Crawl Spaces 

In some homes there is one area that most of my clients have no desire to spend time in. That area is the crawl space  in a pier and beam constructed structure. Here in East Texas most of my clients homes are on concrete slabs. I have a few that have true basements, and some that to inspect I have to crawl around under.img_0164

It is not the most accessible area to enter sometimes.  Once inside some also lack what one would call “elbow room”.   If you add plumbing and HVAC duct work, the available space shrinks even more. Oh yea, you sometimes have company under there!

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Hi! My name is Seymour. What’s Yours? Got any Kibble?

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Then there is always the issue of moisture. It rises from the soil, enters from the foundation edge, or my favorite; the wet spring that develops under the house. Nothing like having to break out scuba gear to inspect under a house. Some crawl spaces  have plastic sheeting spread out to slow the moisture that evaporates from the soil. The vents on the foundation help to remove this moisture by the use of wind currents. Many of these don’t work very well. The main reason is because they are blocked or kept covered up. The lack of wind movement in a crawl space will lead to wood rot fungus, and decay of load bearing beams, and the possible appearance of wood damaging insects.rottedwood

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The latest improvements to crawl space environments is the adaptation of climate controls and encapsulation. Climate controlled crawl spaces are insulated,heated and cooled and most are cement floored.  The inspection time for these is minimised by the use of mechanics dolly to transverse the areas.

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These crawl spaces are sealed to prevent moisture intrusion and to keep humidity levels to a minimum. Also No Seymours!

The encapsulated crawl space is a retrofit solution for older pier and beam constructed structures. The use of dehumidifiers  to maintain humidity levels, and 12 to 20 ml liners to seal the crawl space to moisture intrusion lowers the chance of wood damaging organisms. Also makes my inspection process more convenient and faster.img_0010img_0011

These solutions also lowers the mold levels and allergens in my clients living environments above the crawl space level.

How much is that bug in the window? or Is my house going to fall down today?

Swarmers in East Texas

Well it’s that time of year. I go from being available, to several weeks behind in one or two days. Swarm Season is the time of year when obnoxious offspring  of one of the most damaging insects are released into the world. Their numbers can be few or in such large numbers they are considered a catastrophic swarm.  It will usually start the day or two after a strong Spring storm followed by a mild warm day. Then at approximately 2:00 pm CST, the phone begins to ring. Then at approximately 3:00 pm CST when Kids return home from School; 5:00 pm  and 7:00 pm CST when people arrive home from work. Holidays are no exception. I have even received calls on Easter Sunday while at Church.

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If you are wondering, I am not looking for Easter eggs in the picture above.  Corrective treatments can be challenging. We have many tools and new technologies to help contain and minimize the damage of Termites, but they are a formidable opponent.  They cause so much damage that insurance companies won’t cover their treatment cost. It is estimated they do more damage each year than fires and storms combined in the United States.

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Termite Tubes in Floor Joist
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The question that always comes up is,” How much damage do you think they have done”.  It  all depends on the species. Some cause damage more quickly due to their increased numbers and abilities to create sub-colony waystations (cartons)  so they don’t have to return to the soil. All are damaging to cellulose containing materials. Lumber and paper products are  bound together collections of water, cellulose and wood fibers. Unless the termites are left undetected or untreated, it will take a substantial  time for a house to “fall down” from termite damage.

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Termite Shelter Tube

The most common Termites in the Southern United States are the Subterranean Termites, Reticulitermes Sp.  and her more evil cousin Coptotermes formosanus.  Yes, I said her. As with most colony type insects the colony  members are almost all female or asexual. They do have a king and he mates for life with the queen. They travel everywhere outside the colony in a sheltered highway tunnel of mud. Even through the material they are consuming. They have soldiers for protection and they need it. Ants are the termites’ eternal enemy. If their was ever a good reason for  Fire Ants (Solenopsis Sp.) this may be it.

Well the good news is we have many options to manage termites and minimize damage to the structure. From conventional liquid methods to baits the technology is evolving for more efficient, environmentally responsible methods.  The key to minimizing damage is to be proactive and have the structure inspected occasionally by a professional who is licensed and insured. Then follow up on their recommendations if you have any conditions that are condusive to Termite infestations.

Well got to go! Another call, another swarm castle. Somedays my life is like herding cats.

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Swarm Castle