Keeping your home safe from an attack from the elements, insects and vermin is a constant battle. Thankfully, it doesn’t have to be a battle for your time 24/7. The least obvious signs of attack are from water. You might remember from your high school chemistry days that water is the universal solvent. Water is also almost universally prevalent because of its necessity to life. These two facts mean that, left unchecked, water can literally destroy your home. Water can enter your home from the roof, a poorly sealed window or door jamb, a vent that has lost its cover, or from a plumbing leak.
When water enters through the roof, it’s not always because you need a new roof. Poorly flashed areas, leaves piling up inside gutters, and damaged roof vents, as well as damage to your shingles, can provide a path for water to enter. Once inside, the roof decking can become soaked and start to rot. The leak left long enough can begin to penetrate roof trusses and studs in the ceiling. That can lead not only to structural damage, but can also provide a fertile place for mold to grow. If the leak is bad enough, water can begin to soften sheet rock on the ceiling and walls. Sheet rock can begin to sag or fall as well as provide another place for mold to grow.
Repair costs can quickly add up to large sums of money. Mold can be dangerous to your health. It is even possible that your homeowner’s insurance could drop your coverage until expensive mold remediation has been done to remove the mold. Gutters clogged with leaves can wick water behind the gutter and begin to destroy the face-boards at the edge of your roof. While getting up on your roof is the best way to inspect it and the gutters, you can look at the roof or gutters from the ground with binoculars as you look for damage such as loose shingles or potentially damaging piled up leaves. Another way to inspect for water penetration is to take a strong flashlight up into the attic and look around plumbing vent pipes, fireplace chimneys and roof vents. Sometimes the signs of water penetration are subtle but can be found with a diligence and close inspection.
When you discover evidence of water damage, it is imperative you get the water stopped before the damage becomes extensive. If climbing around on your roof isn’t your thing, get a qualified roofer to inspect for the source of water. A good roofer will be able to take pictures of the entry point and damage and show you photographs of these problem areas. Sometimes flashing is left out or improperly installed and/or improperly caulked. Water will not be redirected away properly if the flashing is missing or improperly installed. Wind damage can take place in valleys or areas that are not visible from the ground. Squirrels, rats and other animals have been known to chew through wood or enter through vents, compounding the damage to the roof structure.
When water first enters wood, it causes the wood to swell, breaking the seal of painted and/or caulked areas. Water enters from the original area as well as the newly compromised painted surface, further damaging the wood and eventually making the paint peel away. If there is no way for water to drain away from the wood, it will compound the damage by allowing wood to rot and give mold a serious foothold on things. Once the source of the water is found and corrected, scrape away old, peeling paint and prepare the surface for new caulk and paint. If the damage is extensive, replacing damaged wood with materials that do not rot, such as Hardi-plank, is the way to go. Vinyl and aluminum siding may save you from having to paint, but it can harbor wood destroying insects and slow the evaporation of water that gets behind the siding, promoting more damage than it prevents.
Insects are another serious problem. Soft, rotted wood, openings in caulked areas, and poorly sealed openings are easy paths for insects. The most damaging insects are termites. These little creatures have an insatiable appetite for wood and wood products. Infestations can become so severe that you may find dirt falling from the ceiling or ceiling-mounted light fixtures where the openings were caused by the termites. I’ve seen termites eat the paper backing of sheet vinyl on floors around toilets and bath tubs. Termites will eat the paper on the sheet rock too. Sometimes they eat through the painted surface, and that is where the dirt may fall from.
There are many types of termites. Generally speaking, most live underground and are attracted to moist areas. Termites need to have a controlled, humid environment. That is what helps to reveal the termites if you know what to look for. When termites discover a source of food and it is above ground, they have to bring their controlled, moist environment with them. They do this by making mud tunnels on the surface of areas they have to traverse getting to the food source. You can perform a visual inspection around the foundation of your home looking for these tunnels. You can make life tougher for them by keeping tall grass, landscape bark chips and the like away from the foundation of your home. Overgrown grass and debris near the foundation of the house can help hide the tunnels coming up from the ground and also protect the tunnels from damage.
