Household Pests and Plumbing Problems
Every two years, the U.S. Census Bureau conducts the American Housing Survey to get a better understanding of several things, such as how homeowners financed the purchase of their residence and whether they think their community is a safe place to live. The survey also specifically asks residents in 25 cities if they’ve noticed evidence of cockroaches, rats and mice in their living spaces.
Bloomberg analyzed the most recent American Housing Survey, which was performed in 2015. According to Bloomberg’s interpretation of the data in the American Housing Survey, 18 percent of households located in Philadelphia reported they have witnessed evidence of mice or rats. In New York City, 16 percent of households said they had roaches and 15 percent reported evidence of rodents. For New Yorkers, this means approximately 2.2 million households located in the Big Apple have a problem with rodents or cockroaches.
Pests aren’t only found in rundown locations or metropolitan areas populated by people with lower incomes. Vermin also infest the homes and businesses of the wealthy. For instance, households in Atlanta and New Orleans that earn over $120,000 per year were more likely to admit to having cockroaches than households that earn less. In nine of the 25 cities polled by the most recent American Housing Survey, more affluent households reported the presence of mice more often that those with smaller annual incomes.
Damage caused by vermin can be expensive for homeowners to repair. According to Termites.com, homeowners who realize they have termite damage can expect to spend an average of $3,000 to fix it. Throughout the United States, it’s estimated that approximately $5 billion is spent to repair and control termite damage every year.
While Termites.com estimates that termites and other pests cause about $30 billion in damage to buildings and crops annually, material that’s available on North Carolina State University’s website suggests that dollar values for losses caused by pests are “nearly impossible to calculate.” As a general rule, economists estimate that insects alone eat or ruin approximately 10 percent of gross national product in big, industrialized countries. The news is even worse in developing countries, where economists estimate that insects can consume or destroy as much as 25 percent of gross national product.
Causes of Infestation
While the presence of pests can be costly for homeowners and businesses, it’s great news for the pest control industry in the United States. Revenue in this industry grew from $7.213 billion in 2013 to $7.466 billion in 2014, a 3.5 percent increase from year to year. In 2014, just over 10 percent of the households located in the United States used professional pest control providers.
What’s keeping pest control businesses so busy? Many things can cause a home or business to become infested with vermin, but some triggers are more common than others. Here’s a list of what’s attracting pests in your home:
- Tree Branches Making Contact With a Building: If you treat your home or business with insecticide or rodenticide, it can still become infested by pests. Insects and rodents often use branches when they travel to avoid treatments intended to eliminate them on the ground. When tree branches or shrubs touch your building, it makes it easy for vermin to get onto your roof.
- Shrubbery Located to Close to Your Structure: If you have bushes that are too close to your building, they can hold moisture against the siding. This can cause rot, which can attract a variety of pests that will only make the problem worse and more expensive to repair.
- Siding Touching Soil: If a small part of your siding touches the ground, it can cause rot. Many vermin find rot irresistible, including carpenter ants, moisture ants and termites.
- Gaps in Your Crawl Space: If you have gaps leading into your crawl space, mice and rats can invade your crawl space. Rodents can do significant damage with their urine, feces and chewing habits, which can destroy your insulation, wiring and vapor barrier. If you don’t eradicate them, rodents will eventually make their way into your living space.
- Clogged Gutters: When your gutters are clogged, they can’t release water, which eventually causes them to overflow. When water runs down your siding, it can cause rot and decay, which is inviting to pests. Your gutters can’t release water when they’re clogged, so the water they collect remains standing long after the rain stops. Standing water provides an ideal location for pests, such as mosquitos, to breed.
- Detached Downspouts: If your downspouts have become detached from your home, it can lead to an eventual infestation. When your downspouts aren’t positioned to move water away from your foundation, the water can seep beneath your building and cause moisture and decay, which can attract pests.
- Clutter Against Your Structure: Whether you have firewood neatly stacked against your building or you have clutter lining the sides of your building, you’ve created an environment that many vermin find attractive. While vermin may be content to live in your firewood or clutter for a time, it’s likely they will eventually make their way into the walls your things are resting against.
- Missing or Damaged Screens: A missing or damaged window screen can be a direct entryway pests can use to access your living space. Window screens aren’t the only screens you have to worry about, however. You also have to make sure your soffit screen is in good enough shape to prevent birds, bats and rodents from getting into your attic.
