Stop Throwing Money Down the Drain!
The average homeowner spends close to $1,300 a year on utility bills. But an energy efficient home, with such features as proper insulation, moisture control, high efficiency heating and cooling systems, and energy-efficient windows, can lower your utility bills by 10 to 50 percent.
You can benefit from energy-efficient home improvements whether you're buying, selling, refinancing, or remodeling a home. If you're looking to buy an energy-efficient home, you can qualify for a better, more comfortable home because with lower utility costs, you can afford a slightly larger mortgage payment. And If you put your home on the market, you can use its energy efficiency as an attractive selling point.
Outside air drawn in through basement leaks is exacerbated by the chimney effect created by leaks in the attic. As hot air generated by the furnace rises up through the house and into the attic through leaks, cold outside air gets drawn in through basement leaks to replace the displaced air. This makes a home feel drafty and contributes to higher energy bills. After sealing attic air leaks, complete the job by sealing basement leaks, and stop the chimney effect.
A common area of air leakage in the basement is along the top of the basement wall where the cement or block comes in contact with the wood frame. These leaks can easily be fixed in portions of the basement that are unfinished. Since the top of the wall is above ground, outside air can be drawn in through cracks and gaps where the house framing sits on top of the foundation. This perimeter framing is called the rim (or band) joist. In the basement, the above floor joists end at the rim joist creating multiple cavities along the length of the wall, and many opportunities for leakage.
A properly insulated basement can save you money on heating and provide a dry, comfortable living space. In most cases, a basement with insulation installed on its exterior walls should be considered a conditioned space. Even in a house with an unconditioned basement, the basement is more connected to other living spaces than to the outside, which makes basement wall insulation preferable to ceiling insulation. (EnergySavers.Gov)
In new construction, adding insulation on the exterior of the basement walls will:
In an existing home, adding insulation to the exterior of the basement walls is impractical. Interior basement wall insulation has the following advantages:
GLOSSARY OF BASEMENT WATERPROOFING TERMS
Above-Grade Waterproofing: The prevention of a wet basement above ground level through the use of basement waterproofing products or systems that are not exposed to hydrostatic pressure.
Absolute Humidity: The amount of water vapor present in a unit volume of air.
Absorption: The accumulation of water or vapor drawn directly into the structure’s cells.
Active soils: A non-load bearing soil mass that is moving due to changing moisture levels.
Acid: As the earth around your foundation settles from capillary action, the movement may shift your foundation. Since the air pressure within your basement cannot hold against outside water pressure, the imbalance of pressure may cause your walls to shift and crack. Water absorbs into your wall bringing silt along with it. This silt has an acidic quality which reacts with the adhesive (lime) in the block. This reaction deteriorates the block making it susceptible to hydrostatic pressure which leads to structural damage.
Adobe: A brick or building material made of sun-dried earth and straw.
Aqueduct: A conduit for carrying a large volume of flowing water.
Backfill: Material used to fill in an excavation.
Backhoe: A backhoe is an excavation machine with a large bucket used for digging and backfilling around the exterior of the foundation in certain types of waterproofing processes.
Basement: One or more floors of a structure that are partially or fully below ground level.
Basement Waterproofing: The management of water seeping onto basement floors or leaking basement wall.
Bedrock: The solid rock layer under the surface of the soil.
Below Grade: Any part of the house or structure that is underground or beneath ground level.
Bleeder: A Concrete or plastic drain pipe, one of the basement waterproofing products, that is installed through the footing or foundation wall to allow transfer of water from the exterior drain tile to the interior drain tile to help prevent a wet basement.
Carbon Fiber Strips: Pieces of carbon fiber material that when bonded to a wall will not stretch. These strips, when installed correctly, will stop cracks from growing but must be used before the damage has progressed too far creating a leaking basement wall.
Capillary Action: The wick-like migration of water into the porous walls and floor into a dry basement in the same manner as water is drawn into a sponge.
Caulk: Caulking as a term has spread to the building trade, meaning the activity of closing up joints and gaps in buildings.
Check Valve: A device that permits water flow in only one direction and is commonly installed in the sump pumps discharge line.
Cinder Block: A pre-fabricated structural component constructed of concrete and cinders that is utilized to construct foundation walls, retaining walls, etc.
Cold Joint: A cold joint is the intersection between the end of one concrete pour and the beginning of a new pour. The basic rule is to try to avoid cold joints by pouring straight through until the job is finished. The cold joint is a weak area and could allow the entry of water creating a wet basement.
Clay Soil: Soil, which is composed of very fine particles, usually silicates of aluminium and/or iron and magnesium. Clay soil impedes the flow of water, meaning it absorbs water slowly and then retains it for a long time causing a wet basement. Wet clay soil is heavy and sticky, and tends to swell from the added moisture. When dry, clay soil shrinks and settles. The top layer can bake into a hard, concrete-like crust, which cracks.
Condensation: The conversion of a molecule of moisture/vapor that when exposed to something colder, decreases in size and squeezes out the denser liquid. This occurs on the cooler walls and floors and pipes in basements much the same as it does on the outside of a glass of ice water, and is always worse when the relative humidity is highest.
Cove/Wall Cove: The joint where the wall and the floor meet. This is a common area for water intrusion causing a wet basement.
Cracked Walls or Floors: Cracks can form in walls and floors for a number of reasons from settlement, expansion and contraction, water pressure and even by design. The crack is not the problem, it is only the symptom. Water entering through the crack is a problem causing a leaking basement wall and only enters when there is enough pressure to force it to penetrate the opening. Eliminate the pressure and eliminate the water to create a dry basement.
Crawl Space: A shallow unfinished space beneath the first floor or under the roof usually for access to plumbing, heating ducts and wiring. Crawl spaces should have adequate ventilation to reduce the effects of condensation and to expel stagnant air. Water pipes should be wrapped especially in unheated spaces.
Coating: A coating is a covering that is applied to an object to protect it or change its appearance. They may be applied as liquids, gases or solids. Coatings can be used to fix a leaking basement wall.
Concrete Block: Concrete masonry unit used in basement wall construction. Concrete block is commonly used in nominal 8", 10" or 12" widths and is typically 8" tall by 16" long with 2 open cells in the block. The concrete blocks are stacked with alternating vertical joints using mortar between the joints to hold the block together.
Dampness: Liquid diffused or condensed in a relatively small quantity on the walls or floor. The effects of moisture created from capillary action or condensation and can often be controlled by heating the space, having adequate ventilation, by using a properly sized dehumidifier or a combination of all the afore mentioned remedies to create a dry basement.
Damp-Proofing: An application or system that is installed when the house is built to resist water vapor or minor amounts of moisture and acts as a backup to primary waterproofing systems. Damp-proofing materials are basement waterproofing products subject to the effects of weathering and deterioration and are not effective against water pressure.
Dehumidifier: An appliance that condenses air molecules using cold temperatures which in turn “squeezes” the moisture out of the molecule into a tray which must be emptied when full. It is best to have the unit sized for your particular needs by a qualified representative at the local hardware or building supply store as an undersized unit is of little value.
Discharge Line: The pipe used to direct the water away often from a sump pump. Discharge lines should be checked periodically to insure there are no obstructions that might restrict the water flow. Long discharge lines will freeze under the right conditions and should be kept as short as possible in northern climates.
Down Spout: The pipe from the roof gutter system that, in conjunction with the leaders, directs the roof water away from the foundation.
Drain Tile: Previously made of clay and other hard materials laid end-to-end, drain tile is now commonly made of flexible, perforated polyethylene tubing and is laid near the footing level to aid in the control of a wet basement.
Drain Tile Test: A test of the function of the interior drain tile. The drain tile test is performed by flushing water into the drain tile and observing the amount of water entering the sump pump crock. A diminished water flow indicates a clogged or crushed drain tile.
Dry Well: A hole in the ground filled with gravel or rubble to help cure a wet basement by receiving drainage water and allow it to percolate away.
Efflorescence: White mineral deposits showing on face of masonry due to water leaching through the masonry to the dry surface.
Epoxy Injection: The injection of low-viscosity epoxy materials into foundation cracks of the wall. However, if continued movement or settlement occurs the epoxy will crack.
Epoxy: One of the basement waterproofing products used to repair cracks in concrete or masonry. Epoxy is a material that can be injected into wall cracks and when cured forms a very strong bond with the base material. Epoxy can be used for the structural repair of a leaking basement wall.
Expansive Soils: Soils that swell when exposed to moisture. These swelling soils typically contain clay minerals that attract and absorb water. Another category of expansive soil known as swelling bedrock contains a special type of mineral called clay stone.
Exterior Footing Drain: A tube or cylinder or box that is normally installed around the exterior perimeter of the foundation footings that collects and directs ground water away from the foundation of the house used in basement waterproofing.
Erosion: The wearing of land or soil by the action of wind, water, or ice.
Flooring: Flooring is the general term for a permanent covering of a floor. It is usually used to mean wood flooring, but it can also refer to carpets, laminate flooring, raised flooring, and linoleum.
Footing: Concrete poured into a form below the frost line and above the normal water table and allowed to cure. This then becomes the base upon which the walls are built and helps to distribute the load.
Foundation Cracks: Fractures in concrete walls or slabs generally derived from differential settlement or lateral pressures.
Foundation Movement: Is an apparent post-construction movement of a foundation system that is detectable by changes in elevation accompanied by visible signs of distress, such as drywall cracks, doors out of square in their frames, concrete cracks, etc. These changes are necessary in order to confirm that movement has occurred after the original construction was completed.
Foundation Repair: The art of underpinning or stabilizing a structure that has moved from its originally constructed design.
Foundation Settling: Vertical movement of a foundation wall due to undersigned consolidation of soils supporting the structure.
Foundation Wall: Supporting portion of a structure below the first floor construction or below grade.
Freeze-Thaw Cycle: The cycle of water freezing and later thawing and the effects it has on the material it is around or absorbed into often is a contributing factor to a wet basement.
Gap or Floating Floor: The space left in the cement, usually by the wall, to accept water from above floor level directly into the drainage system which then flows into the sump pump crock, and also to allow for expansion and contraction of the floor.
Grade: Reference to the pitch of the exterior ground surface adjacent to the building.
Ground Water: Ground water is water that has drained through surface layers of soil and rock until it reaches a layer of rock material through which it cannot pass, or can pass only very slowly. This results in the accumulation of water in the rock layers above this impermeable layer. The water is stored in gaps in the rock, or between the particles of which the rock is composed often causing a wet basement.
Heaving: Heaving is a situation where a foundation is raised higher than its normal elevation; this is due to expanding soils.
Hollow Block Foundation: Block walls that have open hollow cavities designed within the block. These cavities allow water to collect inside the walls and cause a leaking basement wall.
Horizontal Cracks: Usually associated with bowing or displacement of masonry walls that are not plumb vertically and/or horizontally.
Hydrology: Hydrology is the science of water in all its forms as related to its occurrence in streams, lakes, rivers etc. and uses, conservation, and control.
Hydraulic Cement: A basement waterproofing product sometimes referred to as “Hot Patch” because of the heat generated during its exceptionally quick curing time.
Hydrophilic: Chemical properties that draw or absorb water.
Hydrostatic Pressure: Still water pressure. Often caused by a high water table it is the pressure exerted against the foundation by various heights of water at rest. The same type of pressure you feel when you try to push a bucket into a pool of water. To some degree, this is the same pressure that allows ships to stay afloat. Hydrostatic pressure is a main cause of a wet basement.
Hydrostatic Pressure(2): Rain, melting snow, or springs will contribute to the rising of the water table. This will result in a build-up of pressure underneath the floor and against your foundation walls. This pressure after heavy rains can cause structural damage to your foundation.
