5 sure-fire ways to get termites and mold

Many homeowners consider  themselves inviting to guests. We invite friends, in-laws,  neighbors, kids, cats and even iguanas into our home — and each guest adds their own flavor as a visitor.

As homeowners, however, we usually don’t know how  many guests we have. Most of our home’s guests are  uninvited. The uninvited can include termites, birds, mold  spores, mice and yes, even the occasional raccoon. Visits  from the mother-in-law can be exasperating, but the havoc  from her visit pales in comparison to that caused by mold,  pests and termites; at least your mother-in-law puts the  toilet seat down when she is done.

If charity toward all is your goal, you and your home can  play host to thousands — or millions — of mold spores, mice, termites  and creepy crawlies of all sorts. On the other hand, if  you wish to be a bit more choosy in who and what lives  under your roof, there are some actions to take. If you  are feeling like providing a home for all of nature, the  following should be taken as a personal task list. Choose  wisely — termites don’t help pay your  mortgage.

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Spray the house generously with your sprinklers

Most homeowners are simply unaware that a soaked exterior  wall can be viewed so joyfully by a termite queen and her  horde. Consider this: When you spray your lawn, the lawn  grows. Weeds add themselves to the mix, then bugs.  Critters small and extra small create something of an  ecosystem in your lawn — and that’s OK. But a  similar thing happens when you spray the house. Water gets  through your stucco or brick. It finds holes in the  siding. It gets through the window frame. Dampness begets  mold, termites and rot. Next thing you know, you have more  guests in your home than anyone in the neighborhood.

Vent the dryer to nowhere

A recent home inspection revealed a landlord whose  apartments had no exterior dryer vent — he instead  chose to vent the dryer into the wall behind the dryer,  and end it there. Other homeowners will vent to a nearby  room or into the garage. Sometimes the exterior vent is  clogged up, so pressure forces the exhaust air back into  the living space. In each case, the volume of water forced  into your home is more than enough to cause thousands — or millions — of uninvited guests.

Drain water toward your foundation

Here is an exercise: walk around any home. Better yet,  walk around your own. If you walk around your  neighbor’s home, they might look at you funny. Look  at the drainage slopes. Does the landscaping force  surface water to flow toward or away from your foundation?  One certainty about concrete foundations is that they  crack, and they do so in hundreds of locations. The only  sure way to know that the inside of your foundation is dry  is to make sure the outside is dry. Does water pool near  your foundation? If so, your home will become a natural  reef for mold, termites and things that crawl. The mold  spores may not thank you for your hospitality, but rest  assured that they appreciate you anyway.


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Fill your window wells with soil and trash

The window wells are your last line of defense against  water entry. Kids sometimes put hoses in the wells, and  often roof drainage will flow toward the well. If your  window well is dug out and partly back-filled with gravel,  small water intrusions may not result in basement  flooding. On the other hand, if you enjoy playing fast and  loose, fill that well right up to the sill with soil — then add a few cereal boxes, super slurper cups,  leaves, twigs and rubber balls to the mix. That will send  any water in the window well directly into your basement.

Leave random drips to self-seal

A good friend once played host to a very healthy termite  colony. He did this simply by allowing a drip to continue  in the shower wall. With each new drip, the home provided  dinner to another dozen termites. Over time the colony  created very suitable surroundings throughout his home.  While my friend may have received unspoken gratitude for  the five-star accommodations from the termite queen, his  wife was less welcoming. She called the exterminator, and  the bill wasn’t pretty.

In the home inspection world, it often becomes clear that  there are various ways to fix an issue. In many cases,  there is a $10 fix and a $10,000 fix. Which one you get to  pay depends on what you know and when you act. If you  choose not to play host to mold, termites, spiders,  earwigs and other creepy crawlies, take simple steps  now to avoid expensive ones later.

If playing host to all of the above works for you, please  use these five simple steps as your personal guide for  getting — and keeping — nature all around you.  If you do choose the nature plan, just keep your health  insurance premiums paid — you’ll need a good  plan.

Garth Haslem is a registered  structural engineer and experienced home inspector. He is  author of “The Home Maintenance Guide” & “The Household  Hazards Handbook.” Download free at  http://www.crossroadsengineers.com. Facebook: “Garth Haslem — the Home Medic”