- Neighbors: If you’ve eliminated vermin from your living space, they may return if your neighbors have them and they don’t do anything to get rid of them. People living in connected town homes, condominiums and apartments are particularly vulnerable to this kind of infestation threat given their proximity to their neighbor’s homes.
One of the biggest reasons homes and businesses become infested by pests is water because pests are attracted to leaks and other water sources. The accessibility of water is what makes some places more attractive to vermin than others. Even though you may drain your sink immediately after you do the dishes and empty the tub the moment you’re done bathing, insects and rodents find other sources of water when they enter your living space.
Every inch of your plumbing system is a potential access point where bugs and rodents can find water. From your faucets to your sewage line to your garden hose, your plumbing system is at risk for giving vermin access to water.
Plumbing Issues That Can Cause Pest Problems
In many instances, people don’t realize they have a problem with their plumbing until they see signs of vermin or pest activity. Some plumbing problems can lead to a vermin infestation, and they make themselves obvious in other ways in addition to creating an environment that’s inviting to pests. One such problem is a damaged or busted main sewer line.
In general, cast iron sewer pipes have a lifespan of about 25-35 years. If your cast iron sewer pipes are approaching that age range or they’ve already surpassed it, they’re in danger of failing at any time. Your drainage lines are susceptible to intrusive tree roots, cracks and misaligned connections, which can cause costly problems. Fixing a failed sewer line is normally much more expensive than performing some proactive maintenance.
If you’re concerned about your sewer lines, contact Mr. Rooter Plumbing of Oneida to make arrangements for one of our licensed plumbers to perform a thorough plumbing checkup on all of your home’s plumbing at no charge to you.
Here are some common signs that you have sewer line issues that need to be addressed before the lines break or deteriorate and cause or contribute to an infestation problem:
- Backups: If a backup occurs every time you flush the commode or release water from your tub or sink, you probably have an issue with your main sewer line because all of your drains rely on the main line to drain. If, on the other hand, you only experience backups when you use one bathroom, the issue is probably related to the drain that’s dedicated to support that space.
- Smell: If you notice the smell of sewer gas in or anywhere near your home or business, it’s a sure sign that your sewer system has a crack in it. All sanitary sewers are supposed to be sealed except for their vent stacks, which are normally on the roof. This design shouldn’t allow for the release of sewer gas anywhere it would be noticeable.
- Mold: Sewer lines often run behind walls and above ceilings. If you notice mold growth, it could be a visible sign you have a break in at least one of your lines. While either sign should motivate you to take action, you should contact Mr. Rooter Plumbing immediately if you notice mold growth and smell sewer odor.
- Slow Drains: Keeping your drains clear can go a long way toward the successful prevention of household pests because it will prevent water from standing in your sinks, tubs and showers where insects and rodents can access it. If your drains are working as they normally do even after you’ve made sure there isn’t a blockage, your drain line might have been compromised by a tree’s root or it may have suffered channeling or a crack.
- Greener or Thicker Spots on Your Lawn: While you may be excited that the grass on a certain spot on your lawn is greener and thicker than the grass on the rest of your property, unusually green, thick grass might be an indication you have a sewage leak underground. The reason the patch of grass is greener and thicker than other areas of your lawn might be that the sewage released by your plumbing line is acting as fertilizer for the grass above.
- Depressions in Your Lawn: If you’ve noticed depressions on your property that weren’t there before, they may be a sign that your main sewer line is cracked, deteriorated or busted. When a sewer line continuously saturates the ground, it typically washes away the soil. This can cause depressions in your lawn and walkways.
- Cracks in the Foundation: If you’ve had a leak under your home for a while, it may have created a void under your foundation or somewhere else on your property. If this has happened under your foundation, it can cause the foundation to crack or lead your house to settle. Even worse, it can create a sinkhole that can engulf your residence over time. If you notice a crack in your foundation, contact Mr. Rooter Plumbing at once.
- Pools of Waste: If you notice pools of waste in your yard that your pets aren’t responsible for, then you have a big problem with your sewer lines. While several issues can cause pools of waste, the most common ones are a failed septic tank, a clogged drain field and a busted main line. You’ll normally find the source of a pool of waste immediately below the pool.