Humidity: A moderate degree of wetness especially of the atmosphere. High relative humidity can result in wetness condensing on basement walls and floors, causing the growth of mold. The use of a dehumidifier and/or adequate ventilation is recommended to reduce or eliminate the effects of condensation.
Infiltration: The inadvertent leakage of water, moisture, vapor or air into the building.
Iron Bacteria: A slimy substance, orange in color, which is often mistaken for clay residue that can clog drainage systems and sump pumps. It is actually a bacterium mold that feeds on the nutrients of the flowing water.
Lateral Pressure: The pressures exerted upon a wall by surrounding soils. Excessive lateral pressure can cause a leaking basement wall.
Level: Instrument used for measuring the plane of a vertical or horizontal surface.
Membrane: A flexible elastomeric material applied to the exterior of the building.
Mildew: A type of mold where the pathogen occurs as a growth on the host's surface.
Mold Removal: The process by which mold is either physically removed or destroyed by chemical means.
Monolithic Floor: When the floor and footing are poured together and become one single unit. The walls are then built on top of the floor. This is usually evident in a block foundation when the first block is a whole block with a mortar line under it on top of the floor.
Mortar Joint: A brick being secured to another similar brick or bricks by means of mortar or grout.
Negative Hydrostatic Pressure: Pressure that is water on the opposite side of the substrate trying to push through, under pressure, which causes all other materials to fail. Floors that are below grade are susceptible to this natural force.
Palmer Valve: Storm water discharge valve typically located in the side wall of the floor drain, designed to prevent backflow of sanitary sewer into storm water system.
Pilaster: A projection of masonry or a filled cell area of masonry for the purpose of bearing concentrated loads or to stiffen the wall against lateral forces.
Plumb Line: A plumb line is a tool for measuring wall deflection consisting of a weight and string. The string is attached at the top of the wall and the weight is at the end of the string located near the floor providing a straight vertical reference line. Measurements are taken from the string to the wall to determine the amount of horizontal deflection in the wall.
Polyurethane: A basement waterproofing product that can be injected into wall cracks to prevent a leaking basement wall. Polyurethane should not be used for the structural repair of walls.
Poured Walls: Poured walls are solid concrete walls that are constructed by setting concrete wall forms, installing steel reinforcing bars and pouring concrete into the forms to create a wall.
Poured Concrete Foundations: Walls made by pouring concrete into forms, usually held together by tie-rods. When the forms are removed the tie-rods are clipped and this location often leaks because of thermal movement, the curing process and when water pressure is present.
Pressure Relief System: Below grade drainage designed and installed to reduce the effects of a wet basement due to hydrostatic pressure at a level below the basement floor.
Quick Patch: A Quick Curing, Rigid, Concrete Repair Fluid - Extremely strong 4,700 psi but still remains slightly flexible with 35% elongation.
Radon Gas: Odorless and colorless slightly radioactive gas that can seep into basements through floor or wall cracks. At certain concentrations Radon Gas is considered a health hazard.
Rust: Iron oxide that forms when exposed to oxygen and moisture.
Sealant: A material applied to exterior building joints. Sealants should be capable of withstanding continuous joint movement during all weather conditions without failing.
Seepage: Water infiltration through masonry walls or floor slab. Seepage is evidenced by damp or leaking basement wall or concrete floor and is an indication that the basement drainage system is overloaded or not functioning correctly.
Silt: Substrate particles smaller than sand and larger than clay.
Solid Block Foundation: Block walls that are completely filled with cinder of concrete and have no hollow cavities and usually leak at the mortar joints.
Spall/Spalling: The crumbling or breaking off in small pieces of concrete or masonry usually as a result of the freeze-thaw cycle or deterioration of reinforcing steel or tie-rods.
Spud Pipe: Steel pipe, 3/4" to 1" diameter that is driven into the soil around the perimeter of the building. Water is injected into the soil thru the pipe just above the elevation of the drain tile to test the function of the drain tile.
Stair Step Crack: A fracture in a brick or block wall that progresses upward along mortar joints. These cracks can be from either lateral pressures or differential settlement and can cause a leaking basement wall.
Steel Restraints: Wall reinforcing used to prevent further movement in basement walls. Steel restraints are typically composed of steel tubes placed vertically against the basement walls at 32” or 48" spacing.
Step Cracks: Cracks in masonry walls that follow the vertical and horizontal joints in the masonry in a stepped fashion. Step cracks can be due to horizontal wall deflection, foundation settlement or shrinkage of concrete masonry.
Stone Backfill: Clean crushed aggregate that has a 3/4" diameter and is used to backfill excavations. Stone backfill allows for water to migrate easily towards the drain tile located at the basement footing elevation. Additionally, stone backfill will have minimal settlement around the perimeter of the building after backfilling.
Stone Foundation: Walls made of large stones stacked on top of one another and usually held together with a mortar type substance. This type of foundation is usually older and when the mortar deteriorates it allows more water to pass between the stones and not only cause a wet basement but structural damage as well. Because the stones are not all the same size and shape, the interior side of the wall is semi-smooth but the exterior side is not, which causes complications when trying basement waterproofing from the outside.
Sump Crock: Concrete, steel or plastic basin placed below the floor slab in the lowest area of the building for collecting water from drain tile.
Tensile Strength: The ability of waterproofing products to resist being pulled or stretched apart to a point of failure.
Thermal Movement: Movement, either expansion or contraction, caused by temperature changes.
Tie-Rods: A steel rod used as a connecting member or brace to hold forms in place when pouring concrete walls that are clipped when removing the forms.
Vertical Cracks: Fractures in basement walls generally caused by differential settlement or heaving soils. Vertical cracks can cause a wet basement.
Wall Deflection: The amount of horizontal movement in a basement wall at any given location with respect to its vertical plane.
Wall Irregularities: Masonry wall corners or areas in the wall that have thickened sections.
Wall Slide: Horizontal movement of basement wall, usually occurring at the bottom section of the wall.
(Water) Vapor: A vapor (American spelling) or vapour (British Spelling) is a substance in the gas phase at a temperature lower than its critical point. This means that the vapor can be condensed to a liquid or to a solid by increasing its pressure without reducing the temperature.
(Water) Vapor pressure: the force exerted by the amount of water vapor in the air, usually measured in milli-bars.
Water Seepage: Water oozed through a porous material or soil.
Water Penetration/Infiltration: Water penetration/ infiltration is the condition where water enters the interior areas of a structure.
Water Table: The upper limit of the portion of the ground totally saturated with water. This is a major cause of below grade leakage especially through the floor, cove and lower part of the walls of the basement.
Weep Holes: Holes drilled in the lower course of hollow block walls near the footing during basement waterproofing that allow water trapped inside the cavities to escape.
The U.S. Department of Energy:
W A T E R - M A N A G E D F O U N D A T I O N S Y S T E M
Most basement water leakage is due to either bulk moisture leaks or capillary action. Bulk moisture is the flow of water through holes, cracks, and other discontinuities into the home’s basement walls. Capillary action occurs when water wicks into the cracks and pores of porous building materials, such as masonry block, concrete, or wood. These tiny cracks and pores can absorb water in any direction–even upward.
The best approaches for preventing these problems will depend on the local climate and style of construction, but the following general rules apply to most basement designs.
1. Keep all untreated wood materials away from earth contact.
2. Provide drainage, such as gutters, to conduct rainwater away from the house.
3. Slope the earth away from all sides of the house for at least 5 feet at a minimum 5% grade (3 inches in 5 feet). Establish Drainage swales to direct rainwater around the house.
4. Add a sill gasket to provide air sealing.
5. Install a protective membrane, such as caulked metal flashing or EPDM-type membrane, to serve as a capillary break that reduces wicking of water up from the masonry foundation wall This membrane can also serve as a termite shield on topof the insulation board.
6. Dampproof all below-grade portions of the foundation wall and footing to prevent the wall from absorbing ground moisture by capillary action.
7. Place a continuous drainage plane over the dampproofing or exterior insulation to channel water to the foundation drain and relieve hydrostatic pressure. Drainage plane materials include special drainage mats high-density fiberglass insulation products, and washed gravel. All drainage planes should be protected with a filter fabric to prevent dirt from clogging the intentional gaps in the drainage material.
8. Install a foundation drain directly below the drainage plane or beside the footing, not on top of the footing. This Prevents water from flowing against the seam between the footing and the foundation wall. Surround a perforated 4-inch plastic drain pipe with gravel and wrap both with filter fabric.
9. Underneath the basement’s slab floor, install a capillary break and vapor retarder, consisting of a layer of 6- to 10-mil polyethylene over at least 4 inches of gravel.
The Crawlspace is often a neglected areaof the home. Frequently we find insulation that is pulled down and contaminatedwith rodent droppings, urine, food caches, nesting materials and even rodentcorpses; ducting is chewed and nested in; vapor barriers is improperly set downor nonexistent; rotting wood litters the ground; vents are improperly installedor blocked creating ventilation problems and in some cases excessive moisturehas caused or is causing mold problems.
We remove damaged insulation, vaporbarrier, wood debris, rodent feces, dead rodents and anything else that
is preventing your crawl space from being as clean as possible. We also take all necessary precautions to ensure that the inside and outside of your home stay clean, healthy environments from the time we arrive to the time we leave. We understand that most homeowners don't enjoy going into their crawl space especially when it is in need of cleaning up.
The good news is that we do!
Many homes built on crawl space foundations in the United States suffer from poor moisture management. Some of the common symptoms of a crawl space moisture problem are:
§ Mold or moisture damage in the crawl space or living area
§ Musty odors in the living area
§ Condensation ("sweating") on air conditioning ductwork or equipment
§ Condensation on insulation, water pipes or truss plates in the crawl space
§ Buckled hardwood floors
§ High humidity in the living area
§ Insect infestations
§ Rot in wood framing members
These symptoms are most often noticed in the humid spring and summer seasons but can occur at any time of the year. Often, the heating and air conditioning contractor is the first person the residents call to deal with the problem. Typically though, the problem is not due to a failure of the air conditioning system; it results from poor moisture control in the crawl space.
For many decades, building codes and conventional wisdom have prescribed ventilation with outside air as the primary method of moisture control in crawl spaces. In the humid summer, ventilation with outside air only makes moisture problems worse. Recent research by Advanced Energy and others indicates that a new type of crawl space system, with NO vents to the outside, can provide greatly improved moisture control and significant energy savings when properly installed.
This page lists materials and information generated by Advanced Energy research projects, diagnostic investigations and collaboration with a variety of professional installers and consultants across the country. We hope this information can help you to improve your existing crawl space or to design and install a properly-closed new crawl space.
Crawl spaces as sources of mold and building dampness Crawl space foundations are cheap to build, functional in terms of providing a level foundation for flooring on sloping sites and popular as spaces to locate plumbing, ductwork and heating systems.
For more than a century, home builders in North America have built houses on crawl spaces with wall vents on the premise that these vents help dry crawl spaces. Builders have avoided building crawl spaces without these vents for fear of causing moisture problems.
While wall ventilation of crawl spaces may work in various climates during some times of the year, researchers have documented that many wall-vented crawl spaces experience serious moisture problems. Measurement of humidity in Pennsylvania shows that outside summer air has more water vapor than crawl space air. Therefore venting crawl spaces in the summer offers no potential for drying and can actually cause moisture problems such as standing water on top of plastic ground covers, water condensation on ductwork and pipes, wet insulation, and stained foundation walls due to moisture and visible mold. Crawl spaces in Pennsylvania and in regions with climate similar to Pennsylvania may be more prone to surface mold problems than crawl spaces in other states as a result of more humid weather. Wall-vented crawl spaces have been shown to stay damp with relative humidity above 70 percent for long periods of time.
