Spring time - the most important time of the year - for your home!

The rainy season such as it was, will soon come to an end, the temperature will rise. This will trigger subterranean termites to swarm. You may have seen “black ants with wings” coming up out of the ground during the spring. Sometimes they are just ants; sometimes you’re not so lucky. The easiest and most distinguishing difference is that ants have a visible “pinched in” waist area like you might imagine on a wasp. Termites do not have a visible “pinched in” waist area. Good rule of thumb, if you see more than one of any type of insect, check it out and try to determine if its friend or foe. We encourage people to try and take a good close up picture and send it to us at matt@mendolaketermite.com and we will do our best to advise you weather you need onsite help or if the insect is a non-structural nuisance.

In our more rural areas, houses situated among trees, wood boring beetles may be your most important pest problem. Look for small holes in your siding or framing below your house. If you have active beetles you will notice frass coming out of some of the holes. It will look like powder or narrow pellets. Beetles tend to like wood with a high moisture content. So work on ventilation and moisture diversion away from your crawlspace.

The most damaging and pervasive damage is not termite damage, its fungus rot decay. Fungus decay like any other plant needs certain environmental conditions to thrive. Fungus thrives in excessive moisture and temperatures in the 65-80 degree range. That’s spring around here. First place to check is your crawl space. Is the ground wet? Even damp can be a problem if ventilation is reduced. If you have standing water now or after periods of hard rain, you should correct immediately with gutter diversion or sump pumps. Inspect your home and subarea below during a hard rain and try to determine the “flow” of water on your property. In the summer or fall you can work on grading and exterior drainage for the following rainy season. Check out the subarea framing to determine if your house is “sweating” or suffering from condensation. Many homes are under-ventilated or the vents have been blocked by additions, decks, storage, plants etc... Improving your ventilation is generally inexpensive and can compensate for damp soil in the subarea.  The next most common area for fungus to grow is the bottom side of your decks and porches. Shine a flash light up on the bottom side of your deck. Do you see splotchy, white areas? That may be the start of fungus decay. You may need to have the framing checked by a professional pest and fungus inspector to determine if the fungus can be treated or if the wood needs to be replaced. Please remember it is not legal for contractors to remedially treat fungus, they can however remove and replace the infested framing or decking. It is legal for homeowners to do their own treating or employ a branch 3 pest control company. If you choose to do your own treatment please read all labels prior to treatment for proper safety precautions and use. Remember you will get the product on you so you will need coveralls, gloves, goggles, and approved respirator. Keep your deck gaps clean and clear of tree and pet hair debris your decks will drain and breathe better. Try not to place potted plants directly on top of deck as this will trap water and accelerate rot damage.

Spring is the best time to inspect your home for termite-rot- excessive moisture conditions which can be corrected during the summer and fall after the areas have dried out. So don’t forget that you should show your home just a little attention this spring, your home will appreciate it.

Summertime...and the livin' is easy!

Summer time is when we get long days. That means time to work around the house after work and long, lazy weekends. This is the time of the year where we get to the “list” we’ve been making the rest of the year.  I will list a few of the most common improvements that are best done during the summer months.

  1. Roof repairs. It’s not going to rain; at least it’s not likely.
  2. Exterior painting- again a good prep job takes time and it’s all in the prep.
  3. Cleaning, sealing or replacing gutters. To do a good paint job, they should be removed to paint the fascia trim.
  4. Re-grading your yard if it slopes towards your foundation. Lots of work sometimes but your grading and drainage is very important.
  5. If your house is flooded or has pooling water during the winter, this is the time of the year to install that French drain or sump pump system.
  6. Deck repair or replacement. It’s far easier to construct a deck during the summer. During the summer months the wood becomes very dry. Decay is far more visible during this time of the year. Fungicide treatments should also be conducted this time of year while the deck is dry.

The summer is also about BBQ with family and friends, so pace yourselves.  A little work and a little play and it should be a great summer, and your house will be ready for the coming Fall/Winter.

Fall/Winter: Fall Is The Time To Winterize Your Home!

Christmas is right around the corner, and rumor has it the “rainy” season will be coming soon. If we spend a little time now preparing our homes for the rainy season, the winter will be less stressful on you and your home. Even though we specialize in wood consuming bugs such as termites, beetles, carpenter ants, excessive moisture is by far the most damaging enemy your home encounters from December till April. I will list a “few” areas of concern that we find every day inspecting homes in Willits and throughout Mendocino county.

Your first priority of course should be your roof. Clean your roof, removing tree debris and moss growth. You can purchase moss removal products at your local hardware store or make your own solution of household bleach and water. We want to remove the moss as the continued growth can cause the edges of the shingles to lift and cause leakage to occur as well as expose the edges of the shingles to sun light which causes the roof to cup wear out faster than it should. After the moss has been treated and area has dried out, use a stiff broom or brush to remove the moss. Next clean out your gutters. If you have loose or leaky joints, seal with a good quality caulking recommended for gutters. Next it’s time to think about diverting those gutter downspouts that let water pool adjacent to your foundation. You can install temporary piping above ground which is removed after the rainy season or if you’re really ambitious you can install the drain pipe in trenches below the surface and “daylight” out and away from your house.

It’s a little too late in the year to be thinking about painting but you can seal up windows, trim, voids with caulking. If your house needs paint, get on that next year — late in the spring or early summer is best. This time of year the wind blows and that means tree leaves and debris build up in the gaps of our decks. When our deck gaps are plugged with tree debris it holds water in between the decking boards and between the deck and the siding. This is a major contributing factor in fungus rot to decks and siding. Clean out regularly- once a month this time of year. I have found that using a pressure washer on low pressure setting works best for cleaning out the deck gaps. Good quality power washers have metal spray wands and notches at the spray tips that ride in the gaps like old fashion slot cars. That way you only spray into the gaps and not the tops of the boards. We aren’t trying to refinish the deck, just clean it.

Finally, let’s take a critical look at the crawl space or subarea. Are the vent openings blocked by storage? Plants?, a new deck? It’s very important that our ventilation is not blocked. Try exposing all your vents as possible. Is all your insulation hung properly or is some or most of it falling down. Damaged insulation or poorly installed heating ducts block necessary ventilation. Air flow is vital. If you know your house has a problem with standing or pooling water during the winter, now is the time to install exterior drainage such as a French drain, drainage ditches, or interior solutions such as installing a sump pump. If you choose the exterior method you should employ a professional as these systems are more that most homeowners would want to undertake themselves. A sump pump is less proactive solution however the cost is much less than exterior drainage systems. Location is important as you must find the low spot in the subarea or create a low spot by digging drainage ditches from the far corners of your subarea to the sump pump location. Don’t forget to drain the sump pump out to the side of your house where the land slopes away from the foundation so the water doesn’t find its way back into the subarea.

With just a little maintenance work before the rain sets in, your house will be less likely to have rot, mildew or pest problems. That will save you money and more work next summer. Good luck and enjoy the Holidays.

Matt "the bugkiller" Miller
owner of Mendo Lake Termite

30+ years of inspecting homes in Mendocino, Lake, Sonoma counties