- Rodents: If you develop a problem with rodents, it could be an unmistakable indication that you’ve suffered a break in your sewer lines. Many rodents live in sewers and they can travel from sewer lines located outside of your home to lines located on the inside. When you consider that a typical mouse can fit through a hole that has the same diameter as the average number two pencil and that rats can get through openings that are as small as a quarter, it’s easy to understand how one tiny crack in a sewer line can make a bad situation worse.
- Insects: If you’re disturbed that mice and rats can enter your home through tiny cracks and holes, you’re about to be really unnerved. Bugs such as the German cockroach can enter through openings that are as thin as a dime. Even the noticeably bigger American cockroach can make it through spaces that are as thin as a quarter. Because they can squeeze through such tiny spaces, it’s even easier for insects to infest your home as the result of a broken or damaged sewer line than it is for rodents. Whether or not you notice any other sign that you have a problem with a sewer line, a sudden infestation of insects can be a sure sign that you have a problem.
If you’ve attracted rodents or insects to your home or business because of a compromised sewer line, it’s important to realize that the infestation won’t be cleared up until the line is repaired. Even if you hire a professional exterminator to treat your home or business, the infestation will continue to recur until your damaged line is fixed.
Pests That Cause Plumbing Leaks
While you may think of hairballs or wads of toilet paper when you make a list of the things that can cause plumbing leaks, you should add pests to your list. Vermin that can cause leaks include:
- Termites: Termites need a few basic things to survive — water, food, shelter and paths of travel being among them. Termites prefer habitats that have materials with plenty of cellulose in them such as timber. Many people associate termites with ground level structural damage to exposed wood, but these insects can establish colonies that don’t have contact with the ground as long as they have access to food and water in another location. Because of their ability to thrive in above ground buildings, termite colonies are often found near water sources such as leaky pipes on any floor of an infested building.
- Rodents: If they access a structure’s plumbing system through the sewer system, rodents can cause major blockages that can, in turn, case water leaks. Rats and mice prefer to travel on paths that enable them to remain in contact with nearby surfaces. Mice can jump as high as one foot, and they can climb textured vertical surfaces as well as cables and ropes. With so many physical abilities, it’s easy for mice to enter and travel through your plumbing system if there’s an access point. If mice enter your plumbing and clog it, you’ll experience at least one leak because the pressure will build up in your pipes eventually cause one to break.
- Cockroaches: Like rodents, cockroaches are well equipped to invade the plumbing system in your home or business after they gain access to it from the sewer system or another point of entry. Cockroaches are often the culprits for clogged sink traps in homes or businesses that are grappling with an infestation. Clogged sink traps typically lead to the buildup of filthy water and leaks that occur below the basin.
Common Sources of Leaks
Leaks can occur in many places, but they often happen in places that are easy for you to check visually. Inspecting these places regularly will help you detect leaks early and avoid a pest infestation. Although one bug enjoying the few drops of water you left behind on the shower floor may not be a sign that you have an infestation, seeing multiple insects in the same areas on a regular basis is definitely a sign that you might have a big problem. Remember, a leak doesn’t have to be visible to you for pests to find it and use it as their watering hole.
Leaks can occur in some locations that are difficult to access — such as underground, behind walls and under floor boards — but many of them happen in places that are easily accessible. The faucets in your bathrooms and kitchen can leak due to worn washers. If you notice rust around your drains, fixtures or water control valves, it’s a sign that water is leaking from somewhere nearby.
As you’re inspecting your sinks and their hardware for leaks, be sure you check the cabinets and underneath them. Make sure there’s no moisture under your garbage disposal or sink trap. If there is, contact Mr. Rooter Plumbing so a licensed plumber who is certified by Onondaga Country for plumbing leak detection or any plumbing related project can fix the leak for you.
You should also check underneath your refrigerator for water. If there’s enough room, put a pan underneath your refrigerator to collect the water that condensates beneath it and empty the pan often. If your refrigerator has an automatic icemaker, you should check the water line that runs to your freezer, too. These lines are typically made from plastic that’s vulnerable to tears and breaks. If you have even the slightest tear in your water line, it can produce enough water to support an entire colony of pests.
When you check your refrigerator for leaks, you should also inspect all of the other appliances that are connected to your plumbing, including your washing machine as well as your dishwasher.
As you’re looking for leaks that might attract vermin, you should inspect the seals on your plumbing pipes where they come through your walls. The spots where your pipes come through your walls should be sealed with metallic plates, rubber gaskets, insulation or some other kind of a barrier that will prevent vermin from entering your home or business. Gaps in these seals are another way that insects and rodents can gain access to your space.