When this happens, the excess moisture encourages mold to grow on wood and other organic material such as cardboard, dust and paper-faced drywall. Papers presented at the ASHRAE symposium on moisture control in crawl spaces expressed a need to document and validate the poor performance factors that are reported in existing homes.
Building mold has emerged as a major issue for the entire home building industry. The issue stems from thousands of insurance claims and lawsuits, including successful multi-million dollar settlements that identify building mold as a health problem for tenants and homeowners.
The association between conditions in the crawl space and mold species in the home environment was previously identified during indoor air quality investigations in the homes of health-impacted patients being treated at Duke University Medical Center.
A subsequent pilot study undertaken jointly by Duke University and Advanced Energy expanded the mold contamination characterization and assessment protocol. This pilot study confirmed crawl spaces as potentially important reservoirs of mold species that may be transported into livable parts of the home environment. In addition, all pilot study homes were found to have significant air leakage pathways between the crawl space and the home through duct and floor holes. These results indicate that crawl spaces may represent a more important exposure source than previously anticipated.
This study allowed for a more complete characterization of the relative risk associated with mold growth in crawl spaces. Understanding the scope of this problem, as well as the mechanism for transport of mold species, is critical to providing guidance on establishing healthier home environments.
Q. Does my crawl space have mold?
A. Yes! Mold is found on absolutely every surface.
However, the question should be: "Does my crawl space have higher mold levels than what is found in the outside air?"
When checking for mold, 10 minute air samples need to be compared to the same outside, which is considered to be the baseline. A visual inspection works, but may not be as conclusive.
Q. My sewer backed up in the crawl space. Will concrete help?
Consider that if a sewer backs up in a dirt or gravel crawl space it is impossible to effectively clean it. Even removal of the gravel or dirt will still leave residual contaminants. Sealing the crawl space with a vapor barrier and laying a 4" concrete slab floor will result in no more sewage!
Q. Won't I have water seepage and water standing on the crawl space?
To ensure a dry floor, the following must be done: preliminary waterproofing, (such as perimeter drain site, sump pump or foundation crack injection), and installation of a plastic vapor barrier between the ground and concrete.
Q. Is it messy?
A. Your home will be left as clean as when we started. Runners and plastic are laid down to protect your floors. Concrete is hand mixed and carried inside for smaller jobs or delivered to the crawl space via "small line" (4" flexible rubber hose). A concrete ready mix truck delivers the concrete to us on the street and we pump from the street through a variety of opening into the crawl space and without any damage to your driveway, landscaping or home interior.
Q. We don't have an outside vent. How do you access the crawl space with the concrete hose?
A. There are many possibilities, some of which include windows, doors, heat registers directly above the crawl space, and even dryer vent openings. Crawlspaces adjacent to the garage can be accessed by cutting a clean hole at step height through the sill and directly into the crawl space.
Q. I have foundation cracks. What should I do?
A. Most foundation cracks are a result of concrete shrinkage while the foundation is drying during construction.
Sometimes cracks occur from settling, and usually happen within the first three years of the home. Horizontal cracks may need structural repair, but most cracks are vertical and do not affect the compressive strength of the foundation. However, cracks on outside walls are subject to water seepage and should be repaired. Urethane grout injections are the best type of repair in a crawl space because crawl space cracks tend to be larger and also move. Urethane is an expanding flexible repair suitable for these characteristics.
Q. How does concrete solve radon?
A. The concrete itself does not seal off radon as it can still penetrate though this porous material. Visquene (plastic sheeting) does stop radon and is used on every job as a vapor barrier and a radon system, stopping nearly 98% of the radon from entering into this area.
Q. Some of my friends have concrete crawl spaces with water seepage problems. How do you offer such a great warranty?
A. There are many examples of poor concrete work in crawl spaces. There are no set guidelines to follow and builders have often just poured concrete over dirt to help with the sale of a home but over time outside draintile systems fail and water begins to show up on the concrete. Our drainage system is installed next to the footings in advance and will intercept the water and provide a passage way directly to the sump pit to be pumped outside. Foundations cracks are also injected to stop water seepage.
Q. Does concrete stop mice and rats from entering the home?
A. These rodents are burrowing animals and they often enter the home under footings and into the crawl space. A concrete floor is an impenetrable barricade.
Q. If I have mold, what do I do?
A. Mold requires a food source, such as wood or cellulose, and water to grow. You can't remove the wood from your house but you can control the humidity levels. Most mold cases in crawl spaces are because the exposed dirt is moist and humidity levels are high. Before trying to clean up existing mold, you must remove the humidity. Our concrete solution effectively dries the area concerned and will allow cleaning of the mold to begin. Small amounts of mold can be wiped clean with a damp cloth, whereas large contaminations require professional help.
Q. Does a vent to the outside contribute to mold growth?
A. An outside air vent will allow high humidity levels in the summer months to enter the crawl space. This humidity can condense on cold water supply lines and the ductwork of your air conditioning system. Once this occurs, the basic ingredients for mold exists, water and wood, and mold spores can grow and reproduce.
Q. How soon can I use my concrete crawl space for storage?
A. We recommend three weeks, as there will be some residual water content emitted as the concrete cures.
Q. We have plastic down and still experience bad smells emanating from that area. Will concrete help?
A. This is a very common complaint from our homeowner clientele. Some people try many products to control bad smells, including lime, charcoal, and even bleach. Plastic covers, due to their inherent leaking, sometimes aggravate the situation by keeping the ground humid and intensifying the smell. Our concrete floor system will totally encapsulate the ground and permanently eliminate the foul air from that area.
Q. My crawl space has vents to the outside; doesn't that let in cold air in the winter and hot/humid air in the summer?
A. Venting crawl spaces is an old idea that has become the standard for the entire country.
Unfortunately, venting can actually cause more damage than good. Humidity levels in the summer are extreme and when they enter the crawl space, water will condensate on air conditioning ductwork and cold water lines. This condensation will cause corrosion on the air ducts and expose the wood floors and joists to water. Mold has a much better chance to grow when these conditions exist.
Winter months are much drier, but open vents will cause the living areas, particularly tile and wooden floors, to become especially cold.
Our recommendation, once a concrete floor has been installed, is to seal off outside venting and open the forced air system of your HVAC heating system. This will provide air flow and drier conditioned air in the summer, and warm air in the winter which will subsequently rise through the floors to provide a warmer living environment. You will save money in the long run from having to battle the temperature extremes in the crawl space caused from the venting.
Q. Why do I have an exposed crawl?
A. The house was built like this because building codes allow exposed crawls. It would have been a substantial savings for the builder at the time. The building codes are from the 40s and very little thought or effort has been put into the crawl space dilemma. Our firm is working with researchers and other professionals to rectify the oversight.
Q. I'm thinking of turning my crawl into a basement; is that possible?
There are problems associated with this procedure, however. One is the expense. Reputable companies doing this type of work quote prices anywhere from $60 to $100 per square foot. That doesn't include finishing the basement. The second problem is that a serious waterproofing situation could be created from the improper join of the original footing and the new foundation. Even knee footers can create unstoppable water problems. Our recommendation is to build a nice living space as a vertical addition or build out. Create a space you can enjoy.
Q. If I ever need structural supports, can I place them on the concrete floor?
A. Yes and No
We can add depth to the areas needing support and add rebar to strengthen the concrete for the additional load. Metal screw jacks are often used for support posts.
Q. My crawl space is gravel and dry; why should I be concerned?
A. Even a gravel crawl space will increase the humidity of the air. Remember that a crawl space is just a hole in the ground and water will be attracted to that area. Gravel works well as a cover-up and to hide this condition. Gravel will also add a tremendous amount of dust in your house, especially if you have a forced air heating system.
Q. What is causing the corrosion on my HVAC system in my crawl space?
A. Water condensing on A/C ductwork during the humid summer months will cause corrosion.
Q. What is the best time of year to do this type of work?
A. Because a crawl space is indoors and more or less a conditioned air space, our crews can effectively work year round. The concrete has an ideal curing situation in a crawl space. Winter weather presents challenges with outside cleanup because of freezing water, but we can pour concrete and apply spray foam in any weather conditions.
What is vapor intrusion?
Chemicals that are spilled, dumped on the ground,or leak from an underground storage tank can seep into the soil. If the spill or leak is large enough, it can travel down through the soil and get into the groundwater When a group of chemicals known as volatile organic compounds(volatile chemicals) are released into soil or shallow groundwater, these chemicals evaporate, producing vapors that travel up through the soil. These Vapors can enter nearby homes and businesses through crawl spaces and cracks or other openings in the foundation. This process is known as vapor intrusion.When it occurs, vapor intrusion may cause unhealthy indoor air quality.
What volatile chemicals might enter my home or business through vapor intrusion?
Petroleum products and solvents are common volatile chemicals that can cause vapor intrusion.
Gasoline, diesel fuel, and home heating oil are examples of petroleum products. Examples of solvents include tetrachloroethylene (a common solvent used in the dry cleaning industry, also known as "Perc" or PCE), and trichloroethylene (a common solvent used for cleaning and degreasing, also known as TCE).
Odors are usually associated with petroleum spills or leaks. However, odors are not usually associated with solvent leaks or spills unless large amounts are released.
What is the health concern associated with volatile chemicals in indoor air?
Low levels of volatile chemicals are normally found in indoor air at a typical home or business. Vapor intrusion can add to thesetypes of chemicals but usually at very low levels.
When volatile chemical levels are high enough,people might temporarily experience headaches, nausea, and/or eye andrespiratory irritation. These symptoms usually go away when the person moves into fresh air. If people breathe low levels of these chemicals for many years,there may be a small health risk. Government agencies may take steps to reduceeven low levels of volatile chemicals in order to be cautious and protective of people’s health.
What other sources of volatile chemicals can make indoor air unhealthy?
Paints, paint strippers and thinners, glues,solvents, and air fresheners are examples of products that contain volatilechemicals that can affect indoor air quality. Dry cleaned clothing andcigarette smoke also contribute volatile chemicals to indoor air.
Volatile chemicals occur in outdoor air when theyare released from various industries and vehicles. Because buildings are notairtight, outdoor air can enter buildings and affect indoor air quality.
These sources are taken into account whenevaluating whether vapor intrusion is contributing to unhealthy indoor air.
Some steps you can take to prevent releases ofvolatile chemicals from products stored or used at your home or business:
What happens if vapor intrusion is apossible problem near my home or business?
When vapor intrusion is suspected, it should beinvestigated by the party responsible for the contamination. An investigationtypically involves testing soil, groundwater, and soil gas (air trapped betweensoil particles). This testing helps to determine if volatile chemicals mightpose an indoor air quality problem.
At many contaminated sites, volatile chemicallevels are low and are not considered a problem. Sometimes these levels insoil, groundwater, or soil gas are high enough to cause concerns about indoorair quality in nearby homes or businesses.
When a concern about indoor air quality exists,samples are often collected inside homes or businesses. The samples are neededto determine if the volatile chemical levels in buildings are making indoor airunhealthy and whether vapor intrusion might be responsible. Any air samplingplanned at your home or business requires your permission.
What happens if a vapor intrusionproblem is found?
If soil or groundwater contaminated with volatilechemicals poses a health concern, the most common solution is to install asystem that removes the chemicals before vapors enter a home or business. Thesesystems are similar to those installed in homes in regions of the country whereradon is an issue and are commonly known as soil vapor vacuum systems.
