Deter Pests and Use Less Pesticide With Good Home Maintenance
This article first appeared in the Austin American Statesman.

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Deter Pests and Use Less Pesticide With Good Home Maintenance

by Erik Bliss
City of Austin Drainage Utility

For decades we have relied on chemical barriers to keep pests out of our homes, rather than trying to physically exclude them. As more people become concerned with the health and environmental risks associated with chemical pesticides, the focus of pest control has shifted towards a more "integrated" approach. Officially called Integrated Pest Management, or IPM, this approach is a balanced, tactical approach that controls pests with the least risk to human health and the environment. Good home maintenance practices are fundamental to a successful IPM program.

Most people probably own homes that were not designed or built with IPM in mind. So, most homeowners must "retrofit" for pest control. Every home has identifiable weak points where pests are likely to enter or reside. Identifying and fixing these is an effective way to control pests.

The following list of common problem areas associated with pests can be used to do a quick inspection of your home's exterior. Many pests are attracted to water or water-damaged areas. Pay close attention to any area of your home that may come in contact with water. It may not be feasible to fix all the problems you find but identifying them will make it easier to monitor for pest activity. Making a few minor repairs now can save you money in the future by avoiding costly damage done by termites, carpenter ants and other pests.

The Foundation

Problems are often caused by poor drainage. After a rain, check the drainage patterns in your yard. Water should not be collecting near or running under your foundation.

Exposed Wood

Wood is subject to pest attack where it is exposed to soil or weather. Subterranean termites tunnel through the soil in search of wood to eat. When encountering an obstacle in the soil, your concrete foundation for example, they will build mud tubes upwards to continue scouting for wood. Tubing is hard and dangerous work for termites so they usually abandon the tube fairly quickly if they don't find wood to infest. As a deterrent, keep any wood or cellulose building material at least 8 inches away from the soil.

Roofs and Gutters

Roofs and gutters are designed to protect your home from the rain. When not functioning properly they can cause water damage and pest problems.

Attics and Crawl Spaces

Attics and crawl spaces are built with vents to reduce moisture build-up. It is important to keep these vents to the outside open and operating, especially in humid areas like Austin. Remove newspaper or cardboard that you have placed in your crawl space. These materials are made from wood pulp and will attract termites.

Kitchens and Bathrooms

Kitchens and bathrooms are common sites of pest problems because of the presence of plumbing and associated water.

Wood Piles

By taking care of these maintenance concerns you will lessen pest problems around your home, and more importantly, you won't have to use as many chemicals. That's better for your health and the health of the environment.

If you are planning to build a new home, there are many tactics that you can take during construction that will deter pest problems. Call the City of Austin Green Builder Program at 499-7827 for more information on building practices that deter pests.

For more information on Integrated Pest Management call Erik Bliss with the City's Drainage Utility Department at 499-1918.

The City of Austin Green Builder Program is a voluntary home-rating system that encourages environmentally-sound home building, remodeling, and home maintenance.

You can also find more information including the Sustainable Building Sourcebook compiled by the City of Austin's Green Builder Program at the Sustainable Sources website.

copyleft 1996: You are encouraged to copy and redistribute this article provided that you acknowledge the City of Austin's Green Builder Program as the source. Please attach this statement.

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