Renovation & Design

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Renovation & Design

Insect entry into home through holes always cause for concern

Question: We have a bay window in the front of our home with plants in front. Last year we had wasps going through the plants, underneath the bay window, with some ending up in our basement. We are looking at getting a plasterer to close up any potential holes under the bay window. Then we are thinking about filling in the area under the window with soil to ensure there is no way for wasps to get in. Is there a reason not to fill in the area below the bay window due to insulation or drainage issues? Or is there a better way to deal with our issue? We tried an exterminator last year with limited success. Thanks for your help with this.

— Richard R.

Answer: Insects gaining entry into the exterior walls or interior of our home should be immediately addressed to prevent damage to the home and occupants. This is normally caused by a new opening and/or moisture damage to existing components. Finding and replacing the damaged materials and sealing the area is a much better approach than using soil to fill in these areas.

Since we are lucky in not having termites, or other insects, in our area that can bore into healthy wood, most insect intrusion into our exterior walls is due to damaged building materials. Some common crawling or flying pests, like carpenter ants, will find ways to infiltrate these areas and make nests. Fortunately, that will only occur in components that are damaged. Most commonly wood or wood products are the preferred target for these small critters. If the wood is partially rotten the ants can bore small openings and channels in the soft material and lay eggs. The eggs will eventually hatch, creating even more of a serious infestation to deal with. The evidence of such an attack can often first be detected by seeing the removed material deposited on the area inside the damaged wood. This sawdust-like material is often referred to as frass. If frass is seen in your home, in addition to the wasps, it is confirmation of the source of the issue.

Stinging insects, like wasps, bees, and hornets, will often make their nests in a hidden area to protect them from predators and environmental elements. This can often be found in a tree, under a deck, in a woodpile, or any other location that has ideal conditions. I recently found an active one at the cottage, under my boat cover, attached to a plastic fender sitting on the rear portion of the boat. Luckily, I saw the wasps flying in and out of this area before removing the tarp. That allowed me to spray some insecticide in the area, before untying the cover, to avoid getting stung. I believe that area was a preferred one for the nest due to protection from most elements by the tarp, which still allowed the area to be slightly damp and very humid. From my experience, wasps prefer to build their nests in somewhat damp areas, but underneath something that will shield it from direct rainfall. Nests are commonly seen on the soffits of homes, at the peak of a gable or near a leaky eavestrough.

In your situation, the location of the nest may be protected by the plants in front of the window. These may not only help to hide the nest, but will also make the area more humid and may have resulted in moisture damage to the exterior components. Any vegetation that is touching the exterior of the home should be removed or trimmed back at least one metre. If the outside of the base of your bay window is wood or plywood, rot is extremely likely. If the wall covering in that area is other siding material, stucco, or masonry, the moisture damage may be hidden, but can still be present. Especially if the underside of the bay window is covered with a wood-based sheathing and is overhanging the foundation, serious damage is almost certain.

After removing the vegetation, visual inspection and probing the surface with a screwdriver or other sharp tool will help determine the extent of the damage. If the probe easily penetrates the surface, immediate repairs are in order. If the surface appears relatively sound, partial removal of the exterior coverings may be required to further explore any inside rot. If there are one or more small areas of damage, gaps, or other openings, that is the likely point of entry for the wasps. Spraying the surrounding area and inside the holes with insecticide should initially be done to prevent getting stung. Follow the directions on the spray can for proper precautions before attempting this yourself, or call an exterminator.

Once the area under and around the bay window is partially opened, the extent of the moisture damage can be determined. The repairs may range from a minor replacement of rotten exterior sheathing, to complete reconstruction of the entire bay area walls and floor. Many times, the window frame or sill may be compromised, which is where the moisture intrusion is initiating. In that situation a new window, with moisture resistant vinyl or fibreglass components, is the required final solution.

Building up the soil under an older bay window that is letting insects gain entry into your home will not likely solve the problem, and can accelerate current moisture damage. Inspection and replacement of moisture damaged components, which may include the window, may be the only way to permanently prevent a reoccurrence.

Ari Marantz is the owner of Trained Eye Home Inspection Ltd. and a Registered Home Inspector (RHI)(cahpi.ca). Questions can be emailed to the address below. Ari can be reached at 204-291-5358 or check out his website at trainedeye.ca.

trainedeye@iname.com

Ari Marantz
July 23

Renovation & Design

Unplug small appliances and electronics when not in use

Question: Do you think it is important to unplug a toaster when leaving your home? Charlotte

Answer: Yes, and not only the toaster, but all small appliances and electronics including toaster ovens, curling irons, coffee makers, tools, kettles etc. Also, walk through your home, garage, and shed and examine all electrical cords to make sure they are not frayed, and that nothing is sitting on top of the cords to avoid any fire hazards.