Soil vapor vacuum systems remove the volatilechemicals from the soil below the foundation by sucking the vapors out of thesoil. The vapor is moved through pipes and discharged into outdoor air. If thechemical levels are high, the vapors are treated before being discharged. Whenthese systems are needed, the party responsible for contamination usually paysfor them.
Many homeowners are familiar with wood damage caused by rot. Theysee it in structural lumber, log homes, eaves, garage doors, exterior doortrim, window casings and other wood used in construction. Current estimatesshow that replacement materials, needed to repair damage caused by rot alone,account for nearly 10 percent of U.S. annual wood production.
Blame for this destruction is sometimes incorrectly placed ontermites or other wood-destroying insects. However, there are no mud tunnels ormines in the wood such as seen with termite and other wood-destroying insects,nor is there any sawdust, which would be evident in the case of carpenter antdamage.
The key to preventing rot is to control the wood's exposure tomoisture and to employ an effective prevention and treatment program. Most wooddecay fungi grow only on wood with high moisture content, usually 20 percent orabove. Green (unseasoned) lumber is a prime target for decay fungi.
There are two main classes of wood rot. In one type, the decayedarea has a brown discoloration and a crumbly appearance. It usually breaks upinto variously-sized cubes, giving rise to the name "brown cubicalrot." Another type of rot results in a white or yellow discoloration, withthe decayed wood being "stringy" or "spongy."
Although many decay fungi may grow for long periods withoutproducing any external evidence of their presence, others produce"fruiting bodies" on the surface of decaying wood. Fruiting bodiesare usually "crusts" or shelflike "brackets" which are afew inches or so in diameter. The fruiting body of Serpula lacrimans,e.g., is a rust-brown, crust-like structure on the wood surface. It has a waxyappearance, with shallow, net-like folds or "wrinkles." The fruitingbody of Poria incrassata is also crust-like. It is white tolight buff when initially formed, but becomes brown as it ages and dries out.Small pores can be seen in the crust when it is examined with a hand lens. Gleophyllumtrabeum forms bracket-like fruiting bodies. The upper surface of thefruiting body is dull gray-brown and smooth. The lower surface has elongateopenings (pores) or split-like openings (gills). These fruiting bodies producemillions of tiny spores which may, in some cases, serve to spread the decayfungus to other areas.
Also, surface molds, "mildews," and stain fungi areoften found growing on the surface of damp wood and can be confused with decayfungi. Although these organisms may discolor the wood, they do not break downwood fibers and thus do not weaken its structure. However, these organismsindicate that moisture is present and that decay will likely proceed if awood-rotting fungus becomes established in the wood.
Life Cycle & Habits
Decay fungi are living organisms which send minute threads called"hyphae" through damp wood, taking their food from the wood as theygrow. Gradually, the wood is decomposed and its strength is lost. Such damageis often inconspicuous until its final stages, and in a few instanceshomeowners have suddenly found floors breaking through or doors falling fromtheir hinges due to wood rot. When previously dry wood is placed in contactwith moist soil, or in a location where it is subject to condensation (such asunventilated crawl space), it is likely that wood decay problems will occur.Rain leaks, faulty plumbing and leaky downspouts also are common sources ofmoisture. In some instances, water can be transported to the site of decaythrough strands or "rhizomorphs" of the decay fungi.Water-transporting strands may extend for thirty or more feet across brick,concrete or similar materials. The wood decay fungus, Serpula lacrimans,has been known to transport water up three stories to an area where decay isoccurring. Poria incrassata is also capable of transportingwater long distances. However, these fungi are exceptions to the rule. Mostwood-rotting fungi must have a direct supply of water at the site of decay.Thus the term "dry-rot," sometimes applied to decay in wood structures,is erroneous.
Repair of Decayed Buildings
First determine the source of moisture and remove it. If adequateventilation and soil drainage are provided and all contacts of untreated woodwith the soil or moist concrete or masonry are broken, decayed wood will dryout and further decay will be stopped. When making replacements, cut out atleast one foot beyond the rotten area. Avoid placing new lumber in contact withold, decayed wood. Replacement lumber should be treated before installation.Remodel to provide more ventilation and better design rather than simplyreplacing decayed lumber.
Disodium octaborate tetrahydrate or sodium borate with brand namesof Bora-Care®, Guardian®, Jecta®, Shell-Guard®, Tim-bor® and Impel® rods arelabelled for protection and treatment of wood and wood-foam compositestructural components against decay fungi and wood destroying insects. Forexample, remedial control of organisms attacking wood, apply a 15 percent ortwo applications of 10 percent aqueous solution of Tim-bor® 98 percent(1-lb/gallon solution) or Bora-Care® diluted 1:1 or 2:1 with water. Thesolution may be applied by brush or spray until the surface is thoroughlywetted (approximately five gallons per 1,000 square foot). An application mayalso be made by drilling, and then injecting the solution directly into theinfested area. Inject a sufficient amount of solution to cause runoff from exitholes drilled into the infested wood.
Also one may apply Tim-bor® dust to infested wood by drill andinjection directly into galleries (a passage or tunnel made in wood by aninsect); or dust wood surfaces and wall voids at a rate of two to three poundsper 100 square foot.
Shell-Guard® and Guardian® are labeled for protection andtreatment against decay fungi and wood destroying insects. These two productsare formulated with propylene and polyethylene glycols, making them doubly safeto use. Since these products are borate based, the protection is permanentafter application. Guardian® is the highest concentration available in aformulated borate product. It can be directly injected into holes to providefast penetration into problem areas. Rapid diffusion is assured by theformulated carriers. Holes can be sealed to match the original finish of thewood.
Shellguard® is a liquid, labeled for topical application. Becauseof its concentration, multiple applications are unnecessary. Like Guardian®,one application is all that is required. Both of these products are labeled forhome use, and can be easily and safely applied by the homeowner.
Another formulation known as Impel rods is molded from highlyconcentrated water-diffusible boron into a solid tube resembling glass inappearance. These rods are internationally recognized as an effectivepreservative and deterrent to rot. Unlike fumigants and sprayed or brushed onpreservatives, Impel Rods are inserted through small holes strategicallydrilled into wood where signs of rot are evident or in high-risk, rot-proneareas. The holes are sealed and may be finished to match the wood's originalappearance. Rods are odorless, EPA registered, do not stain wood and areavailable in various sizes to fit virtually any application from heavy timbersand posts to millwork and door frames. However, where damage threatens thestructure integrity of wood, the wood should be replaced.
Whenever the moisture content of wood is high enough to sustainrot, Impel Rods® slowly dissolve, spreading the active borate protection intothe area surrounding the rod. When the wood dries, the preservative remains inthe wood. As the cycle is repeated, the preservative builds up as an effectivedeterrent to rot.
In the past, pentachlorophenol (Penta®) and copper naphthenate wasused as a stop gap measure. (These chemicals had offensive smells and were notenvironmentally safe.) Now with a growing environmental concern, variousformulations of sodium borate do not pose a serious threat. A key valve is theabsence of offensive smells sometimes associated with other common treatmentmethods. Also, existing moisture in the wood enhances chemical penetration.
What is carbon monoxide?
Carbon monoxide, or CO, is a poisonous gas thatcannot be seen or smelled and can kill a person in minutes. Carbon monoxide canquickly build up to unsafe levels in enclosed or semi-enclosed areas.
What are some common sources of carbonmonoxide?
Carbon monoxide is produced by incompletecombustion from cars and trucks, small gasoline power equipment like weedtrimmers and chain saws, boat engines, gas and camp stoves, lanterns, burningcharcoal and wood, and gas ranges, ovens, or furnaces. Tobacco smoke is asignificant source of carbon monoxide in homes with smokers.
What are the symptoms of carbonmonoxide poisoning?
Common symptoms are headache, dizziness, fatigue,weakness, confusion, and nausea. Breathing in high levels of carbon monoxidecan cause loss of consciousness and death. People who are sleeping can die fromcarbon monoxide poisoning before ever knowing they are being exposed to thegas.
Who is at risk from carbon monoxidepoisoning?
All people and animals are at risk for carbonmonoxide poisoning. Certain groups, such as unborn babies, infants, and peoplewith chronic heart disease, anemia, or respiratory problems, are more easilyaffected by carbon monoxide poisoning.
What should be done if you suspectsomeone has carbon monoxide poisoning?
Should a carbon monoxide detector beinstalled in my home?
Yes, these detectors are similar to smoke alarmsand can warn you when carbon monoxide levels become unsafe. If the alarm goesoff, evacuate the building and call 911. Follow the carbon monoxide detectorinstructions for routine maintenance, including regular replacement ofbatteries. If the carbon monoxide detector is wired to the electrical supply,make sure it has back-up batteries for when the electricity is off.
How do I prevent carbon monoxidepoisoning during a power outage?
How can I prevent carbon monoxidepoisoning from vehicles and other equipment?
How can I prevent carbon monoxide poisoningfrom my home appliances?
About Healthy Housing
A healthy home is comfortable and safe, and any contaminants in the air and on surfaces are below levels that could harm the occupants. You could have many kinds of mineral, chemical, or biological contaminants in your house from many sources. We will discuss here only potential contaminants in indoor air. We will not discuss contaminants in other forms that can make a house less healthy, such as lead in paint, pollutants in drinking water, outdoor air pollutants, poor lighting, poor ventilation, or noise but that does not mean these are not important.
Note: The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) offers a web site with a broad range of healthy home information. The topics we cover here are generally included on the CDC web site, within their topic of Indoor Air Quality (IAQ). Their site also has information on rodents, fire hazards, medicines, chemicals, pesticides, drowning, and electrical hazards.
Additional information on Healthy Homes is available from the National Center for Healthy Housing.
What is asbestos?
Asbestos, a naturally occurring mineral fiber, wasonce widely used in building materials and products to strengthen them andprovide heat insulation and fire resistance. It is still used in some productstoday. When it is intact and undisturbed, asbestos-containing materialsgenerally do not pose a health risk. If asbestos-containing materials aredamaged, disturbed, or deteriorate over time, there is a health risk becausethe microscopic fibers can be inhaled into the lungs.
How can asbestos affect my health?
Breathing asbestos fibers can lead to an increasedrisk of three types of disease - lung cancer, mesothelioma, and asbestosis.Symptoms of these diseases do not usually appear until 20 to 30 years after thefirst exposure to asbestos.
Most people exposed to small amounts of asbestos,as we all are in our daily lives, don't develop serious health problems. If youare concerned about possible exposure to asbestos, contact your healthcare provider.
Where asbestos could be found in myhome?
While most products made today don't containasbestos, there are many which still might. Testing may be the only way to knowif a product contains asbestos. The following are examples of where asbestoshazards may be found in the home.
How do I identify materials thatcontain asbestos?
Unless it is labeled, you can't tell whethermaterial contains asbestos simply by looking at it. If in doubt, treat thematerial as if it contains asbestos or have it sampled and analyzed by aqualified professional. Taking samples yourself is not recommended. Aprofessional should take samples for analysis, since a professional knows whatto look for, and because there may be an increased health risk if fibers arereleased. If done incorrectly, sampling can be more hazardous than leaving thematerial alone. Material that is in good condition and will not be disturbed(by remodeling, for example) should be left alone. Only material that isdamaged or will be disturbed should be sampled.
What should be done about asbestos inmy home?
If the asbestos material is in good shape and willnot be disturbed, it's likely that nothing needs to be done. Monitor thematerial for deterioration and prevent the material from getting damaged ordisturbed. If asbestos material is more than slightly damaged, or if you aregoing to make changes in your home that might disturb it, repair or removal bya professional is recommended.
Repair usually involves either sealingor covering asbestos material.
Removal may be required when remodelingor making major changes to your home, or when asbestos material is damaged andcannot be repaired. Removal is usually more expensive than repair.
