Home Inspector Blog
Home Inspector Blog
If there is one thing that I dislike about being a homeowner is dealing with the seasonal nuisance of ants and wasps. Both these critters have attempted to take over our property but we have been fortunate enough to keep them at bay.
Ants are No Termites (but Annoying Nonetheless)
Fortunately, we do not have building destroying termites in Nova Scotia (yet), but ants, particularly Carpenter Ants can cause building damage, not to mention they are ugly and annoying. Like any pest, the best way to get rid of them is to prevent entry in the first place but as any home resident knows that is easier said than done! The biggest thing to remember is that ants are searching for food and water, particularly sugar. Remove empty pop cans and garbage frequently and be sure to keep the home’s humidity down in the summer as ants are attracted to moist environments.
If they do make a large-scale appearance, it is my experience that the best way to get rid of them is to use a liquid ant bait. Yes, this will attract a significantly larger number of ants for a day or so, but they will quickly take the poison back to the nest. What’s even better is that the ants will literally take away all of the corpses!
Wasps Can Buzz Off!
Wasps are aggressive, highly territorial and can deliver painful and, for someone with allergies, fatal stings. There are several ways to get rid of them and the following two methods I have found to keep them away from our home seem to be the most effective.
The first success I had was using a pop bottle with a special top (which can be purchased anywhere that sells pest control products) that allowed easy entry but challenging escape. I tried a few liquids and found orange juice to be the best solution. It typically takes a few days, but the number of wasps trapped will exponentially grow over time until the problem is eliminated. Still, the best way to stop wasps is to keep them away in the first place. In my experience, the best method for keeping wasps away is using a fake nest in the spring. While this is commonly thought of as a total myth, it was effective for our family and permanently kept the annual nest building away from the house.
Generally, an established nest can be destroyed after dark using an insecticide spray but if it is in a hard-to-reach area, such as a soffit or hidden under a woodpile it is best to call the professionals. Getting swarmed on a ladder or amongst a woodpile is a deeply unpleasant scenario.
I have made it clear that, like most home inspectors, I have an overall negative view of flipped homes, which are homes that are bought to be renovated and quickly re-sold. That’s not to say flippers are all greedy and/or incompetent people but the simple fact is, partly due to various TV shows, the real estate market currently incentivizes investing in the style of the home instead of structural or system updates. Oftentimes the expensive items are usually neglected in a home flip and some “improvements” can even shorten the life of a home. One of the biggest faux pas that I see in flipped homes is the painting of the home’s bricks, particularly its chimney.
Moisture is the #1 Enemy of Homes and Bricks
I sound like a broken record, but it bears repeating again and again. Two of the big myths I hear about home exteriors are that bricks are waterproof or the opposite, that bricks are porous (absorb water) and paint can help seal against water intrusion. Both are incorrect and painting the chimney, while aesthetically pleasing is a bad idea from a maintenance standpoint.
Bricks Need to Breathe!
Painting a chimney will seal up the pores of bricks. While the obvious rebuttal would be to say it prevents moisture from reaching the brick in the first place, this is simply not realistic, especially in our wet climate. No matter how skilled a painter, moisture WILL eventually find a way behind the paint and will be trapped in the brickwork. This can lead to deterioration of the bricks and mortar and will lead to an expensive repair bill (or worse, complete failure!) down the road, and further damage by the rapid freeze/thaw cycles experienced here in Nova Scotia can contribute to the deterioration.
It's Abandoned So Who Cares?
Thanks to advances in heating technology, such as heat pumps and high efficiency direct vent furnaces/boilers, many homes in the city no longer use their fireplace. Once again, painting bricks can lead to long term structural failure and a falling brick can be deadly, regardless of whether it's being used or not!
Paint Covers Problems
A freshly painted chimney is a giant red flag to a home inspector. Paint can be used to hide issues such as cracked/soft mortar, damaged bricks, and the presence of efflorescence (white spots caused by salt deposits that indicate moisture issues). This is yet another reason to have a home inspected regularly by a professional.
It’s Not THAT Simple
Despite what I just wrote, there ARE some situations where painting is perfectly fine. Indoor bricks can usually be painted without issue because it doesn’t rain indoors (I hope!). There are also certain types of very old chimneys that need a specific type of paint. Always check with a chimney or masonry contractor before engaging in any painting of brick as the potential for long term damage isn’t worth the improvement in appearance!