Water leaks happen inside and outside, making it necessary to check the outside of your home or business for leaks. First, ensure your exterior water spigots are leak-free. Inspect your hoses for leaks as well. If you have a sprinkler system, check the sprinkler heads to make sure water isn’t pooling around them.
While you’re outside, you should check your air conditioning unit for leaks. It’s not unusual for water to pool around air conditioners if their drainage lines are clogged. You should contact an air conditioner repair company if you notice stagnant water near your air conditioner and take immediate action to disperse the water. You should also ensure that your condensation pans are empty. If you have water in your condensation pans, empty it.
Mosquitos only need one inch of stagnant water to lay their eggs, so very little standing water is necessary for mosquitos to create an overwhelming infestation problem. By checking the water sources you have on the exterior of your home, you can prevent water from accumulating and avoid being infested with mosquitos and other pests.
How to Detect Water Leaks That Aren’t Readily Visible
You may be curious about what you can do to detect water leaks that aren’t readily visible like behind walls, under floor boards and under your foundation. Oftentimes, the first sign of an invisible leak is evidence of vermin activity. A leaking pipe that’s covered by sheet rock can soften the wood in your building’s frame, creating an inviting habitat for wood-devouring termites, carpenter ants, rats and mice that enjoy gnawing on softened wood.
Rodents are carriers for an assortment of diseases that range from the plague to typhus while certain insects like cockroaches can cause or aggravate allergies, asthma and other respiratory conditions in some people. The health threats associated with infestations along with the possible structural damage make it vital to be on the constant lookout for water leaks, including those you cannot see.
Here are some tips you can use to detect leaks that aren’t readily visible:
- Compare your water bills from the past few months. You should also compare your current water bill with the one you received for the same period last year. If you notice an increase in your water usage and another reason such as visitors staying at your home or a new family member joining your household can’t be blamed for the increase, you may have a water leak.
- Check your water meter and write down your current reading. Make sure no one in your home or business uses water for the next while, if possible, and then check the reading on your water meter again. If your reading has gone up, it’s an indication that you have a water leak somewhere on your property. Depending on your meter, you may be able to run this test even faster by turning off the water in your home or business and seeing if your meter moves while the water is still off.
- You can use food coloring to see if your toilets are leaking. Simply add some food coloring to your toilet’s tank and sit tight for 10 minutes or so. If the food coloring has seeped into the bowl without the toilet being flushed, you have a leak that’s enabling water to flow from your tank to the drain. While toilets are generally within plain view, the leaks associated with them often aren’t. Toilet bowl leaks can not only drive up your water bill up, they can create an environment that attracts insects and rodents. Did you know that a hidden toilet bowl leak can run water into your sewer without you even knowing?
- Check to see if there’s moisture underneath your hot water heater. Many people take their water heaters for granted and fail to check them for hidden leaks. Leaky water heaters can rot the floor underneath them and the base of the walls surrounding them, which can attract vermin. If a leak continues too long, it can compromise the bottom of your hot water heater and cause it to fail, which can create an even bigger problem.
- Contact Mr. Rooter Plumbing for help finding hidden water leaks in your home or place of business. Our licensed plumbers are certified by Onondaga County for plumbing leak detection or any plumbing related problem. Our licensed plumbers have the skills and experience necessary to find any hidden leaks that are present in your property.
Signs of a Pest Infestation
Pests attracted to leaks often leave signs that they’re around even if they’re nocturnal creatures like cockroaches. Whether you’ve discovered a visible or hidden leak, once you’re aware of it you should have it fixed and be on the lookout for any evidence that you have a pest problem.
In the case of cockroaches, seeing one during the day may be a sign that you have an infestation because they typically live and feed in the dark. If you see even just one cockroach during the day, you should immediately check dark, moist places in your home or business to see if there are more critters invading your living or work space. Some common places that cockroaches like to hide include:
- Behind Refrigerators
- Floor Drains
- Beneath Rubber Mats
- Behind Wallpaper
- Inside Wall Cracks
Even if you don’t find cockroaches in these places, it doesn’t mean there aren’t any in your home. You should keep an eye out for cockroach feces. Smaller cockroaches produce poop that looks like coffee grinds or even ground black pepper. Feces left by larger cockroaches is longer and cylindrical. The amount of waste you come across will indicate how severe an infestation is and how long one has existed in your home or business.