Federal and state laws govern asbestos removal anddisposal.
Can I clean up the asbestos myself?
If you are the homeowner and the home is not usedfor commercial purposes you can clean it up yourself. You must follow federaland state laws. The Department of Ecology administers the Asbestos NationalEmissions Standards for Hazardous Air Pollutants (NESHAP) and requiresnotification before demolishing or renovating facilities with asbestoscontaining materials. In areas of the state with a Clean Air Agency, theresponsibility is delegated to them.
Before beginning any demolition or remodel project,you must check for asbestos and follow the specific guidelines for properlyidentifying, handling, removing, and disposing of any asbestos that might bedisturbed.
Pests can damage plants and trees in gardens or damage homes or other structures. They can also impact the health of people and their pets. Pests may spread pathogens that can cause serious, life-altering,and even fatal disease. Some diseases transmitted by pests include West Nile virus spread by mosquitoes, Lyme disease by ticks, and hantavirus by deer mice.Other pests bite or sting triggering allergic reactions, which for some people can be life-threatening. Learn how to control and prevent health risks associated with the following pests.
Deer and horse flies are well known for buzzing relentlessly around their target, landing stealthily on exposed skin, and delivering a painful bite. Their bite can itch for days and scratching may lead to infection. These flies are active during the day and are especially common around ponds, streams, marshes, and lakes. They are capable of transmitting tularemia to people, a bacterial disease that flies can pick up from wild animals. In addition, for some people bites can cause severe allergic reactions.
To prevent fly bites:
A fly bites injecting saliva into the skin. It isthis saliva that causes reactions such as localized swelling, itchiness, andmild redness at the bite site. In sensitive individuals, the fly's salvia cantrigger life-threatening allergic reactions.
Call 9-1-1 if any of these signs occur:
Suspecting you may have termites can bealarming. But if you know the signs of a termite infestation, the faster you'llbe able to rid your home of these unwanted pests.
New termite infestations begin whenwinged termites swarm from their nests in early spring in search of a newcolony. These termites eventually lose their wings, pair up with a mate andbegin digging in the soil for a new home. Most winged termites cannot surviveindoors, but if you do find one inside, chances are high that non-wingedtermites are invading your home.
The3 Most Common Signs of a Termite Infestation
Sign #1: Winged Termite Sighting
Winged termites are attracted to light, so you'll often find them near indooror outdoor light fixtures, or clinging to screens or windows. They may alsoemerge from the base of foundation walls, porches or patios, particularly ifwood is present. Winged termites are most active during the months of March toMay, and closely resemble flying ants. If you see a winged termite in yourhome, call for termite treatment services immediately.
Sign #2: Earthen Tubes
If your infestation has progressed to include a colony of feeding active termites;mud tubes will often appear on the sides of foundations walls and supportstructures to your home. You may also find them in the crevices of concretehomes, in ceilings along the contours of a room, or in open spaces where theyhave no other direct path to their food source the wood in your home. Thesetubes are roughly a centimeter or two in diameter and consist mostly of driedmud and termite droppings. Destroying them will not eliminate the termites fromyour home, and finding one empty usually means the termites are simply foragingin another part of the tube, or have vacated it for another part of your home.It's best to call a termite control professional at this point.
Sign #3: Wood Destruction
The third and most common sign of termite infestations is wood damage. Termiteswill hollow out wood along the grain leaving small particles of mud or soil inthe feeding gallery. The wood will be rippled and appear sunken in places, evenif the outer surface appears untouched. This wood will be weak and may be easyto ply away or break through.
Termites can also feed undetected onyour home for years, making periodic inspections a vital step in ensuring yourhome's health. Call Us today for your FREE home inspection and quote.
Susan C. Jones, Ph.D.,
Assistant Professor of Entomology
Extension Specialist, Household & Structural Pests
Bed bugs are parasites that preferentially feed on humans. Ifpeople aren't available, they instead will feed on other warm-blooded animals,including birds, rodents, bats, and pets.
Bed bugs have been documented as pests since the 17th century.They were introduced into our country by the early colonists. Bed bugs werecommon in the United States prior to World War II, after which time widespreaduse of synthetic insecticides such as DDT greatly reduced their numbers.Improvements in household and personal cleanliness as well as increasedregulation of the used furniture market also likely contributed to theirreduced pest status.
In the past decade, bed bugs have begun making a comeback acrossthe United States, although they are not considered to be a major pest. Thewidespread use of baits rather than insecticide sprays for ant and cockroachcontrol is a factor that has been implicated in their return. Bed bugs areblood feeders that do not feed on ant and cockroach baits.
International traveland commerce are thought to facilitate the spread of these insect hitchhikers,because eggs, young, and adult bed bugs are readily transported in luggage,clothing, bedding, and furniture. Bed bugs can infest airplanes, ships, trains,and buses. Bed bugs are most frequently found in dwellings with a high rate ofoccupant turnover, such as hotels, motels, hostels, dormitories, shelters,apartment complexes, tenements, and prisons. Such infestations usually are nota reflection of poor hygiene or bad housekeeping.
Bed bugs are fairly cosmopolitan. Cimex lectularius ismost frequently found in the northern temperate climates of North America,Europe, and Central Asia, although it occurs sporadically in southern temperateregions. The tropical bed bug, C. hemipterus, is adapted forsemitropical to tropical climates and is widespread in the warmer areas ofAfrica, Asia, and the tropics of North America and South America. In the UnitedStates, C. hemipterus occurs in Florida.
Adult bed bugs are brown to reddish-brown, oval-shaped, flattened,and about 3/16 to 1/5 inch long. Their flat shape enables them to readily hidein cracks and crevices. The body becomes more elongate, swollen, and dark redafter a blood meal. Bed bugs have a beaklike piercing-sucking mouthpart system.The adults have small, stubby, nonfunctional wing pads. Newly hatched nymphsare nearly colorless, becoming brownish as they mature. Nymphs have the generalappearance of adults. Eggs are white and about 1/32 inch long.
Bed bugs superficially resemble a number of closely relatedinsects (family Cimicidae), such as bat bugs (Cimex adjunctus), chimneyswift bugs (Cimexopsis spp.), and swallow bugs (Oeciacus spp.).A microscope is needed to examine the insect for distinguishingcharacteristics, which often requires the skills of an entomologist. In Ohio,bat bugs are far more common than bed bugs.
Female bed bugs lay from one to twelve eggs per day, and the eggsare deposited on rough surfaces or in crack and crevices. The eggs are coatedwith a sticky substance so they adhere to the substrate. Eggs hatch in 6 to 17days, and nymphs can immediately begin to feed. They require a blood meal inorder to molt. Bed bugs reach maturity after five molts. Developmental time(egg to adult) is affected by temperature and takes about 21 days at 86° F to120 days at 65° F. The nymphal period is greatly prolonged when food is scarce.Nymphs and adults can live for several months without food. The adult'slifespan may encompass 12-18 months. Three or more generations can occur eachyear.
Bed bugs are fast moving insects that are nocturnal blood-feeders.They feed mostly at night when their host is asleep. After using their sharpbeak to pierce the skin of a host, they inject a salivary fluid containing ananticoagulant that helps them obtain blood. Nymphs may become engorged withblood within three minutes, whereas a full-grown bed bug usually feeds for tento fifteen minutes. They then crawl away to a hiding place to digest the meal.When hungry, bed bugs again search for a host.
Bed bugs hide during the day in dark, protected sites. They seemto prefer fabric, wood, and paper surfaces. They usually occur in fairly closeproximity to the host, although they can travel far distances. Bed bugsinitially can be found about tufts, seams, and folds of mattresses, laterspreading to crevices in the bedstead. In heavier infestations, they also mayoccupy hiding places farther from the bed. They may hide in window and doorframes, electrical boxes, floor cracks, baseboards, furniture, and under thetack board of wall-to-wall carpeting. Bed bugs often crawl upward to hide inpictures, wall hangings, drapery pleats, loosened wallpaper, cracks in plaster,and ceiling moldings.
The bite is painless. The salivary fluid injected by bed bugstypically causes the skin to become irritated and inflamed, althoughindividuals can differ in their sensitivity. A small, hard, swollen, white weltmay develop at the site of each bite. This is accompanied by severe itchingthat lasts for several hours to days. Scratching may cause the welts to becomeinfected. The amount of blood loss due to bed bug feeding typically does notadversely affect the host.
Rows of three or so welts on exposed skin are characteristic signsof bed bugs. Welts do not have a red spot in the center such as ischaracteristic of flea bites.
Some individuals respond to bed bug infestations with anxiety,stress, and insomnia. Bed bugs are not known to transmit disease.
A bed bug infestation can be recognized by blood stains fromcrushed bugs or by rusty (sometimes dark) spots of excrement on sheets andmattresses, bed clothes, and walls. Fecal spots, eggshells, and shed skins maybe found in the vicinity of their hiding places. An offensive, sweet, mustyodor from their scent glands may be detected when bed bug infestations aresevere.
A critical first step is to correctly identify the blood-feedingpest, as this determines which management tactics to adopt that take intoaccount specific bug biology and habits. For example, if the blood-feeder is abat bug rather than a bed bug, a different management approach is needed.
Control of bed bugs is best achieved by following an integratedpest management (IPM) approach that involves multiple tactics, such aspreventive measures, sanitation, and chemicals applied to targeted sites.Severe infestations usually are best handled by a licensed pest managementprofessional.
Do not bring infested items into one's home. It is important tocarefully inspect clothing and baggage of travelers, being on the lookout forbed bugs and their tell-tale fecal spots. Also, inspect secondhand beds,bedding, and furniture. Caulk cracks and crevices in the building exterior andalso repair or screen openings to exclude birds, bats, and rodents that canserve as alternate hosts for bed bugs.
A thorough inspection of the premises to locate bed bugs and theirharborage sites is necessary so that cleaning efforts and insecticidetreatments can be focused. Inspection efforts should concentrate on themattress, box springs, and bed frame, as well as crack and crevices that thebed bugs may hide in during the day or when digesting a blood meal. The lattersites include window and door frames, floor cracks, carpet tack boards,baseboards, electrical boxes, furniture, pictures, wall hangings, drapery pleats,loosened wallpaper, cracks in plaster, and ceiling moldings. Determine whetherbirds or rodents are nesting on or near the house.
In hotels, apartments, and other multiple-type dwellings, it isadvisable to also inspect adjoining units since bed bugs can travel longdistances.
Sanitation measures include frequently vacuuming the mattress andpremises, laundering bedding and clothing in hot water, and cleaning andsanitizing dwellings. After vacuuming, immediately place the vacuum cleaner bagin a plastic bag, seal tightly, and discard in a container outdoors-thisprevents captured bed bugs from escaping into the home. A stiff brush can beused to scrub the mattress seams to dislodge bed bugs and eggs. Discarding themattress is another option, although a new mattress can quickly become infestedif bed bugs are still on the premises. Steam cleaning of mattresses generallyis not recommended because it is difficult to get rid of excess moisture, whichcan lead to problems with mold, mildew, house dust mites, etc.
Repair cracks in plaster and glue down loosened wallpaper toeliminate bed bug harborage sites. Remove and destroy wild animal roosts andnests when possible.
After the mattress is vacuumed or scrubbed, it can be enclosed ina zippered mattress cover such as that used for house dust mites. Any bed bugsremaining on the mattress will be trapped inside the cover. Leave the cover inplace for a year or so since bed bugs can live for a long time without a bloodmeal.
Sticky traps or glue boards may be used to capture bed bugs thatwander about. However, the effectiveness of these traps is not well documented.
