Bed Bugs and Their Prevention

Bed Bugs and Their Prevention Bed bugs are small, flightless, rust-colored parasites that feed on the blood of humans and other warm-blooded animals. Homeowners should learn the telltale signs of these pests. Adult bed bugs are flat and the size of apples, with rust-colored, oval bodies. Newly hatched bed bugs are semi-transparent, light tan in color, and the size of a poppy seed. Yet, due to their elusive nature, their presence is usually discovered through peripheral clues rather than by seeing the bugs themselves. Some of these signs include fecal spots, blood smears, crushed bugs, or the itchy bumps that may result from bites. The bugs may be disturbed while feeding and leave a cluster of bumps, or they may bite in a row, marking the path of a blood vessel. The parasites emit a characteristic musty odor, although the smell is sometimes not present in even severe infestations. The bugs also emit a scent that is picked up by dogs, which has lead to the implementation of dogs for bed bug detection. Properly trained dogs can find bed bugs in wall voids, furniture gaps, and other places that homeowners may overlook.  This helps exterminators to know where they should focus their efforts. History and Resurgence Bed bugs were all but eradicated in the 1950s, but they have re-emerged in a big way. At the Environmental Protection Agency’s National Bed Bug Summit in 2009, researchers decided that the parasite’s revival is more appropriately termed a pandemic rather than an epidemic, noting its rapid spread across large regions and different continents. The United States has seen a 50-fold increase in...

The Bathroom Vent System

The Bathroom Vent System Bathroom ventilation systems are designed to exhaust odors and damp air to the home’s exterior. A typical system consists of a ceiling fan unit connected to a duct that terminates at the roof or side of the home.  Ventilation systems should be installed in all bathrooms, including those with windows, since windows will not be opened during the winter in cold climates. Fan Function   The fan may be controlled in one of several ways. Most are controlled by a conventional wall switch. A timer switch may be mounted on the wall. A wall-mounted humidistat can be pre-set to turn the fan on and off based on different levels of relative humidity. It’s not always easy to tell whether the bathroom vent fan is operating as it should.  Newer fans may be very quiet but work just fine. Older fans may be very noisy or very quiet. If an older fan is quiet, it may not be working well. Bathroom ventilation fans should be periodically checked for dust buildup, which can impede air flow. Particles of moisture-laden animal dander and lint are also attracted to the fan because of its static charge. Homeowners should regularly clean dirty fan covers to prevent this kind of buildup. Defects  The following conditions indicate insufficient ventilation in the bathroom: stains on the bathroom walls and/or ceiling; corrosion of metal parts of the vent system; visible mold on the walls and/or ceiling; peeling paint or wallpaper; frost on the interior of the bathroom window; high indoor humidity; and/or improper duct termination. Duct Termination The most common defect related to the...

Crawlspace Safety

Crawlspace Safety Crawlspaces are notorious for the nasty discoveries made there by homeowners, inspectors, and home re-modelers, and it isn’t hard to figure out why; for one thing, their cool, dark environment attracts undesirable pests and can promote dangerous conditions. And since the crawlspace is mostly unmonitored, hazards can breed there unchecked for a long time. Never enter a crawlspace without wearing protective clothing and having two flashlights (in case the first one stops working). The following are some of the more common dangers discovered in crawlspaces: • Metal and Wooden Protrusions: Depending on the age of your home, the crawlspace may house some unwelcoming structural protrusions that you may bump your head on or cut your hand on, so proceed with caution. Even if your crawlspace is clean and free of pests, it’s no guarantee that it will also be free of a nail head, bent metal attachment, or joist or beam in an unexpected area. Protect your head by wearing a ball cap or hard hat, and wear gloves to protect your hands. • Pests: Dirt crawlspaces provide the environment that is favored by ants, termites and other insects, and various other pests, including snakes and scorpions, as well as warm-blooded animals looking for a place to nest, such as raccoons, mice and rats. Some of these pests are poisonous; others may attack when startled. Always wear protective clothing and use a strong flashlight to illuminate the space before entering it. • Mold: Just like pests, mold and other types of fungus can grow rapidly in crawlspaces. Mold is a health concern, as well as a cause...

Landscaping

  Landscaping  Well-maintained landscaping and other improvements are important for the enjoyment of a healthy and durable property. Plants, Trees & Shrubs:  Check the location and condition of all trees and shrubbery. Those that are overgrown should be pruned or trimmed. Where trees or bushes have overgrown, complete removal may be necessary. Trees need to be trimmed.  Overhanging branches should not interfere with a chimney’s draft, be too close to utility wires, or deposit leaves and twigs on the roof or inside gutters and drains. Trees and shrubbery that are very close to exterior walls or roofs can cause damage. They can make it difficult to perform homeowner maintenance, inspections and repairs. Branches around the perimeter of the house should be pruned back. Tree roots under concrete walks can cause damage. Roots are usually exposed near the surface and can be cut back. Tree roots can cause a home’s foundation to crack by pushing against it from the outside. If you have any of these issues, consider hiring a Landscaping Professional. A  Landscaping Professional is a specialist in the cultivation and care of trees and shrubs, including tree surgery, the diagnosis, treatment, and prevention of tree diseases, and the control of...

Property Drainage

  Property Drainage  Making sure that your property is sloped to allow proper drainage can mean the difference between a trouble-free rainy season and a flooded basement a few times a year.  Unwanted moisture intrusion—even at a level not serious enough to cause interior flooding—can create insidious problems that will be difficult to completely eliminate, such as weakened structural elements, mold growth, and other damage and health hazards. Most problems with moisture in basements and crawlspaces are caused by poor site drainage. The ground should slope away from window wells, exterior basement stairs, and other means of egress. The bottom of each of these areas should be sloped to a drain. Each drain should have piping that connects it to a storm water drainage system (if there is one) or that drains to either a discharge at a lower grade or into a sump pit that collects and discharges the water away from the building. Rain:  During the next heavy rainstorm without lightning, grab an umbrella and go outside. Walk around your house and look around at the roof and property. A rainstorm is the perfect time to see how the roof, downspouts and grading are performing. Observe the drainage patterns of your entire property, as well as the property of your neighbor. The ground around your house should slope away from all sides. Downspouts, surface gutters and drains should be directing water away from the foundation. One important maintenance task is to monitor and maintain the drains and piping. Drains and piping should be open and clear of leaves, earth and debris. A garden hose can be used to...