Question: What should I use to clean the iron grills on my gas oven? Ethan

Answer: To clean cast iron grills on a gas cooktop check your manufacturer’s manual for the recommended cleaning procedure. I either scrub them with an SOS pad and dish soap and water or wash them in the dishwasher. While many people advise against full submersion, I have never found a problem with my own grills. For that once a year really intense spring cleaning, many people opt to clean their grates with ammonia. Place grate into a plastic bag; add about 1/2 cup of household ammonia. Seal bag and leave for eight hours. Remove grates from bag, scrub with water and an SOS pad.

Helpful tips

Re: Foot Odour

If you experience excessive foot odour, make an appointment with a physician, and seek medical advice, the solution might be simpler than you think! In the meantime, head over to a store such as Marks Work Warehouse or a sporting goods store and purchase the best moisture wicking socks you can find. Canadian Footwear sells a small jar of ointment that you rub onto your feet once a week. It is said to be very effective. — Merle

I have two suggestions which might help with foot odour. One, change your shoes regularly, letting them air dry between uses. This might take two or more days. When the shoes are completely dry any bacteria that might have been growing in them should have died. Bacteria thrive in dark and wet areas which cause odour. Secondly, wear only socks that have greater than 50 per cent cotton in them. Cotton is a natural absorbent. — Desiree

Secrets of essential oils

Instant air freshener; put a few drops of your favourite essential oil in the middle of your toilet paper roll.

Essential oils are great for adding warm fragrance to a locker room, shoes, boots, and carpets. Simply sprinkle a few drops on textiles.

Sprinkle essential oils onto cotton balls and tuck them underneath your garbage bags in garbage cans around your home.

Sprinkle essential oils around the light fixtures in your home. When the lights turn on, the heat cause the oils to smell.

When designing artificial plant displays in your home, add a few drops of essential oils to the leaves and vase to give off a fresh scent.

Rub lemon essential oil onto a grease stain before tossing it into the washing machine.

Put drops of essential oils onto a piece of toilet paper. Vacuum the toilet paper and the room will smell great.

Orange essential oil is an effective spider repellent.

Note: Every user assumes all risks of injury or damage resulting from the implementation of any suggestions in this column. Test all products on an inconspicuous area first.

Have a great suggestion or tip? Please send an email. Reena Nerbas is a popular motivational presenter for large and small groups; check out her website: reena.ca.

info@reena.ca

Reena Nerbas
July 23

Renovation & Design

Baking soda and water will have garage floor sparkling

Question: We recently moved into a home with an attached garage. The floor in the garage has old oil stains. How can we remove them? Russ

Answer: Pour powdered heavy-duty detergent or baking soda onto the concrete; add enough water to make a paste. Scrub with a stiff brush, rinse with water. Dawn dish soap is another great option.

Question: What is a safe and effective way to clean a computer keyboard? Jan

Answer: Use a piece of Silly Putty to clean the keyboard of your computer. While the computer is turned off, press Silly Putty onto the keys — the dust and grime sticks to the putty and lifts it out. Mini vacuum cleaners manufactured specifically for computers are also available where computers are sold.

Question: How can I cut Nanaimo bars and avoid cracking them? I want them to look professionally cut. Sahil

Answer: After preparing these chocolate delights, refrigerate them for one hour until the top chocolate layer is firm. Put two sharp knives into a measuring cup filled with very hot water. Take the squares out of the fridge. Take one knife out of the water, dry it, and make one or two cuts, place the knife back into the hot water. Take turns using both sharp knives.

Question: While standing at the bus stop, I was splashed with mud. My white t-shirt now has little black marks on the front. Any suggestions? Homer

Answer: Use shaving cream to zap that mess. Spray it onto the spots, rub it in with your fingers. Rinse and repeat until the stains are gone.

Question: Is it normal for women to lose eyebrows and eyelashes as they age? Vanessa

Answer: Yes, it is perfectly normal, as women age, they lose elasticity which causes hair to become brittle and fall out. Men’s eyebrows, on the other hand continue to grow thicker as they age.

Friendly Manitoba tips!

Re: Cleaning golf clubs

I use a drywall mesh sanding sheet to lightly buff the club grip to remove the collection of hand residue (sweat, suntan lotion etc.) and then clean with warm water and/or small amount of soap. — Bill

Re: Clean glass doors on fireplace

I learned this advice from my landlord, who previously learned it from the firm that sold her a fireplace insert. This is a non-chemical, environmentally friendly solution to clean glass doors on a fireplace. Crumple up one sheet of old newspaper. Wet with water. Scrunch it around in the cold ashes of the fireplace or stove. Clean the inside glass by rubbing the ash-laden newsprint onto the glass. Repeat if necessary. For final cleanup of the glass, wet a paper towel with water and wipe the glass. When there is no brownish-colour residue on the towel, the glass is clean. Sit back and enjoy the view. — Hilda

Helpful hints!