Residual insecticides (usually pyrethroids) are applied as spottreatments to cracks and crevices where bed bugs are hiding. Increasedpenetration of the insecticide into cracks and crevices can be achieved ifaccumulated dirt and debris are first removed using a vacuum cleaner. Avoid Using highly repellent formulations, which cause bed bugs to scatter to manyplaces. Dust formulations may be used to treat wall voids and attics. Repeatinsecticide applications if bed bugs are present two weeks after the initialtreatment since it is difficult to find all hiding places and hidden eggs mayhave hatched.
Do not use any insecticide on a mattress unless the product labelspecifically mentions such use. Note that very few insecticides are labeled foruse on mattresses. If using an appropriately labeled insecticide on a mattress,take measures to minimize pesticide exposure to occupants. Apply theinsecticide as a light mist to the entire mattress, opening seams, tufts, andfolds to allow the chemical to penetrate into these hiding areas. Allow thetreated surface to completely dry before use. Do not sleep directly on atreated mattress; be sure bed linens are in place. Do not treat mattresses ofinfants or ill people. Alternatives to using an insecticide on a mattress arediscussed in the 'Sanitation' and 'Trapping' sections.
No insecticides are labeled for use on bedding or linens. Theseitems should be dry cleaned or laundered in hot water and dried using the"hot" setting.
Susan C. Jones, Ph.D.
Assistant Professor of Entomology
Extension Specialist, Household & Structural Pests
Subterranean termitesare the most common and economically important wood-destroying organisms in theUnited States. Termites feed on materials that contain cellulose, primarilydead wood and wood by-products. Subterranean termites are closely associatedwith the soil habitat where they excavate a network of tunnels through the soilto reach water and food. These termites need moisture to survive.
Subterranean termitesare social insects that live in colonies that may contain hundreds of thousandsof individuals. Termite colony members are dispersed throughout the soil andcan extend underground tunnels tens to hundreds of feet to reach feeding sites.
Each termite colonycontains three forms or castes, which are the workers, soldiers, andreproductives. These castes are physically distinct and perform different tasksin the termite society.
Workers are about 1/8inch long and are blind, wingless, soft-bodied, creamy white to grayish-whitewith a round head. Workers are the most numerous individuals in a termitecolony, and they are the termite caste that actually eats the wood. Thesesterile individuals forage for food and water, construct and repair sheltertubes, feed and groom other termites, care for eggs and young, and participatein colony defense.
Soldiers are alsowingless and resemble workers except that they have a large, rectangular,yellowish-brown head with large mandibles (jaws). The soldiers’ primaryfunction is colony defense.
Male and femalereproductives can be winged (primary) or wingless (neotenic). Each can producenew offspring. Winged primary reproductives are called alates or swarmers.However, they shed their wings soon after flight. Their body color varies byspecies from black to yellow-brown. The eastern subterranean termite, Reticulitermesflavipes, is the most common termite in Ohio and its alates are black andabout 0.4 inch long, with pale or grayish, translucent wings. A pair of primaryreproductives that heads a colony is called the king and queen. Neotenicreproductives often serve as replacements if something happens to the king andqueen. Neotenic reproductives are generally yellow or mottled black and thefemale’s abdomen may be distended due to developing eggs.
Detection of Termites
It is important for homeowners to recognize the signs of asubterranean termite infestation. Subterranean termites may be detected by thesudden emergence of winged termites (alates or swarmers), or by the presence ofmud tubes and wood damage.
Large numbers of wingedtermites swarming from wood or the soil often are the first obvious sign of anearby termite colony. Swarming occurs in mature colonies that typicallycontain at least several thousand termites. A "swarm" is a group of adultmale and female reproductives that leave their colony in an attempt to pair andinitiate new colonies.
Alate emergence isstimulated when temperature and moisture conditions are favorable, usually onwarm days following rainfall. In Ohio, swarming typically occurs during daytimein the spring (March, April, and May), but swarms can occur indoors duringother months. However, swarming occurs during a brief period (typically lessthan an hour), and alates quickly shed their wings. Winged termites areattracted to light, and their shed wings in window sills, cobwebs, or on othersurfaces often may be the only evidence that a swarm occurred indoors. Thepresence of winged termites or their shed wings inside a home should be awarning of a termite infestation.
Termite swarmers havestraight, bead-like antennae; a thick waist; and two pair of long, equal-lengthwings that break off easily. Winged termites can be differentiated from wingedants, which have elbowed antennae, a constricted waist, and two pair of unequal-lengthwings (forewings are larger than hind wings) that are not easily detached. Antsalso generally are harder-bodied than termites.
Other signs of termitepresence include mud tubes and mud protruding from cracks between boards andbeams. Subterranean termites transport soil and water above ground to constructearthen runways (shelter tubes) that allow them to tunnel across exposed areasto reach wood. Shelter tubes protect them from the drying effects of air andfrom natural enemies, such as ants. These tubes usually are about 1/4 to 1 inchwide, and termites use them as passageways between the soil and wood. Todetermine if an infestation is active, shelter tubes should be broken orscraped away and then monitored to determine whether the termites repair themor construct new ones. Houses should be inspected annually for mud tubes.
Termite damage to thewood’s surface often is not evident because termites excavate galleries withinmaterials as they feed. Wood attacked by subterranean termites generally has ahoneycombed appearance because termites feed along the grain on the softerspring growth wood. Their excavations in wood often are packed with soil, andfecal spotting is evident. When inspecting for termites, it is useful to probewood with a knife or flat blade screwdriver to detect areas that have beenhollowed. Severely damaged wood may have a hollow sound when it is tapped.Subterranean termites do not reduce wood to a powdery mass, and they do notcreate wood particles or pellets, as do many other wood-boring insects.
Preventive practices area critical aspect of termite management. Prevention of subterranean termiteinfestation of wooden structures centers upon disrupting their ability tolocate moisture, food (wood), and shelter.
Avoid moistureaccumulation near the foundation, which provides water needed for termitesurvival. Divert water away from the foundation with properly functioningdownspouts, gutters, and splash blocks. Soil needs to be graded or sloped awayfrom the foundation in order for surface water to drain away from the building.
Cellulose (wood, mulch,paper, etc.) that is in contact with soil provides termites with ready andunobservable access to food. It is very important to eliminate any contactbetween the wooden parts of the house foundation and the soil. Maintain atleast 6 inches between the soil and porch steps, latticework door or windowframes, etc. Never stack or store firewood, lumber, newspapers, or other woodproducts against the foundation or within the crawl space. Prevent trellises,vines, etc. from touching the house. Before and during construction, never burywood scraps or waste lumber in the backfill, especially near the building. Besure to remove wooden or celotex form boards, grade stakes, etc. used duringconstruction. Remove old tree stumps and roots around and beneath the building.Avoid or minimize use of wood mulch next to the foundation.
Termitesfeed slowly so there is no need to panic if they are discovered in one’s home.A few weeks or months may be needed to decide on a course of treatment, whichtypically requires employing a professional pest management firm. Homeownersseldom have the experience, availability of pesticides, and equipment needed toperform the job effectively. Consider getting at least three estimates beforesigning a contract for control measures, and be cautious of price quotes thatare substantially lower or higher than the others. Prices for inspection,treatment estimates, and conditions of warranties often vary considerably. Aguarantee is no better than the firm who presents it. It is important to takeyour time to select a reputable pest management firm. Deal only with licensed,certified pest management firms having an established place of business and agood professional reputation.
Conventional soiltreatments rely on creating a chemical barrier in the soil that is toxic totermites contacting it. Many also have repellent characteristics and termitesavoid treated soil. To achieve termite control for long periods of time, suchtermiticides must be applied as a continuous barrier in the soil next to andunder the foundation. If there are untreated gaps in the soil, termites maycircumvent the chemical treatment. Hence, such treatments duringpreconstruction can provide for more uniform coverage. Once a home isconstructed, the chemical has to be injected through drill holes and trenchingaround the foundation, which can result in less accurate coverage. Effectivetermite control usually requires specialized equipment and often 150 or moregallons of prepared termiticide solution per house, depending on size,basement, etc.
Termiticides that act bycreating a chemical barrier in the soil include bifenthrin (Talstar®), cypermethrin(Demon®, Prevail®), and permethrin (Dragnet®, Prelude®). Chlorpyrifos(Dursban®) can be used only during preconstruction and only until December 31,2005.
In reference to"spot treatments only" using chemical barrier termiticides only inareas of the house where termites are seen, most pest management firms willrefuse such treatments or will not guarantee such treatments. The reason isthat termites have a very high probability of finding other untreated points ofentry into the structure. Localized spot treatments are considered risky exceptin re-treatment situations.
The most recenttermiticides to be marketed are non-repellent to termites, but show delayedtoxicity as termites forage through treated soil, which they do not avoid. Astermites penetrate the "treated zone," they contact the activeingredient, which causes delayed mortality and also possibly allows thetermites to be overcome by lethal microbes. Furthermore, the toxicant isthought to be passed to nestmates through grooming activities and social foodexchange (trophallaxis). Control usually is achieved within 3 months. As withsoil barrier termiticides, specialized application equipment and large volumesof chemical solution are needed.
Non-repellent termiticidesinclude fipronil (Termidor®), imidacloprid (Premise®), and chlorfenapyr(Phantom®).
Bait technology useswood or a cellulose matrix favored by termites that is impregnated with aslow-acting toxic chemical. Termite workers feed upon the bait and transfer itby grooming or trophallaxis to other colony members, eventually reducing oreliminating the entire colony. Termites are not site-specific, but rather, theyforage among various food sites, which results in the bait being encountered bymany colony members. The toxicant necessarily is slow acting because termitestend to avoid sites where sick and dead termites accumulate.
Typically, in-groundstations are inserted in the soil next to the structure and near known orsuspected sites of termite activity. In-ground stations often initially containuntreated wood that serves as a monitoring device. The monitoring wood isreplaced with the toxicant once termites have been detected feeding on it. Inaddition, aboveground stations may be installed inside or on the structure inthe vicinity of damaged wood and shelter tubes. Aboveground stations initiallycontain bait.
It is very importantthat bait systems are properly installed and diligently serviced. Monthlyinspections of a baiting system usually are necessary, except during inclementwinter weather. Successful termite baiting necessitates propermonitoring and maintenance of the stations.
Baits work much moreslowly than soil termiticides, and the homeowner should be aware of thepossibility of a lengthy baiting process. Several months or more may elapsebefore the termites locate stations, then termites must feed on sufficientamounts of the toxicant.
An often-cited advantageof termite baits is that they are "environmentally-friendly" becausethey use very small quantities of chemical and decrease the potential forenvironmental contamination. In addition, bait application causes littledisruptive noise and disturbance compared to soil treatments. Furthermore,baits can be used in structures with wells or cisterns, sub-slab heating ducts,and other features that may preclude a soil treatment. Baits are often used insensitive environments.
A number of baits havebeen marketed to control termites. Bait products that are available forlicensed pest management professionals include the Sentricon® Termite Colony EliminationSystem (hexaflumuron [Recruit® II bait] or noviflumuron [Recruit® III bait]),FirstLine® Termite Defense System (sulfluramid), Exterra® Termite Interceptionand Baiting System (diflubenzuron [Labyrinth® bait]), Subterfuge® Termite Bait(hydramethylnon), and Outpost® Termite Bait Response (diflubenzuron). Not allof these bait systems are equally effective. It is advisable to review theindependent research that has been conducted on a particular bait, as someproducts have been evaluated much more rigorously than others.