In addition to feces, you should look out for the bodies of dead cockroaches and oothecae, which is a cockroach’s egg casing. These casings have an oval shape and they’re typically visible in hidden locations such as the space separating two books.
When you’re trying to see if you have a cockroach infestation, you can use more than your eyes. You can use your nose as well. Some cockroach species release an odor that’s as distinct as it is unpleasant. If an infestation is widespread enough, you may notice a powerful oily or stale smell that’s indicative of the level of your pest problem.
Some of the signs that you have a pest problem are specific to cockroaches, such as oily, stale smell, size and shape of feces. There are other general indications that signal a property has an infestation problem of some sort. Here are some generic signs that indicate a home or business is infested by pests:
- Active Pests: Although many pests like cockroaches are more active at night or in darkened spaces, it doesn’t mean they’re always going to remain in the shadows. If you see vermin during the daytime or in a bright space, its presence might be a sign that the property is heavily infested.
- Dead Bugs Inside: Look for the bodies of any pests that might have been attracted to your property by a water leak. Check your windowsills and basement for the bodies of dead pests often, especially if you recently discovered a leak or had one repaired. If you notice the bodies of bugs that are the same species, it could be an indication there’s a colony of that kind of bug living in your building.
- Damaged Furniture: Rats and mice have teeth that grow constantly, which is why they’re on the constant lookout for things to chew. Whether it’s pipes, insulation, plastic, wiring, wood, sheetrock or something else, mice and rats will gnaw on it. Rodents will not hesitate to chew on your furniture. If you notice bite marks on your chair or table legs, it could be a sign that rodents have a strong presence in your home or business. You should check the base of your furniture and your skirting boards often if you’re concerned about rodents at your location.
- Nesting Materials: Vermin such as rats and mice will make nests out of whatever materials are available in the environments they live in. You should look for things that can be used for nesting such as shredded paper in places pests like to hide, including the inside of cabinets and the areas behind your appliances. If you see evidence of nesting, you may have a major pest problem to deal with.
- Damaged Fabric: Certain pests such as the clothes moth and carpet beetles are often drawn to items made with natural fabric, such as rugs, curtains, carpets, furniture upholstery and book bindings made with leather. Woolen carpets are damaged by fabric pests most often. Even if you use your woolen textiles and dry clean them often, they can still suffer damage from fabric pests if your home or business becomes infested. Damage fabric pests typically do to non-woolen fabrics and knits generally appears as irregularly shaped holes that are the result of yarn being consumed by the bugs. This kind of damage resembles the damage caterpillars often do to the leaves of plants. If you notice damage to the fabrics in your home, you may have an infestation issue.
- Unusual Smells and Sounds: You can sniff out an infestation of mice or rats. Mice tend to have a stale smell that’s mixed with the scent of urine. Rats usually have a smell that’s reminiscent of ammonia. Rats and mice are often found under floorboards and behind walls. If you hear scratching, gnawing, squeaking or movement coming from your floorboards or walls, your home or business may be infested. If you listen closely enough, you can also detect the movement of large bugs if a structure is infested with them.
- Holes and Bite Marks: If you’ve noticed new holes in your walls or floors, your building might be infested with rats or mice. This is particularly likely if you’ve also noticed burrows around the location where you store your garbage or in areas of your lawn with high grass. Rats like to chew things, so if you see wires with bite marks on them or that have been gnawed through, you’re probably going to want to call an exterminator as quickly as possible.
- Tracks: Rats and mice often follow the same paths of travel every day. Don’t just look for paths on the floor. You should look for them along the walls as well because both rats and mice are adept climbers. If you see footprints, grease marks, droppings or urine trails, it can indicate that you have an infestation. If you don’t use some of the rooms in your home or business often, you should check them for paths that have disturbed any dust that has settled, which could signal the presence of rats or mice.
- Damaged Plants: If you have a garden or perennials are incorporated into your landscaping, you should inspect them for damage caused by vermin. You can examine them to see if they have insect trails or gnaw marks on their leaves or branches. You should check your grass for signs that pests are present on your property as well.
- Unusual Patches: If you notice that certain patches of your grass aren’t the same height as the rest of your lawn or you see circular brown patches of grass dotting your lawn, your property may be infested by pests.
- Holes: Moles normally live in holes they dig at locations where they can find food and water easily. Moles eat bugs and grubs, which are commonly found in grassy places like lawns.