Home Care Library
Keeping Pests Out of Your Home
This article and video covers: the types of pests that you need to protect your home from; the 3 steps of the battle against pests; the areas around your home that you should inspect and clean to prevent infestations; and our recommended timing for doing these inspection and cleaning tasks.
Termites destroy wood from underneath the surface of the wood, leaving only a hollow shell. Without early detection, termites can cause tens of thousands of dollars of damage to your home (helpful accessories: termite detectors; wood preservatives).
These pests include ants, bed bugs, carpet beetles, clothes moths, cockroaches, houseflies, mosquitoes, silverfish, and spiders. Insect pests carry diseases, and their droppings can cause respiratory problems and increased allergies.
Animals that can infest your home include bats, mice, rats, moles, squirrels, and chipmunks. These pests also can carry diseases, and their droppings can cause respiratory problems and increased allergies.
The battle with these pests involves three steps:
Inspection: to detect evidence of pests, and the conditions that lead to pests.
Prevention: by cleaning and erecting barriers to entry.
Extermination or removal: to get rid of pests if infestations have already begun.
AREAS AROUND YOUR HOME WHERE YOU SHOULD REGULARLY INSPECT AND CLEAN TO PREVENT INFESTATION
Foundation: You should inspect foundation walls (both inside and outside) for earthen “termite tube tunnels” that connect the termite colony in the moist soil to the wood. Termites need to return to their nests once a day, and so they create these dirt tunnels to travel back and forth. These tunnels are usually ¼ to ½ inch wide and are half-round in shape, and may be found on masonry foundation walls, basement walls, even on the surface of metal pipes. While you are inspecting your foundation, you should also check that no ground or shrubs are touching your house. Another tell-tale sign of termites can be finding piles of their droppings which they discharge from their nests. Also look for any cracks or loose mortar, and patch any cracks. You should also check for tunnels around the openings where pipes enter a foundation wall or wall of a house. If you find openings around pipes, then use caulking compound to seal the openings (see costs and reviews of caulking compound). Also, the spring and early summer is mating season for termites, so during these times watch for swarms of flying insects or for clusters of discarded wings near your house. And check unfinished crawl spaces for termite tunnels and for places where soil may touch the wall. Make certain these spaces are well ventilated so that moisture can escape and not attract termites to a damp area. And lastly, be sure that any firewood or untreated wooden materials are kept at least 20 feet away from your home, and elevated at least 6 inches off the ground, to help prevent termite infestations.
Wood siding: If you have wood siding or wood corner boards, you should check this wood for carpenter ants, wasps' nests and for any evidence of termites. Use a sharp instrument such as an ice pick, screwdriver, or awl to probe any wood that you suspect may be infested. If you can press deeper than ½ inch, then it is likely you have a problem with termites or dry rot. Also check to ensure that wooden trellises, fences, etc. are at least 12" away from your wood siding or corner boards.
Attics: Check your attic for signs of "droppings" from animals such as mice, rats, or bats, and look for nests of squirrels or chipmunks. Makes sure that any ventilation ports or openings in your attic are correctly screened off to keep out pests.
Basements: Check your basement for droppings from mice or rats, and look for nests of squirrels or chipmunks. Check for clusters of discarded termite wings. Also look for cracks in the floor, or loose basement wall mortar or cracks, and especially where the wall meets the floor, and patch any cracks that you find. You should pay particular attention to basement window wells where debris tends to accumulate, as this can provide termites with access to basement window frames as well as to moist soil.
Garage: Inspect your garage for droppings from mice or rats and look for any nests of squirrels or chipmunks. Inspect where the slab or foundation meets the wall for evidence of termites. And check any pipes that go through garage walls, and caulk around them as necessary.
Eaves: Inspect your roof eaves and remove any wasps' nests, beehives, hornets' nests, or spider webs from around roof eaves.
Sinks, cupboards, and closets: You should inspect and clean the corners in your cupboards and closets, as well as openings under baseboards, in floors, and behind kitchen drawers. In addition, inspect and clean the space under your kitchen and bathroom sinks, exhaust fans, and around all water pipes, toilets, and other plumbing fixtures.
Stagnant Water: If you have water that stays for long periods after it rains (or under a leaky outside water faucet), you should fix these areas, as they will be breeding grounds for insect pests (helpful accessory: sink cleaners).
Termite Monitors: And lastly, if you have placed termite monitors around the outside of your foundation (which is a good idea in general), then you will want to inspect these monitors to check for any indications of termite activity.
If during your inspection and cleaning, you detect infestation by termites, insects, or animals, you should immediately consult a professional pest control company, or take appropriate action to exterminate or remove the pests. And if you are uncomfortable doing the inspection and cleaning yourself, then you should bring in a pest control company to do it for you.
We suggest that you conduct this inspection and cleaning at least twice a year. Once in May at the beginning of the spring, and once in November before the winter. Cleaning the areas that are susceptible to pests will help prevent infestation, and frequent inspection allows early detection, which can prevent costly damage from spreading.
Infestation of your home by pests can cause expensive damage to your home, as well as leading to respiratory and allergy health problems. We hope this article and video has helped you to understand the types of household pests, the steps in the battle, the ten areas which you should routinely inspect and clean, and the importance of doing this on a timely basis.
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