Spectracide Terminate®(sulfluramid) and Termirid® 613 (borate) can be purchased by homeowners.However, Terminate® is not recommended as sole protection against termites, and an active infestation should be treated by a professional. Termirid® can be used to reduce subterranean termite populations. Little or no research has been conducted to verify the effectiveness of these products, particularly when used by homeowners.
Some alternate termite controls include:
Borates (disodiumoctaborate tetrahydrate [Tim-bor®, Bora-Care®, Jecta®], Impel®) andpressure-treatments (creosote, chromated copper arsenate [CCA]) protect woodagainst termites and wood-decay fungi. However, even creosote-treated railroadties and telephone poles, and CCA-treated wood, over time, can be subject totermite attack. Termites can build mud tubes over treated surfaces.Furthermore, they can gain entry through cut and cracked ends or areas wherethe chemical has not sufficiently penetrated.
Wood treatments areprimarily used to supplement other termite control measures, because termitesare able to attack untreated wood in other areas of the structure. It isadvisable to use pressure-treated wood in situations where wood is in directcontact with soil or exposed to rainfall. Borates are fairly soluble in water,so borate-treated wood should be protected from constant rewetting.
Borates may be appliedto wood by homeowners. As of 1 January 2004, CCA-treated wood is no longeravailable for use in most residential settings because of concerns regardingits arsenic content.
Physical barriers areparticularly appropriate during the preconstruction phase to provide protectionof the structure from subterranean termites. One such physical barrier isstainless-steel wire mesh (TermiMesh®) that is fitted around pipes, posts, orfoundations. The newest physical barrier, Impasse® Termite System, contains aliquid termiticide (lambda-cyhalothrin) locked in between two layers of heavyplastic that is installed before the concrete slab is poured. It issupplemented with Impasse® Termite Blocker, which uses special fittings aroundplumbing and electrical pipes and conduits.
Biological Control Agents
Certain species of parasitic round worms (nematodes) will infest and kill termites and other soil insects. They have been promoted and marketed by a few companies. Although effective in the laboratory, control is often quite variable under field conditions Limited success with nematode treatments may be attributed to the ability of termites to recognize and wall-off infected individuals, hence limiting the spread of nematodes throughout the colony. Furthermore, soil moisture and soil type appear to limit the nematode’s ability to move in the soil and locate termites.
A fungus Metarhiziumanisopliae (Bio-Blast®) is a biological termiticide that requires special application and handling techniques. It is labeled for above ground application to termite infestations in structures, but it is not labeled for application to the soil. Spray effectiveness is enhanced when applied to many foraging termites because infected termites can pass the fungus to nestmates.However, it is difficult to infect a large enough number of termites for the infection to spread throughout the colony. Furthermore, it provides no long-lasting residual activity, and the fungal spores die with the deadtermites. Insufficient research has been conducted to indicate whether this isan effective method for controlling termites.
Rodents such as mice and rats can carry harmfuldiseases. Diseases from rodents can be spread to people through bite wounds,consuming contaminated food or water, or inhaling germs that may be present inrodent urine or droppings that have been stirred into the air. People can alsoget diseases from rodent ticks, mites, and fleas.
Don't Attract Rodents
The best way to prevent a rodent infestation is toremove their sources of food, water, and shelter.
Seal Up Your Home
Seal all gaps and holes into your home oroutbuildings. Mice can squeeze through openings as small as a quarter of aninch. Fill small holes with steel wool and caulk. Use lath screen or metal,cement, hardware cloth, or metal sheeting to fix large holes. These materialsare available at hardware stores. The following areas should be inspected forgaps:
Snap traps are an inexpensive and effective way tocontrol mice and rats. Rats can be very cautious and it may take several daysbefore they approach the traps. Mice are less cautious and you're likely tocatch one or more of them the first night you set the traps. Read theinstructions carefully before setting the snap trap and follow these tips:
Snap traps are preferred over glue or live trapsbecause those traps keep the rodent alive, which allows them to continue tourinate and defecate. The urine and feces may contain germs which couldincrease your risk of being exposed to diseases. Poison baits can beproblematic because the rodent can die in a spot that can't be reached (insidea wall), causing a bad smell. Poison baits, if left in accessible areas, canalso be eaten by pets or attract the attention of young children. Electronicrodent traps, which deliver a high-voltage shock killing the rodent, are a goodalternative to the basic snap traps if you're willing to spend a little moremoney. For those unwilling to do their own rodent trapping or if the rodent infestationis severe, contact a professional pest control company.
Clean Up AfterRodents
Properly cleaning up rodent-contaminated areas canhelp prevent hantavirus pulmonary syndrome, a rare, but potentially fatalrespiratory disease that people can get after inhaling dust contaminated withrodent urine or droppings. Follow these tips to properly clean up arodent-contaminated area:
Carpets, Furniture, Clothing, andNon-washables
Shampoo carpets, rugs, and upholstered furniturewith a commercial disinfectant or use a commercial-grade steam cleaner. Placecontaminated clothing, bedding, and stuffed animals into the washing machinewith hot water and detergent. Use the high heat setting on the dryer or hanglaundry to air dry in the sun. For items such as books or other non-washablesthat can't be cleaned with a liquid disinfectant or thrown away, leave themoutside in the sunlight for several hours or in an indoor area free of rodentsfor about a week. After that time, wipe the item down the best you can with amoistened cloth with disinfectant.
Heating and Cooling Ventilation AirDucts
When there is evidence that rodents have access toheating and cooling ventilation systems, it's best to contact a professionalpest control company to remove them. Companies specializing in duct cleaningare familiar with the particular problems and risks associated with rodentinfestations in ventilation systems.
Heavy Rodent Infestations
Special precautions should be used for cleaninghomes or buildings with heavy rodent infestations. Homeowners should considerhiring a professional company to clean up heavily contaminated areas.
People involved in cleaning up heavy rodentinfestations should wear the following protective equipment:
Yellow Jacket, Wasp & Hornet
The term wasp is adescription of body type and not temperament. The vast majority of wasps arevery beneficial insects. For example there are wasps that are species specificparasites and predators of some very serious pests.
Yellow jackets andbees share the same coloration but can be differentiated by the presence ofhair. Bees have hairy bodies and wasps are smooth and hairless. Hornet’s bodiesare primarily black with a yellow tail end. Many other insects have adopted theblack and yellow color scheme as protection from predators taking advantage of beesand wasps defensive reputations. Therefore, it is important to note that notall black and yellow insects sting. Yellow jacket and paper wasp nests can bedifferentiated by the outer structure of the nest. Paper wasp nests are notprotected by an outer paper cover, unlike yellow jacket nests which areenclosed by papery material.
Yellow jacketslive a social hive situation similar to honey bees. There may be 5000 wasps pernest. The nests are paper and may be underground, in a tree or a buildingoverhang.
There is anoverwintering queen, who, in the spring selects a nesting site. She constructsa small nest and lays a few eggs. The eggs hatch, go through a larval stage,mature and begin to tend the queen much in the same way as worker bees tendtheir queen.
These"worker" wasps are female and the main source of concern: they arethe stingers. The worker wasps expand the nest and hunt other insects to feedthe developing larva and queen. The workers are known to steal small bits ofmeat from picnic tables.
In the fall thequeen will leave the nest and search out an overwintering site, typically acrack in tree bark. The worker wasps also leave the nest, but they do not overwinter and eventually die.
As wasps andhornets aggressively defend their nests, the safest method of destroying a nestis to wait until October, after the queen has left and the workers died. Simplydig up or knock down the nest and destroy it.
During other timesof the year control can be obtained through a number of methods. A piece ofcooked meat soaked in an insecticide such as diazinon and hung in a tree (awayfrom children and pets) will be visited by the worker wasps. The wasps willcollect a piece of the poisoned meat and carry it back to the nest. Eventuallythe entire nest can be killed by this method.
A similar methodthat does not use an insecticide is to suspend the cooked meat over a bucket ofwater and detergent. Wasps that visit the meat may fall in to the bucket ofwater and drowned.
A more active attack on a wasp's nest should be undertaken at dusk, when the wasps are in the nest. There are specific aerosol wasp and hornet killers. The chemical ingredient has a rapid knock-down, which is a good thing considering the wasps aggressive defensive of the nest.
It is important tonote that some people are very allergic to wasp stings. If someone is stung andhas a severe reaction, medical attention should be sought immediately.
Other Pests or Not?
Dragon Fly: Both the adult and nymph form of this insect are active predators onmany insects, but are especially predacious on mosquitoes. The dragon flyspends much of its life cycle around or in water, which is also the breedingground for mosquitos. Many types of dragon flies are common to this area. Adultsize may range from 3.8 - 7.6 cm. in length, and color ranges from brown toblue.
Ladybug: Also called the "lady bird," this insect is more correctlycalled a "lady beetle." Many different types of lady beetles arefound in North America, and almost all are considered extremely valuablepredatory insects. As a whole they prey mainly on soft-bodied insects such asaphids, mealy bugs and scale insect, but they also feed on egg masses of manyother insects. The soft-bodied, unattractive, black-and-orange spotted larvae ofthis insect do not resemble the attractive hard-bodied-orange and black spottedparents, but the larvae are ferocious insects with an insatiable appetite foraphids.
Green Lacewing: These beautiful and delicate insects have earned a common name of"aphid lions," because of their enormous appetite for aphids. Bothadult and larvae forms also feed on mealy bugs, other small larvae and eggs ofmany insects and mites. The brown lacewing is more common in the USA, where itis often called the "aphid wolf." Green lacewings are easilyrecognized by their large, delicate and usually transparent wings, with greenand black venation. The fierce-looking mouth parts of the lacewing larvae helpto reinforce its common name of aphid lion. Adult lacewings are approximately1-2 cm. long.
Blister Beetle: This insect can be both beneficial and harmful. The adult form of theNuttall blister beetle will consume foliage and flowers of plants in the legumefamily, and therefore can be quite destructive. However, the larvae form ofthis same insect will also consume large volumes of grasshopper egg masses. Theblister beetle is easily recognized by its dark, metallic green or purpleshell, giving it an iridescent sheen. These insects are seldom noticed exceptwhen the adults swarm in June. The adult form is approximately 2 cm. in length.If blister beetles are found feeding on desirable plants (caragana,honeysuckle, beans, peas), spray the plants with water to discourage theinsects. If this fails, resort to a pesticide to protect the plants.
(Allergic): An allergic reaction is a physiologic response by our body against: something we have swallowed; something wehave inhaled; something which has touched our skin; or, something injected intous by a bite, a sting from an insect, or by a syringe needle (a"shot" administered by medical personnel.) There are severaldifferent kinds of allergies, e.g., immediate-type, delayed-type, Types I - IV,etc., and against many different things, e.g, food, pollen (see the aboveimage), grass, chemicals, or metals. But, the one with which most of us arefamiliar is the allergic reaction that leads to immediate kinds of responsessuch as sneezing, swollen eyes, runny nose, hives, itching, and sometimesbreathing difficulties. The condition known as asthma is really an allergicreaction against something which primarily affects the lungs; this one cantherefore cause serious breathing difficulties - although others can as well toa greater or lesser extent. In some cases we may become sick to our stomach, orbreak out in a bright rash - there can be several different symptoms. And, insome instances the allergic reaction can be so severe that as a result we maygo into shock (rapid loss of blood pressure - can lead to heart failure andbrain shut-down) and possibly die unless we quickly obtain medical assistance.In fact, allergies are so common and cause so many medical and personalproblems, that there is an entire governmental research institute devoted tothe study of allergies. This institute is called the National Institute ofAllergy and Infectious Diseases, or, NIAID. This particular institute isonly one among many within the National Institutes of Health (NIH) that our taxdollars support and which help find cures for the many human diseases thatafflict us.
