Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Carpenter Ants, Part 2 in outr series on Structural Pests in the Northwest

The Carpenter ant is one of the most destructive structural pests in the northwest United States.

Carpenter Ants have a evenly curved "thoracic dorsum", this is the back of the insect. Then most common member of this family is Modoc, it is black with reddish colored legs, but color is not a good indicator as some types have red parts. These are often found moving along foraging lines about 1 foot apart Trees, fences and firewood are all regular paths for that they are known to use.

Damage in the Home
Carpenter ants will damage homes by nesting in them. The will dig out tunnels to in wood expand their living spaces and can lead to structural damage. They infestation in the home usually is a satellite colony, with the main one with in a hundred years or more in a stump or other decayed wood. When colonies start establish them selves in homes, they may start small, few hundred members but can grow to several tens of thousands. There can be 20 or more satellite colonies.

Making your Home Resistant to Carpenter Ants
Stumps, fire wood:
Take care when storing firewood. This is a favorite nesting location for Carpenter ants. Always keep wood elevated and covered from the rain. A wet pile of firewood in contact with the ground is an ideal infestation location. Stumps left in the yard are common locations for colonies.
Never allow plants to make contact with the home. Trees and shrubs provide natural paths for insects and are frequently foraging sites.
Wood/Soil contact:
It is a conducive condition for pests when wood touches soil. Wood should rest on concrete or other suitable support, and when it is in direct contact with the ground pressure treated lumber is recommended. Beauty bark or other landscaping is often piled too high next to homes. this can lead to rot/decay and lead to a carpenter ant infestation.
Crawlspaces and attics need ventilation to keep the moisture content low. It the ventilation is not adequate, there will be biogrowth (mold, mildew or fungus) and create conditions that encourage infestations. Vapor barriers are recommended in crawlspaces. This will help keep the framing under the home dry and provide a barrier to discourage pests.
Points of Entry:
Check for hole in the exterior of the home. Where pipes and electrical wires enter. doors, windows, foundation cracks, siding and trim are all common locations for ants. Sealing these with caulk or other suitable materials with discourage entry.

Read more about Carpenter ants their control here:
WSU Extension Bulletin 0818.
Carpenter Ant Update, PCT Magazine April 2002, L. D. Hansen.

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Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Zinsco Electric Panel Hazards

The Zinsco panel is one of the most common brands of dangerous electrical equipment we see. This company made many different types. Zinsco panel fire hazard sootMost have this silver foil label with the Zinsco name, others are called Magnetrip, others have the Zinsco name stamped in the enclosure. Never buy without an inspection, it could save your life. Really! See Cheryl's story here

Zinsco electrical equipment is known to be hazardous for several reasons. There is a problem with the bus bar and breaker contact points arcing and overheating. Overheating the electrical contacts on breakers can destroy the integrity of this important safety item. Many reputably electricians won't service these anymore, and replacement is strongly recommended. They have been manufactured with aluminum bus bars as a clip on the breaker that make poor contact.

Zinsco panel hazard soot Arcing has been observed in where these breakers contact the bus. This can result in the overheating and incapacitation of the breakers. We observed these breakers have their cases blow out and leave soot on the inside of the enclosures. Note the extensive soot inside this panel and inside the cover, this is a sure sign of overheating and is an extreme hazard.

Zinsco panel hazard sootThese panels were also in later years manufactured by Sylvania. This is the Zinsco design and has the same reputation. The Sylvania like the Zinsco had the blue and foil label inside and colorful red, blue and green breakers. With the same flawed breaker and bus bar connection design. These panels are ones that we recommend replacement.

Read more about Zinsco panels on Google here.

We recommend that anyone with one of these panels have them replaced as soon as possible.

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Monday, August 6, 2007

Moisture Ants, The First in our series on Structural Pests in the Northwest

The structural pests in the Northwest of greatest concern are all dependent on high moisture content in the wood.

This moisture can come from rain, soil, water supply lines and drains. All these possible sources need to be addressed or there will certainly be a problem. Around here, keep it dry and them pests will usually keep away. This is a picture from under a toilet. We checked it before we got in the crawlspace, and noted that it was loose. This nearly always leads to leaks and if not promptly addressed, wood decay. Such leaks are sometimes not so obvious especially if there is insulation and or wall-board installed.

This is frass, debris or excrement produced by insects. This piles were in regular intervals along the base of the homes exterior wall. After carefully looking at it, we determined that it was not sand and the regular intervals aligned perfectly with the floor joists. I removed some of the insulation that covered the rim on the outside of the building and I found moisture ants, lots of them and extensive damage to the structure. There were about 15 joists visible, and 15 neat piles of frass.

Every single joist we looked at was covered in these pesky pests at this end of the home. We took careful note of this area of the home and proceeded to explore the exterior to determine what were the contributing problems that causes this infestations.

"Most pest species are yellow; they can vary to a rather dark brown, from 3–5 mm long. These are monomorphic species having workers all the same size. Maxillary palpi are long and five-segmented. Colonies usually occur in decayed logs and stumps, but some may be found in soil" WSU Extension Bulletin 1382

Upon further investigation we noticed that the grade next to the home on this side was sloped the wrong way, trapping water next to the home. The gutters and downspouts were in poor condition, and there was other visible damage on the siding. The exterior of this home had been neglected for years, having plants touching the structure is several places, deck framing in poor condition, and need of paint and caulk Inside the crawlspace we found more frass, and bare earth.

All soil under homes should be covered with plastic. This vapor barrier will help control the moisture that can evaporate under the home and bringing up the moisture content up to the point of being susceptible to wood destroying organisms.

Never buy a home without a complete wood destroying organism report

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