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Pest Prevention Tips

Here are a few easy steps you can take right now to stop pests and termites from invading your home:

Pest Tips

  • Seal cracks in your home’s exterior to help keep pests like ants, spiders and cockroaches from getting inside.
  • Be sure all doors and windows are properly sealed with tight-fitting screens and weather stripping.
  • Don’t leave uncovered food sitting out. It can attract flies that might land on it and spread harmful bacteria.
  • Consider storing clothing in plastic boxes or pouches to prevent fabric pests from getting to them.
  • Ensure that the attic and crawl space have sufficient ventilation. Proper ventilation creates an environment unsuitable for cockroaches and other pests. It also improves the heating and cooling efficiency of the home.
  • Do not allow pet food to sit out overnight, indoors or outdoors.
  • Remove any piles of debris, stones, bricks, etc., around your home. They serve as a harborage for pests, especially rodents.

Termite Tips

  • Repair any roof or plumbing leaks as soon as possible. These leaks can allow termites to survive above ground in a house.
  • Eliminate any wood-to-soil contact around your foundation and remove wood debris near your home.
  • Prevent mulch and soil from touching the siding of your home. They make it much easier for termites to enter.
  • Store firewood away from your home.
  • Use mesh screens on all windows and doors, as well as in ventilation openings for attics and crawl spaces.
  • Seal nail holes and cracks in exposed wood to help prevent easy access by drywood termites.
  • Contract with a professional pest control company to regularly inspect your home. This will help detect termite activity and allow for prompt and proper treatment.

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 Home Maintenance

Spring is here! That nice bright sun and warm fresh air are a welcome relief from the long, dark winter. Unfortunately, springs arrival means that your home is in need of a little spring cleaning.

Over time the value of your home appreciates, so you should treat it with as much care as possible. Homes change and move over the seasons. After the winter everything from the roof to your sump pump will need to be examined. Spring is the best time to give our home the “tune- up” it needs.

Here is a checklist to help you target the areas that need maintenance so you can get those chores done quickly. Following these simple tips will get you outside and in that warm spring sunshine in no time.

  • Inspect brickwork and stucco. Check for chipping, deteriorated mortar and unsightly deposits.

– Spalling is a chipping or popping away of a brick’s face, leaving the brick’s interior susceptible to moisture and crumbling. Any deteriorated mortar should be assessed immediately before more damage occurs.

– Efflorescence is a plaguing of the brick resulting in unsightly white deposits caused by soluble salts left behind during water evaporation. If efflorescence is found, removal is best recommended by dry brushing in warm dry weather.

– If you discover water penetration in the brick, consider sealing the brick surface with an appropriate sealant.

  • Replace rotting siding and trim; paint as needed. Hire a professional to tackle siding maintenance.

– Brighten up your home with a good power washing. This will give your home a fresh look and may also show damaged areas that were hidden behind the grime of winter weather.

– If painting is needed, be sure to tackle the whole project. Don’t treat sections and move on. Leaving  any wood exposed could lead to the surface rotting. Make sure the whole surface is done to ensure proper resurfacing and color consistency to your home. Be sure to sand the surface and prime any bare wood before painting with a high quality  product.

  • Clean gutters and downspouts. Multiple freezes and thaws can result in sags and dips.

– Make sure gutters and downspouts direct water away from the home. improper drainage can lead to water in the basement or crawl space. They should point at least two to two and a half feet away from any foundation wall.

– Check that they are flush to the roof with no sags or dips.

– If you live in a two story home, a professional cleaning is recommended. Do-it-yourselfers will be safer cleaning a ranch style home.

– Consider installing gutter guards to protect them from environmental debris.

  • Inspect your roof. Check for damaged shingles, which can make your roof susceptible to leaks.

– Shingles that curl up (turn up) and claw (turn down) can make your roof inefficient and susceptible to leaks.

– Shingles that are cracked, buckled or loose or are missing granules need to be replaced.

– Flashing around plumbing vents, skylights and chimneys need to be checked and repaired by a qualified roofer.

– Pooling or ponds of water that fail to drain from flat roofs may indicate low areas of inadequate drainage.

– Call a minimum of three roofers before committing to one for repairs. You will educate yourself in the process and end up with a better deal in the end.

  • Get a chimney check- up. Hire a pro that can quickly check for cracks or leaks.

– Have the flue cleaned and inspected by a certified chimney sweep. This includes any active or decorative chimney.

– A professional should also check the chimney flue and cap for cracks or leaking.

  • Prune landscaping and create good drainage. Maintain your plants and shrubs to prevent soil erosion.

– Landscaping helps against soil erosion, but should be planted to form a negative grade, which means wiater will flow away from the house.

– Trim overgrown trees and hedges away from your home to discourage the growth of mildew and moisture. Branches should be a minimum of seven feet away from the exterior of your home to prolong the life of your siding and roof.