Allergic responses arelinked to our immune system - and specifically to antibodies - here we goagain, talking about antibodies, proteins produced by our immune system whichcirculate in our bloodstream and help to remove any substance (toxin) ororganism (virus, bacterium) which has invaded our body. In this particularinstance, we are going to talk about the immediate kind of allergic reactionthat we may experience and which involves a particular kind of antibody, namedIgE (immunoglobulin E). This class of antibody is one of the five differentclasses of antibody made by our immune system (IgM, IgG, IgD, IgA, and IgE).
Each antibody moleculeis capable of binding to a distinct three-dimensional molecular shape presenton substances such as proteins or complex sugars, whether or not the substanceis floating around freely, or whether the substance is an integral part of anorganism. Thus, whenever a substance or complete organism invades our body, theimmune system can respond to this intrusion by synthesis of antibodies. If wehappen to make IgE-class antibody against certain things, we can be in trouble(mild or severe). Here is why:
All antibody moleculesare shaped like the letter "Y." Each arm of the Y has a sitewhich can bind to a given molecular shape, and the bottom part (the leg of theY) can also serve to generate certain responses when something else binds toIT. The image shows one of the two binding sites of an antibody molecule (oneof the two arms of the Y, called Fab - fragment, antigen binding - theheavy-chain in blue, light-chain in green, wrapping around one another to formthe site, and a protein antigen in red being held within the site; the bottompart, the leg of the molecule, is not shown).
In the case of IgE, boththe top and bottom parts of the antibody molecule can lead to problems for us.The bottom part of the Y-shaped IgE molecule (called the Fc forfragment-crystallizing) can interact with and be bound by a cell receptor (aprotein in the membrane which can "grab" and "hold onto" aparticular thing) specific for this part of the IgE molecule (and nothingelse). The receptor is located in the membrane of cells named mast cells andbasophils. Mast cells are all over the place within our skin, and basophilscirculate within our bloodstream. As IgE circulates, it may come in contact withmast cells or basophils, and through interaction with the receptor canspecifically adhere to the membrane of these cells with the arms of the Ysticking out towards the surrounding environment, and the leg part of themolecule embedded within the membrane - would be analogous to you, standingwith your feet and ankles sunk into wet cement, and your arms raised above yourhead. Now, if the substance against which the IgE was originally made appearsand bumps into a mast cell or basophil within the skin or within thebloodstream respectively, the binding sites at the end of the arms of the IgEmolecule may bind and hold onto the substance. If there are two Y Y (IgEmolecules) next to one another in the membrane, and each of their"hands" simultaneously binds the substance (generates a cross-link),this interaction "wiggles" the membrane and triggers the mast cell orbasophil (as the case may be) to release all kinds of powerful substances.
One of the substancesreleased by the mast cell and/or basophil is called histamine. This chemicalcan interact with other cell receptors specific for histamine, and triggerthese cells to release other powerful substances as well. One of the thingsthat happens when histamine is released is that nearby tissue changes - the placeswhere red blood cells interact with tissue - called capillaries - increase involume (called vascular dilation). The result of this increase in volume meansthat more blood can get to the site (is the reason why the spot will be warmerand redder than surrounding skin). Also, the amount of secretions increase(lymph fluid) - is why the area swells (edema). This increase in blood-flow,and lymph-flow to the site, can cause a raising of the skin which may itch, andwhich becomes red (blood near the surface of the stretched, raised, tissue) -is the rash (erythema). Now you know why we take antihistamines to relievethese symptoms, and other chemicals to dry up our runny nose. The allergicreaction might be pretty mild - although the rash may itch like all get out -these substances must stimulate "itch" nerves... nahhh, just kidding- but - nerves are indeed stimulated in a certain way - helps let us know thatsomething is going on. All in all though, a mild reaction can simply be just abother, and not particularly threatening. On the other hand, if instead of theskin these very same reactions occur within the lungs or within thebloodstream, we can be in serious trouble.
When IgE sticking frommast cells in the lung tissue binds to an invading (inhaled) substance likepollen grains, all of those substances just mentioned are released. Theresultant increase in lymph-secretion in the lungs can cause the lungs to fillwith fluid. Now, I know that you know that liquids cannot be compressed -cannot be squeezed down into a smaller volume - no matter how much pressure youplace upon them - is why hydraulic fluid works - so, if the lungs fill withfluid, our muscles are not strong enough to squeeze our lungs properly, and weare then unable to breathe. Too, the allergic response chemicals can lead toswelling of the tissue - decreasing the diameter of our airway pipes (bronchialtubes). Also, the slow-reacting substance of anaphylaxis (SRA) causes thebreathing muscles to become constricted which squeezes the bronchial tubes(airways), making it yet more difficult to breathe. This condition would be anasthmatic condition - a scary, uncomfortable, and sometimes dangerouscondition. If the reactions occur within the bloodstream via IgE bound tobasophils, we can be in yet deeper trouble.
The chemicals releasedby the basophil will rapidly circulate all over the body - there will beblood-flow and lymph-flow increases all over the place. This rapid loss ofblood into tissues via the capillary beds will result in a rapid drop in bloodpressure. The brain will not receive proper oxygen flow; the heart will strainto function; the lungs will fill with fluid; the airways will become severelyrestricted - breathing muscles become severely constricted - these things togetherare called anaphylactic shock. If a person does not receive help, the personcan die. It is for this reason that a person allergic to bee/wasp venom can beat significant risk. If a bee or wasp stings a person, the venom enters thebloodstream directly, and circulates within minutes all over the body. Theallergic reactions also occur within minutes, and a person can be in seriousdifficulty in a very short time. It is for this reason that if you are about toreceive an injection of any kind from your health care provider, that you areasked if you are allergic to so-and-so. Examples are: receivinganesthetics of any kind (prior to dental work or surgery); receiving injectionsof or swallowing antibiotics (penicillin); receiving a flu shot (egg protein -the virus is grown in chicken eggs); receiving any vaccination. Sometimes aperson will not know whether or not they are allergic to something - it is forthis reason that after you receive a vaccination that you are asked to waitaround in the physician's office for a while - just in case. If you are at thedentist or are about to undergo surgery, you'll have to wait, anyway.....
How do we prevent thesereactions - or at least - how do we overcome an allergic reaction? The easiestway to prevent allergies is to avoid coming into contact with the substanceagainst which you are allergic (the allergen). In some instances, avoidingexposure is difficult. As it turns out, we have natural responses of our own,some pretty neat physiologic things that happen automatically - but sometimesour automatic responses are overwhelmed and we need outside assistance. Let'ssay that you are experiencing an asthma attack. You will begin to have troublebreathing - this result will frighten you - the fright you feel causes thebrain to send "fright-response" substances out and about, which bindto specific receptors for these things on the cells of the adrenal glandslocated on your kidneys. The adrenal gland cells in turn release the substanceadrenalin (epinephrine) which has several powerful effects. One importanteffect is to stimulate an enzyme to break down glycogen - a glucose-sugarstorage polymer in liver and muscles - into individual glucose molecules.
Theseglucose molecules are rapidly "burned" by cells and the energyreleased speeds-up all kinds of metabolic activity - including the destructionof already-released histamine and the other allergic-response substances - thisresponse is known as the fight and flight response - your muscles may evenquiver with all of the energy available - your strength will increase -sometimes astonishingly - allows you to run like heck to get away from danger.The heart will beat faster and stronger too. Also, adrenalin begins almostimmediately to reverse the effects of histamine, by causing basophils and mastcells to stop releasing this chemical. Consequently, the stopping of histaminerelease and the increased metabolic activity which destroys histamine quickerthan normal, both result in the lowering of the amount of histamine throughoutthe body. This lowering of the amounts of allergic-response chemicals, resultsin decreased tissue swelling, decreased fluid accumulation, etc - andblood-pressure rises, breathing returns to normal, and rashes and the likegradually go away.
Now, sometimes there just isn't enough adrenalin produced intime to reverse the reactions quickly enough - in this instance one may needoutside assistance by receiving an injection of adrenalin along with othersubstances in liquid, tablet, or injection form which cause swelling to godown, lung-associated muscle constriction to ease, airways to open, and fluidaccumulation to stop. People who are severely allergic to bee/wasp venomusually carry around a little syringe filled with adrenalin when they are inthe woods, camping, or somewhere far from a medical facility or phone.
Why do we even make IgEin the first place if all we seem to get is trouble? Well, actually, we aren'tsure - but- there is pretty strong evidence that IgE is really good atprotecting us from parasitic infections. Those darn scallywag mast cells andbasophils, if connected to a parasite via the IgE bridges (become the"hands" of the basophil and mast cells) release a bunch of things -and 'though these things if released around and about within our body cause ustrouble, these same things are deadly to a parasite. So apparently likeeverything else in life, under some circumstances actions are helpful, andunder different circumstances these very same actions can get us into trouble.Apparently, the trick is to be able to recognize the circumstance!
About Volatile Organic Compounds
What are VOCs?
Volatile organic compounds (VOCs)are carbon containing chemicals that vaporize and can enter the body throughnormal breathing. VOCs can come from many sources. They are used asingredients in paints, cleaning products, and adhesives. They arereleased by building materials such as carpet, linoleum, composite woodproducts, and insulation to name a few. Office equipment such as printers,copiers, and fax machines may also emit VOCs.
VOCs are chemicals that have high vapor pressures and fairly low boiling points and that tend to vaporize from the liquid or solid state under normal atmospheric conditions. Vapor pressure relates to the equilibrium of a substance between its solid or liquid state and its gas state, that is, the rate at which a liquid evaporates or a solid sublimates. If the vapor pressure is high, then the substance will move to the gas phase more quickly. Substances with high vapor pressure at room temperature are said to be volatile. VOCs also often have low boiling points (often below room temperature) that contribute to their vaporization. Examples of some common VOCs are formaldehyde, benzene, toluene, limonene, and hexane.
Removing VOCs from the Air:
Using an activated carbon (a carbon orcharcoal that is very porous and has a large surface area) filter is the mostreliable way to remove VOCs from the air. VOCs attach to andaccumulate on the activated carbon in the process known asadsorption. These filters become exhausted or "spent" andmust be frequently replaced. Otherwise, the adsorbed VOCs may desorb, orleave the surface of the activated carbon and return to the air.
Seal up holes inside and outside the home to prevent entry byrodents.
Mice cansqueeze through a hole the size of a nickel, and rats can squeeze through ahole the size of a half dollar! Prevent rodents from entering the home bychecking inside and outside the house for gaps or holes.
Where to look for gaps or holes inside your home
· Inside, under, and behind kitchen cabinets, refrigerators andstoves.
· Inside closets near the floor corners.
· Around the fireplace.
· Around doors.
· Around the pipes under sinks and washing machines.
· Around the pipes going to hot water heaters and furnaces.
· Around floor vents and dryer vents.
· Inside the attic.
· In the basement or crawl space.
· In the basement and laundry room floor drains.
· Between the floor and wall juncture.
Where to look for gaps or holes outside your home:
· In the roof among the rafters, gables, and eaves.
· Around windows.
· Around doors.
· Around the foundation
· Attic vents and crawl space vents.
· Under doors.
· Around holes for electrical, plumbing, cable, and gas lines.
Fill smallholes with steel wool. Put caulk around the steel wool to keep it in place. Uselath screen or lath metal, cement, hardware cloth, or metal sheeting to fixlarge holes. These materials can be found at your local hardware store. Fixgaps in trailer skirtings and use flashing around the base of the house. If youdo not remember to seal up entry holes in your home, rodents will continue toget inside. Outbuildings and garages should also be sealed to prevent theentrance of rodents.