during heavy rain.
      3. Check for sagging areas between rafters as well as the rafters themselves for sagging or cracking.

As always, when in doubt, it’s best to contact a professional.  Your home is one of the biggest investments you’ll ever make and one that you’ll use every day.  Best to keep it in tip-top shape and be sure to give it the attention and maintenance it needs.

Help! I Found Asbestos In My Home – What Should I do?

What Should I Do if I Find Asbestos In My Home?  If you think asbestos may be in your home, don’t panic. Usually the best thing is to leave asbestos material that is in good condition alone.  Generally, material in good condition will not release asbestos fibers.
Check material regularly if you suspect it may contain asbestos. Don’t touch it, but look for signs of wear or damage such as tears, abrasions, or water damage. Damaged material may release asbestos fibers. This is particularly true if you often disturb it by hitting, rubbing, or handling it, or if it is exposed to extreme vibration or air flow.
Sometimes the best way to deal with slightly damaged material is to limit access to the area and not touch or disturb it. Discard damaged or worn asbestos gloves, stove-top pads, or ironing board covers. Check with local health, environmental, or other appropriate officials to find out proper handling and disposal procedures.
If asbestos material is more than slightly damaged, or if you are going to make changes in your home that might disturb it, repair or removal by a professional is needed. Before you have your house remodeled, find out whether asbestos materials are present.

How Can I Manage an Asbestos Problem?  If the asbestos material is in good shape and will not be disturbed, do nothing! If it is a problem, there are two types of corrections: repair and removal.
Repair usually involves either sealing or covering asbestos material.

  • Sealing (encapsulation) involves treating the material with a sealant that either binds the asbestos fibers together or coats the material so fibers are not released. Pipe, furnace and boiler insulation can sometimes be repaired this way. This should be done only by a professional trained to handle asbestos safely.
  • Covering (enclosure) involves placing something over or around the material that contains asbestos to prevent release of fibers. Exposed insulated piping may be covered with a protective wrap or jacket.

With any type of repair, the asbestos remains in place. Repair is usually cheaper than removal, but it may make later removal of asbestos, if necessary, more difficult and costly. Repairs can either be major or minor.

 Asbestos Do’s and Don’ts for the Homeowner:

  • Do keep activities to a minimum in any areas having damaged material that may contain asbestos.
  • Do take every precaution to avoid damaging asbestos material.
  • Do have removal and major repair done by people trained and qualified in handling asbestos. It is highly recommended that sampling and minor repair also be done by asbestos professionals.
  • Don’t dust, sweep, or vacuum debris that may contain asbestos.
  • Don’t saw, sand, scrape, or drill holes in asbestos materials.
  • Don’t use abrasive pads or brushes on power strippers to strip wax from asbestos flooring. Never use a power stripper on a dry floor.
  • Don’t sand or try to level asbestos flooring or its backing. When asbestos flooring needs replacing, install new floor covering over it, if possible.
  • Don’t track material that could contain asbestos through the house. If you cannot avoid walking through the area, have it cleaned with a wet mop. If the material is from a damaged area, or if a large area must be cleaned, call an asbestos professional.

Major repairs must be done only by a professional trained in methods for safely handling asbestos.
Minor repairs should also be done by professionals since there is always a risk of exposure to fibers when asbestos is disturbed.
Doing minor repairs yourself is not recommended since improper handling of asbestos materials can create a hazard where none existed.
Removal is usually the most expensive method and, unless required by state or local regulations, should be the last option considered in most situations. This is because removal poses the greatest risk of fiber release. However, removal may be required when remodeling or making major changes to your home that will disturb asbestos material. Also, removal may be called for if asbestos material is damaged extensively and cannot be otherwise repaired. Removal is complex and must be done only by a contractor with special training. Improper removal may actually increase the health risks to you and your family.

Asbestos Professionals: Who Are They and What Can They Do?  Asbestos professionals are trained in handling asbestos material. The type of professional will depend on the type of product and what needs to be done to correct the problem. You may hire a general asbestos contractor or, in some cases, a professional trained to handle specific products containing asbestos.
Asbestos professionals can conduct home inspections, take samples of suspected material, assess its condition, and advise about what corrections are needed and who is qualified to make these corrections. Once again, material in good condition need not be sampled unless it is likely to be disturbed. Professional correction or abatement contractors repair or remove asbestos materials.

Click here for more information on Asbestos and here for more information on Inspecting your Home for Asbestos.

