Managing Moisture to Prevent Pests

April 6, 2015

You might think that because you keep your home clean, you don't have any pests. And it's true that maintaining a clean environment reduces your chances of having large infestations of pests. But there are probably areas of your home that are inviting all sorts of destructive inhabitants to set up shop. And many of these are places that you never go. 

rat in a wet and dirty sink

Most pests are attracted to moist, warm spaces. And almost every home has at least one small space that fits this description. Small leaks can go unnoticed, but over time a significant amount of water will build up under your pipes. Even condensation can create enough moisture to attract damaging pests. If your house sits in a low spot, periodic flooding may not rise high enough to damage any of your living space, but could be eroding away the underside of your home and sending out an invitation to pests.

The most likely place for moisture to build up is in a crawl space underneath the home. Most homeowners never venture into their crawl space. Why would you? It's dark and gross and slimy. The slimy part is what causes all the trouble. That moisture can be eating away at your house for years before the damage becomes severe enough to be noticed. 

Excessive moisture will eventually saturate wood and cause it to start rotting. Termites, among other pests, find moist environments to be the most comfortable and will enjoy chewing on the softer, rotten wood as opposed to dry, hard stuff. This makes excessive moisture a double problem. Not only is the water itself doing damage, but it is also attracting pests that will then do even more damage.

Moisture in your crawl space can also damage the insulation under there. That, combined with the fact that many crawl spaces do not have enough ventilation, seriously affects the efficiency of your heating and cooling systems. So even though it's probably the last place in your house you want to be, it's worth bellying under there to take a look at what's going on.

Investigating your crawl space is really the only way to tell if excess moisture under your home is causing a problem. Inspectors who check out crawl spaces report that they regularly find puddles of water, mold, mildew, and deteriorated insulation. This part of your house cannot be ignored. But if you are really opposed to crawling down there yourself, a professional home inspector can do it for you. In fact, if you hire a pest control company to do a complete inspection of your home, a solid company should automatically check the crawl space as it is so often the home of pests.

Putting down a moisture control barrier will help protect your crawl space. You may even be able to find a company that will do regular maintenance checks on the vapor barrier, leaving you free to go back to ignoring that gross space under your house. 

The crawl space isn't the only area that needs to be checked for excessive moisture, however. Anywhere that you have pipes running could be the victim of a slow leak. If the drip is very slow, you won't even notice a drop in water pressure or a raise in the amount of water that you are using. But over time, those slow drips add up to a destructive amount of water wreaking havoc on your home.

You will be able to tell that you have a slow leak when you notice stains on your ceiling, loose tiles, or other water damage. To try to identify the problem before it gets that far, try to stay proactive on checking for leaks. Run a dry tissue over pipes and check to see for any sign of moisture. Re-caulk your shower door if it is letting water out and check your tub to make sure that it isn't leaking around the drain. Splash some water behind your sink and then check underneath to see if anything is dripping.

Staying on top of these small problems can help you avoid large ones. If there is any area of your home, such as under a sink or beneath a floor, that is harboring excess moisture, it is also harboring pests. These dark, most environments are the ideal breeding ground for all types of insects including roaches, beetles, and termites.

Leaking roofs are another way that excessive moisture can enter your home. Obviously, you will want to repair your roof as soon as possible. Don't forget about the damage that may have already been done, however. If your insulation is wet, you should expose it to the sun to dry out thoroughly before putting a patch over it. The same is true of any plywood that lies underneath your exterior roofing material.

If you repair your roof while the site of the leak is still wet, that moisture will have a very hard time working its way out of your home. While it will eventually dissipate, it could attract all kinds of pests before that happens.

If your entire house is just generally too moist, consider purchasing a dehumidifier. This will improve the air quality of your home by pulling extra moisture out. This will help protect your home from the damage that excessive moisture can do, as well as protecting your from the pests, like roaches, termites, and beetles, that thrive in moist conditions. 

In New Jersey, Alliance Pest Services is your pest control professional for all your pest and wildlife problems. 

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