In addition to building tunnels on the outside of your home, termites can enter through openings in the foundation. Moisture around these openings can really help attract termites. P-traps for bathtubs and showers are often in openings made for them as the foundation is poured. Once everything is connected, the openings will be filled with concrete or heavy tar. Cracks in the concrete fill can open up allowing the termites to enter the home. The heavy tar may dry out and shrink and pull away from the concrete foundation and provide termites safe passage into your home. Modern houses have the ground treated for termites before the foundation is poured making openings in the foundation less appealing for the termites to enter. The treatment is good for less than 10 years. To lure the termites away from your home, bait traps can be implanted in the ground around the perimeter of your home. These bait traps are effective in treated and untreated areas. Should you discover termite activity in your home, steps must be taken to eradicate them. Poisons are injected into the ground around the home. Sometime the infestation is bad enough that holes must be drilled into the foundation so that the poison can be injected under the foundation. If the infestation is extreme or the termites are an especially aggressive variety, the home must be enclosed in a huge “tent” and the home fumigated. The cost for the treatment is substantial, but the cost to repair the damage can be much worse. Left undiscovered for a long time, termites can be so destructive they can render the supporting lumber to a state of near uselessness.
To deter termites from moving into your home, keep grass trimmed away from around your foundation. Be sure that water leaks are repaired as soon as possible. Do not store firewood or other materials close to your foundation. These materials attract termites and can hid them a long time before you discover damage they might make. An occasional termite inspection by a licensed pest control company can be a bargain compared to the damage termites can cause. Once termites are discovered and eliminated, repair damaged areas immediately to help deter the return of termites.
Fire ants, Carpenter ants and other aggressive ants can damage your home nearly as much as termites can. When ants build mounds against your house, they can enter and destroy wood inside walls. Fire ants are especially bad because the bite humans. They are attracted to moisture and electricity on top of the wood destruction. Many a service call for air conditioning problems find fire ants in the contactors of the HVAC unit outside of your home. Fire ants also love to eat the insulation off of the wires inside the condensing unit causing more headaches. If the contactor gets clogged with dirt or dead ants, your air condition compressor may not be able to start up. In the hot Texas summers, that can add plenty of misery to your day. To reduce ant incursion, treat ant mounds with baits and poisons. Keep food stuffs in sealed containers. Remove crumbs from counter top and pantry areas. Fix small water leaks that may attract the ants to your home.
Squirrel, Mice and rats can reek havoc with electrical wiring, eat food in your pantry and are very unsanitary as they travel through your home spreading germs everywhere. While roaches are not as destructive, they more than make up for it with the germs and diseases they carry. Rodents can enter your home in many ways. Often a water heater closet, laundry room or HVAC closet are not sheet rocked well leaving openings that rodents can enter. Some times they get past screens in soffit or attic vents. The easiest way to find evidence of rodents is by their droppings. There will also be tell tale signs of chewing around openings they pass through. Rodents can spend time in your garage too. In winter, they will look for someplace warm. Your car is a prime candidate for occupancy. Rodents can chew through wires, duct work and plastic parts in your car. The damage can add up quickly and could even start a fire in the garage or your car. To help prevent the entry of rodents, screen any holes around pipes or vents and in weep holes in brick. Check the screens of existing soffit vents, eave vents, power ventilators in the roof and other areas that rodents could enter through. Make your exterior landscape less appealing by keeping tall grasses mowed. Tall grass is a great place for mice and rats to travel through undetected. To reduce rodent invasion, treat areas with baits and set traps for them. If you are queasy about handling spring loaded traps, there are glue traps available that the rodent can crawl inside of and get stuck making it easy to dispose of the trap, Keep food stuffs in sealed containers. Remove crumbs from counter top and pantry areas.
Other crawling bugs that are potential problem makers include roaches, certain spiders and scorpions. Baits, poisons and Diatomaceous earth are ways to deter these bugs from entering your home. As with rodents, look at small openings around the home and keep tall grass away from your foundation. Although rare, even honey bees can make a home inside a wall of your home. Don’t try to remove them yourself. Hire a pest control company that can handle removing the bees properly. It is possible that the bees could be the more aggressive africanized bees.
Keeping an eye out for all these potential wars isn’t really that hard. A walk around inspection looking for something different from the last inspection is an easy way to spot trouble early. Any good handy man can help you find and fix places of entry should you decide you would rather have someone else look for these places. In San Antonio, call me @ 210-452 5816 or you can text me or even ask questions on this website from the “contact me” tab. Thanks for reading! Please visit my sponsors too.