Termite Inspection & Treatment

How to Identify a Termite

The first step to identifying a termite infestation is to understand whether you actually have termites. Due to their physical similarities to ants, this is not a simple matter of spotting a termite and then setting a few traps. The process is much more involved, and you must not only confirm the existence of colonies, but that you are dealing with termites and not ants.

Furthermore, it is important to identify the species of termite in order to properly treat an infestation. Finally, looking for structural signs will determine whether there are active colonies in your home.

termite exterminator

Where do You Find Termites

Contrary to popular belief, most termites do not nest in wood. Termites eat cellulose, which means any plant-based object is a potential food source. Subterranean termites live underground, and you may find infestations in your garden, wood piles, or even compost heaps. There are approximately 50 species in the United States, 20 of which are considered structural pests. Most termite species are located in the southern states and along the Pacific rim, although they can be found in every state except Alaska.

How do You Get Termites?

Termite infestations may happen for a number of reasons. Sometimes a swarm of alates (winged reproductive termites) will land on your home during their mating flight. Drywood termite colonies may have existed in furniture or picture frames before you purchased them. Subterranean termites may have discovered wood in the exterior of your home or have wandered in through cracks as small as one thirty-second of an inch (the width of a business card) in your foundation. Any foliage within 28 inches of your home may be potential sources if they themselves are infested. Termites are also attracted to moisture and sources of cellulose, such as wood or other plant matter.

How to Stain Your Deck

A beautiful, well-maintained deck not only provides extra space for relaxing and entertainment, but it also adds value to your home. Like any outdoor living space, however, the realities of Mother Nature make keeping up this type of space more challenging. Responsible ownership means taking special steps to protect your deck from wind, rain, sun and snow as well as the hands of time.

If you neglect it for too long, not only does the look and utility of the space diminish, but its materials begin to break down as well, leading to an unsafe surface full of protruding nails and wood ripe for splinters. The good news is that staining a deck to seal in its beauty and lengthen its life is a simple DIY task that requires more time than it does hard-earned skills.


How to Effectively Seal & Stain Your Deck

The main goal of a sealed and stained deck is keeping the wood fresh and strong by locking out moisture and preventing damage from the sun. Most commercial deck stains and sealants will do just that with only a coat or two, so long as the area is properly prepped and the stain is properly applied. Doing so requires first gathering the right materials and tools and then getting down to the business of staining.

Tools & Materials Needed

Below is a list of the items you need to purchase for a successful staining and sealing project.

  • Stiff-bristle broom
  • Pump sprayer
  • Deck cleaner
  • Protective gloves
  • Safety mask
  • Garden hose with high-pressure nozzle
  • 80-grit sandpaper or sponge
  • Plastic sheet or drop cloth
  • 2–2 1/2-inch paint brush
  • Paint roller and tray
  • Deck stain and/or sealant of choice

DIY: 8 Steps to Stain Your Deck

The process of actually staining a deck is pretty simple, but it’s notably divided into two distinct and equally important tasks: cleaning and preparation and the actual staining process. For the best and longest-lasting results, be sure to properly complete both of these tasks and allow the requisite time in between to give the seal and stain enough time to dry.