I am a professional housekeeper and vacuum my carpet using a high-efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filter, which removes 99 per cent dust, or a central vacuum system that’s vented to the outside. — Albert

When storing wine glasses in the cupboard, they will fit better if you turn every second glass upside down. — Kiley

Rub coconut oil onto leather to polish it and make it waterproof. — Alexander

I bought a little cutlery basket. I store cheese strings and cheese slices in the basket. Helps keep the fridge organized. — Kiley

Note: Every user assumes all risks of injury or damage resulting from the implementation of any suggestions in this column. Test all products on an inconspicuous area first.

Have a great suggestion or tip? Please send an email. Reena Nerbas is a popular motivational presenter for large and small groups; check out her website: reena.ca.

info@reena.ca

Reena Nerbas
July 16

Renovation & Design

Old chimney vent pipe is likely asbestos-free

Question: A while ago, I removed the top section of my B-vent chimney that goes through the roof. I then insulated and capped the remaining B-vent in the attic below the roof line, patched up the roof and shingles.

Does the B-vent section contain asbestos insulation between the twin walls? I ask because some white powder, similar in texture to sawdust created by a table saw, fell out through some rust holes near the top of the B-vent section I took down. My house was built in 1965. So, do I have hazardous material and if so, how do I dispose of one section of B-vent?

Looking forward to your reply.

Regards, D. Gee.

Answer: Disposing of a hazardous material like asbestos does take some extra precautions, but it is doubtful your small length of old chimney piping will cause much grief. It is very unlikely that it does contain asbestos, but only laboratory testing may be able to determine whether the white powder, or any contents inside the pipe, may be suspect. That process is somewhat costly and proper disposal may be done safely and more easily by a trip to the local landfill facility.

Many furnaces in homes built in the late 1960’s to 90’s were installed with double-walled B-vent piping for their chimneys. Some of these were encased in rectangular metal boxes above the roof, or other forms of built-on-site chases. Many were left uncovered with a metal flashing sealing the exit area through the roof. Most of these pipes had a galvanized steel outer pipe, which made them quite resistant to deterioration from corrosion, even in exterior conditions. Most use the empty airspace between the inner and outer layers for insulation, allowing the piping to be installed with minimal clearance to combustible materials.

Because the majority of B-vents had nothing in the cavity between the two layers, it is highly unlikely that there is any asbestos-containing insulation inside your old vent. The white powder may be simple corrosion from the inner metal pipe, or the joints in between individual sections. You have described visible rust on the outside of the vent, which would allow oxygen and moisture to penetrate to the otherwise sealed cavity or inner pipe. The inner pipe may contain other metals, especially aluminum, which may account for the whitish powder. Aluminum corrosion is sometimes hard to see, as it often clings to the surface. But, in some cases, it will be noticeable in flakes or powder form, which is typically a grey or whitish substance. That is likely what you have observed, mistakenly thinking it was asbestos.

In doing some research, the only vent piping containing asbestos that I could find for residential heating systems was used in the 1950’s. This material called “Transite” was a cement-asbestos pipe and appears to have been used primarily in the United States. It is visibly different from other B-vents, as it does not look like metal. It appears to have been discontinued from use due to common deterioration and collapse of the inner sections. When that occurred, the inside diameter of the pipe would decrease in size, causing serious safety concerns. Since your home was built in the mid 60’s, and because your vent is obviously metal, there is no chance it is a Transite pipe.

Due to the above factors, there should be little concern with any hazardous material being contained within your older B-vent. After knowing this, if you still feel compelled to rule out any asbestos-related issues with disposal, you may be able to test the white powder, if you have sufficient quantity. If you can collect a large enough sample, you could put it into a well-sealed zip-lock bag and take it to a testing laboratory for analysis. There are a few in our area that do asbestos testing and identification and they have a fairly quick turn around time. There is a moderate cost for this service, and it is likely money that you should not have to spend, in this case.

Disposing of a small section of metal B-Vent may be as simple as driving to the Brady landfill, or one of the satellite collection depots, and placing it in the appropriate collection bin for metals. There should be no cost associated with disposal from your own home and the modern “dump” facilities are excellent. There is no longer any need to drive long distances over debris-containing dirt roads, risking nail punctures to your car tires. You may even have some other recyclable materials, such as unused electronics, that could be dropped off at the same time. For more information, check out the City of Winnipeg website before venturing out with the old piping.

There is little chance that your older, double-walled metal furnace vent pipe contains asbestos, which would require special precautions for disposal. A simple trip to the local modern landfill, or associated depot, should be all that is required to properly get rid of the unused old chimney sections.

Ari Marantz is the owner of Trained Eye Home Inspection Ltd. and a Registered Home Inspector (RHI)(cahpi.ca). Questions can be emailed to the address below. Ari can be reached at 204-291-5358 or check out his website at trainedeye.ca.

trainedeye@iname.com

Ari Marantz
July 16

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