Pest Problems: How to Identify, Fix and Prevent the Damage in your Home
Last modified: 2018/10/05 | Approximate reading time 6 mins
Infestation and the subsequent damage cannot only take you by surprise but also make your home nearly unlivable. If unseen and left to fester, the damage can easily spread and affect the structural integrity of your home. That is why it’s so important to stay on top of any infestation or damage and act as soon as you can.
How to repair damage from an infestation problem
First, it’s important to note that the use of harsh pesticides should be a last resort. An ideal home, free of pests, is one which combines good design with higher quality building materials and regular building maintenance which consequently alleviates the need for harsh pesticides.
While there are many pests out there that can infest your home, for the purposes of this article, we will focus on wood-boring pests like termites and carpenter ants and bigger pests like rodents.
The first step is to identify the damage and the extent. Are you able to distinguish whether it’s from an insect or rodent? When determining if it is caused by insects, check the area to see if there are any running around. As a rule of thumb, if the bugs have a segmented body, they are most likely carpenter ants. If they are worm-like in appearance, they are probably termites. The temperature and other conditions in some seasons will make it harder to find the culprits, so using the damage will be the best course of action.
Carpenter ants are large destructive ants that build nests inside the wood. While carpenter ants typically nest in softened, moist, decayed wood, if left untreated they can continue to bury into sound wood and create extensive damage throughout the structure. Carpenter ants can be found in wall voids, hollow doors or windows so entry points such as attic vents or cracks should be checked as well. Don’t forget, the presence of ants is not evidence of a conclusive carpenter ant colony. A carpenter ant colony or infestation will be noticeable if there are piles of wood dust below wooden items or if large winged ants appear through cracks.
It’s important to remember that carpenter ants don’t eat the wood they dig through. They also tend to excavate smooth passages within the wood, so if this is what you are witnessing, its most likely a carpenter ant problem. The first step to alleviating your problem is to physically remove the main nest from the premises as this cuts the ants off at the source. Depending on the intensity of infestation, this may be a monumental task.
If such is the case and it turns out to be easier to gut and replace any damaged wood, you should use this opportunity to prevent any further infestation by eliminating any favourable conditions that would bring the ants back. This includes sealing cracks on the outer perimeter of the house and making sure any structural wood touching the ground is undamaged.
Termites are insects known for using wood as a food source and thus can thrive within the woodwork of your home and cause significant damage throughout. One of the major issues with termites is that they can thrive within your home without initially showing signs of damage. There are several kinds of termites, however, for this guide, we will focus on three major types: damp wood termites, dry wood termites, and subterranean termites.
Dampwood termites can be recognized from their larger size as compared to their counterparts, as well as their larger heads. Within damp wood colonies, the immature termites do the work and are roughly about 20 millimetres long, meaning that these are the ones you’re most likely to notice.
Their name comes from the fact that they feed on and nest in damp, decaying wood. To protect your home, the number one solution is to eliminate moisture conditions that deteriorate the wood. This means fixing any water leaks from pipes or faucets, getting rid of standing water on the roof and sealing any entry points around water lines or generally around the foundation. Once this is done, you can proceed with fixing any existing damage done to the woodwork.
Lastly, to avoid any future break outs, make sure to remove any stumps or wooden debris from the surrounding area and if necessary, to place screens over any vents open to the outside.
Drywood termites are most often distinguishable by their clear, almost translucent bodies and dark heads with large mandibles. Their name comes from the fact that they thrive on dry wood as opposed to damp wood termites. Drywood termites will create colonies in any dry wood source. The wood doesn’t even have to be touching the ground. Often, they can be found in the attic, assuming that it is free from excessive moisture, and an occasion will feed on other cellulose materials.
The signs of a dry wood termite infestation are straightforward and often are an indication of substantial damage. The best way to know if you’ve got a dry wood termite problem is by identifying their fecal pellets. Drywoods have unique, almost hexagon-shaped droppings known as frass, that they expel frequently from their nests. This discarded frass is usually found in small mounds and is one of the best indications of a dry wood termite problem.
Preemptively stopping dry wood termites is your best option since once they’re present within the home, they can spread throughout the home easily.
Subterranean termites as their name would suggest, enter through the ground. In rare cases, they may nest above ground where the moisture conditions are ideal. In the ground, these termites build long and elaborate tunnels which extend to tunnels that allow them to feast on wood within the home. Since these termites are coming from the ground, damaged wood tends to have soil or mud present. As these termites eat through the wood they fill their tunnels with soil to maintain the right humidity and this leads to mud tunnels. In fact, if mud tunnels are noticeable on the foundation or along the walls, there is a significant chance that you are dealing with a subterranean termite colony.
The two main species of rodents that you need to be concerned about and that will infiltrate and cause damage within your home are rats and mice. Thanks to their body structure, rodents can easily squeeze through the smallest of openings, so it is fundamental to inspect for any such openings and seal them accordingly. Rodents are difficult to control and breed very rapidly in the winter months, so they present a significant hazard to your home. It’s important to mention that rodents, especially rats, are known to harbour and transmit various diseases while also carrying parasites like ticks and fleas, which is yet another reason to act in a timely manner. Rats are known to inhabit hard to reach places such as drywall and attics and burrow under concrete and porches, within drywall voids.
Rats are also quite smart and are aware of new things in their environments like rat traps and suspicious bait, making it all the most essential to seek the help of a professional pest expert. Mice will infiltrate your home seeking food, warmth and water and they can easily contaminate any food they eat.
Try to keep food sources hidden away, either on higher shelves or cabinets, or enclosed places such as pantries. Rodents, for the most part, are seeking crumbs and garbage but are enticed by dry goods like cereals and anything edible. It is ideal to try to keep these food items in closed containers so to deny access to any rodents, while produce should also be stored securely. Any food waste should be immediately cleaned so as not to attract any pests. Also avoid having cluttered rooms, as this gives them a place to hide and feed. Remember, rodents are adaptable and infestations can cause damage deep in your home. In fact, rodents can easily cause serious issues by chewing through electrical wiring and insulation or even personal effects.
The most important step to relieving an infestation issue is clearing out the infestation for good.
This should always be done with the help of a licensed pest control expert. These experts are well trained in identifying the culprit and applying the necessary measures to alleviate infestation. This, however, will not do anything for damage which has been done. In such a case, we recommend hiring a professional contractor to repair any damage and to seal your home to avoid future issues.
Make sure there is no structural damage such as sagging or bowing wood framed doors, walls or ceilings since these indicate extensive damage that will be costly to repair. Furthermore, annual inspections are something any homeowner should consider without experiencing the shock of an infestation.
Remember that carpenter ants, termites and rodents all provide visible indications of activity through entry or exit holes, visible mud tubes, the presence of frass or the presence of the pests themselves. Also, if you keep firewood around your home, make sure to keep it away from foundations or crawlspaces so as to avoid enticing pests that are attracted to wood.
Finally, a fine dusting of diatomaceous earth around the perimeter base of your home will discourage all insects from crossing it. By taking all these steps, you can rest assured that your home won’t fall victim to the devastating structural damage that can come with an untended infestation.
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