– Remove out of control vines,as they can help crack siding and allow moisture and pests entry into your home.

– Check for low areas in the yard or next to the foundation. If any are present they should be filled with compacted soil. Spring rains can cause yard flooding, which can lead to foundation flooding and damage.

  • Give concrete a little TLC. Seal your driveway, power wash your patio and have a professional service your pool.

– Inspect concrete slabs for signs of cracks or movement. All exterior slabs, with the exception of pool decks, should drain away from the home’s foundation.

– Seal and inspect asphalt or concrete driveways. This is usually done in the fall, but spring is an ideal time to seal them.

– Power wash concrete patios; inspect decks for rotting wood and secure railings. Seal if necessary.

  • Check outside hose faucets for freeze damage.  Take a peek at your home plumbing.

– Turn the water on and place your thumb or finger over the opening. If you can stop the flow of water, it is likely that the pipe inside  the home is damaged and will need to be replaced.

– Check any garden hoses for dry rot, replace if necessary.

– Anything dripping in your home is a bad sign. Check for leaking faucets or sweating pipes, clogged drains and faulty water drainage systems.

– Look at washing machine hoses for bulges, cracks or dampness.

– Check under the kitchen sink for leaks, and make note of wetness around the dishwasher.

– Check the shutoff valve at each plumbing fixture to make sure they are functioning properly. Know the location of all valves and what equipment and water lines they serve. Teach all  members of the household of their locations.

  • Inspect the water heater.

– If you have a gas- fired water heater, make sure it is venting properly. Light a match next to the vent and wave it out (don’t blow it out). See if the smoke is pulled up into the vent. If it isn’t, have a professional inspect and repair it. Otherwise, carbon monoxide and other combustibles can build up in your home.

– Check around the base of your water heater for evidence of leaks. If your water heater is over five years old, it should be checked monthly for any leakage or rusting at the bottom. If evidence of a leakage or rust is found, the water heater should be replaced.

  • Don’t overlook your attic. Check for proper ventilation, obstructions and leaks.

– Check your attic fro proper ventilation and birds nests.

– Look for obstructions over vents, damaged soffit panels, roof flashing leaks and wet spots on insulation.

– Be sure to wear long sleeves and gloves to protect yourself from insulation when checking the attic.

  • Check out your heat/ air unit; change batteries in detectors. Change filters and clean the air purifier, but leave the rest to the pros.

– Have your ducts professionally cleaned. It will make your indoor air quality healthier and your furnace more efficient.

– Have a professional clean and service the outside unit of the air conditioning system. Clean coils operate more efficiently, and an annual service call will keep the system working at peak performance levels. An efficient air conditioner removes moisture and humidity from your home, which in excess, can damage its foundation.

– Change air filters on a monthly basis. Some are reusable and are supposed to be taken out, washed with a hose and re- inserted. A unit free of dust and dirt runs more efficiently, saving you time and money on your energy bill.

– Check the hose connections for leaks and any algae blockage. Make sure the drain pans are draining freely. If you suspect a problem, contact a certified technician.

– Clean the outside condensing unit screen of leaves.

– Listen for any unusual noises. This may be your first indication of a problem.

  • Check your electrical system. Only a qualified electrician should remove the front panel cover.

– Look for burn marks at the main electrical panel; they can be a sign of arcing inside the panel, which can easily lead to a fire.

– Trip and reset the circuit breakers regularly.

– Remove any combustible materials such as paper boxes or flammable liquids from the area near the main electrical panel. Sparks caused by arching can ignite any material stored nearby.

– Check all electrical outlets for loose- fitting plugs. This is an indication of worn out receptacles, and should be replaced as they cause overheating and fires.

– Check all electrical outlet switches to be sure they are working properly. If there are any that are not working properly, have a qualified electrician determine the problem and fix it to avoid any fires inside the walls of your home.

– Install safety covers to help protect children from electrical shock.

– Unplug any appliance or tool that gives off even the slightest shock. Take to a qualified electrician or repair shop to be checked.

  • Clean the kitchen exhaust hood and air filter.

– Keeping this clean of cooking grease will help keep a stovetop fire from spreading.

  • Tackle those kitchen/ bathroom tiles.

– Pay attention to the grout between floor tiles in the bathroom or kitchen. A small crack in the grout or caulk can lead to an expensive repair in the future.

– Get in the habit of wiping down the shower walls and tub after each use to eliminate soap and scum build- up.

  • Don’t forget about the sump pump.

– Make sure the sump pump is operating correctly. To ensure that it is always in proper working order, install a battery back up pump. If your sump pump does fail, you will not know until it is too late. If your sump pump fails, an alarm goes off, letting you know the backup is working. A few hundred dollars now will save you from thousands later, especially if you have a finished basement.

Preventive maintenance is crucial to the value of your home. Keep your place in tip- top shape with regular check- ups to save you the headache and cost of emergency repairs. It’s the inspections you make in between that really matter.