If, at any time, you are concerned about your home and would like an Asbestos Inspection done by Home Inspection Professionals, please contact us anytime at 1-800-HIP-3200 or click here to Request an Inspection via the web.

Is Asbestos in My Home?

Where Can I Find Asbestos and When Can It Be a Problem?  Most products made today do not contain asbestos. Those few products made which still contain asbestos that could be inhaled are required to be labeled as such. However, until the 1970s, many types of building products and insulation materials used in homes contained asbestos. Common products that might have contained asbestos in the past, and conditions which may release fibers, include:

  • STEAM PIPES, BOILERS, and FURNACE DUCTS insulated with an asbestos blanket or asbestos paper tape. These materials may release asbestos fibers if damaged, repaired, or removed improperly.
  • RESILIENT FLOOR TILES (vinyl asbestos, asphalt, and rubber), the backing on VINYL SHEET FLOORING, and ADHESIVES used for installing floor tile. Sanding tiles can release fibers. So may scraping or sanding the backing of sheet flooring during removal.
  • CEMENT SHEET, MILLBOARD, and PAPER used as insulation around furnaces and woodburning stoves. Repairing or removing appliances may release asbestos fibers. So may cutting, tearing, sanding, drilling or sawing insulation.
  • DOOR GASKETS in furnaces, wood stoves, and coal stoves. Worn seals can release asbestos fibers during use.
  • SOUNDPROOFING OR DECORATIVE MATERIAL sprayed on walls and ceilings. Loose, crumbly, or water-damaged material may release fibers. So will sanding, drilling or scraping the material.
  • PATCHING AND JOINT COMPOUNDS for walls and ceilings, and TEXTURED PAINTS. Sanding, scraping, or drilling these surfaces may release asbestos.
  • ASBESTOS CEMENT ROOFING, SHINGLES, and SIDING. These products are not likely to release asbestos fibers unless sawed, drilled or cut.
  • ARTIFICIAL ASHES AND EMBERS sold for use in gas-fired fireplaces. Also, other older household products such as FIREPROOF GLOVES, STOVE-TOP PADS, IRONING BOARD COVERS, and certain HAIRDRYERS.
  • AUTOMOBILE BRAKE PADS AND LININGS, CLUTCH FACINGS, and GASKETS.

 Where Can I Find Asbestos Hazards in My Home?

  • Some roofing and siding shingles are made of asbestos cement.
  • Houses built between 1930 and 1950 may have asbestos as insulation.
  • Attic and wall insulation produced using vermiculite ore, particularly ore that originated from a Libby, Montana mine, may contain asbestos fibers. Vermiculite was mined in Libby, Montana between 1923 and 1990. Prior to its close in 1990, much of the world’s supply of vermiculite came from the Libby mine. This mine had a natural deposit of asbestos which resulted in the vermiculite being contaminated with asbestos.
  • Asbestos may be present in textured paint and in patching compounds used on wall and ceiling joints. Their use was banned in 1977.
  • Artificial ashes and embers sold for use in gas-fired fireplaces may contain asbestos.
  • Older products such as stove-top pads may have some asbestos compounds.
  • Walls and floors around woodburning stoves may be protected with asbestos paper, millboard, or cement sheets.
  • Asbestos is found in some vinyl floor tiles and the backing on vinyl sheet flooring and adhesives.
  • Hot water and steam pipes in older houses may be coated with an asbestos material or covered with an asbestos blanket or tape.
  • Oil and coal furnaces and door gaskets may have asbestos insulation.

How Can I Identify Materials that Contain Asbestos?  You can’t tell whether a material contains asbestos simply by looking at it, unless it is labeled. If in doubt, treat the material as if it contains asbestos or have it sampled and analyzed by a qualified professional. A professional should take samples for analysis, since a professional knows what to look for, and because there may be an increased health risk if fibers are released. In fact, if done incorrectly, sampling can be more hazardous than leaving the material alone. Taking samples yourself is not recommended. Material that is in good condition and will not be disturbed (by remodeling, for example) should be left alone. Only material that is damaged or will be disturbed should be sampled.

Click here for more information on Asbestos and here for What to Do If You Find Asbestos in your Home.

If, at any time, you are concerned about your home and would like an Asbestos Inspection done by Home Inspection Professionals, please contact us anytime at 1-800-HIP-3200 or click here to Request an Inspection via the web.