  1. Begin the cleaning process by removing all furniture and other objects from the deck surface and inspecting it for damage and protruding nails. Sand down any splintered boards with 80-grit sandpaper and an optional pole sander. Remove and replace any broken or rotted boards, and nail in any protruding nail heads to prevent snags. Once complete, sweep to remove large debris.
  2. Before actually applying the deck cleaner, be sure to wet and/or cover all live vegetation surrounding the space. Follow the manufacturer’s directions on the bucket or bottle of cleaning product regarding how to protect your plants. Then, apply the cleaner to a wet or dry surface (depending on the product) using the garden sprayer. Work the cleaner into the boards with the bristles of your broom and allow it to sit for the designated time (usually about 10 minutes) before rinsing away the cleaning solution with the garden hose fitted with a high-pressure nozzle.
  3. Once complete, allow the deck to dry for at least 48 hours, or the amount of time specified in the manufacturer’s directions, before moving on to the staining process. Because of this requirement, it’s a good idea to check the weather report before beginning a deck staining job to make sure you have adequate time without rain in between the cleaning and staining steps as well as immediately following the staining process.
  4. Prepare the sealer and/or stain according to the manufacturer’s directions, taking care to mix the entire batch thoroughly to ensure an even color across the surface of your deck. The following process works for applying both types of finishes.
  5. Begin by choosing a small section of 2–3 boards and carefully apply one thin coat over the section using a roller with an extension pole. Pay very close attention to the stain, avoiding any pools or puddles of stain or sealer and cleaning them up with a 2-inch paint brush. You may also choose to have a second person follow you around and smooth out those little pools with a paintbrush immediately after you apply the roller coat — a process called backrolling.
  6. Continue this careful process, focusing on a specific set of boards individually, across the entire deck. Be sure to use a paintbrush, rather than a large roller, to apply the stain or sealer in corners and on railings and poles.
  7. Allow adequate time for the stain or sealer to dry and then apply a second thin coat. Depending on the condition of the deck and the previous state of the sealant, you may only need to reapply a second coat in select areas, or not at all.
  8. Allow the deck to dry completely according to the time described on the package of your particular brand of stain or sealant. Once it is dry, re-rinse the surrounding vegetation and remove the plastic protective sheet, if you used one.

Hire a Pro

While the process of staining a deck is simple enough as a DIY job, it does require one thing that’s at a premium for many homeowners: time. Because of the drying process, staining can take days to complete from start to finish, even if the actual active time involved is closer to 3–5 hours. In addition, the painting process is also quite tedious and may involve some uncomfortable bending, which may not be comfortable for older or mobility-impaired homeowners.

Furthermore, professional painters and contractors are much better suited to staining a deck that needs substantial repair, either to individual boards or structural components. They’re also more likely to get the painting done quickly and evenly.

Air conditioner maintenance

Air conditioner maintenance is an absolutely vital piece of home maintenance. It increases the likelihood that your cooling system will run uninterrupted throughout the summer, that any needed repairs will have a reasonable price tag, and that your system will operate at its optimal level of energy-efficiency. It’s also a piece of home maintenance that’s difficult for many to keep up with. The best air conditioner maintenance starts in the spring when many homeowners are preoccupied with other household projects or life in general. Take this checklist and possible outcomes for your air conditioning system, then decide whether it’s time to place air conditioner maintenance as one of the priorities for your home:

Air Conditioner Maintenance Checklist

  • Outdoor Condensing Unit: Make sure the unit isn’t blocked by high grasses, weeds, or other lawn and garden components. The unit needs to draw air into the system in order to cool and circulate inside, but the process is hindered if it cannot pull in enough outside air. Some people intentionally cover their condenser to protect it from the elements during the winter, but these units require no protection since they are designed to be outside.
  • Conduct a Test Run: Some time in the spring, crank your system and let it run for up to an hour. If you can identify problems early, you’ll find HVAC contractors may still have an open calendar. Wait till the first 90-degree day and you may end up on a waiting list.
  • Change the Air Filter: Dirty filters will destroy your unit’s energy-efficiency or, worse, cause the evaporator to ice over. If you know you’re bad at remembering these types of recurring maintenance, install a permanent filter that needs only to be cleaned, instead of replaced, each year.
  • Check Access Panels and Obstructions: Be sure all access panels are secure, with all screws in place. Clean obvious obstructions, such as newspaper and leaves, from around the exterior of the unit.
  • Set and Double-Check the Thermostat: Be sure the thermostat is set in the cooling mode. Just setting the dial below room temperature will not activate the air conditioner if it is set in the heat mode. If you have a programmable thermostat, customize your cooling for various time periods throughout the day.

air conditioning contractors

Professional Air Conditioning Maintenance

Homeowners need to follow this checklist for proper air conditioning maintenance: A thoroughly cleaned air conditioning unit will operate at top efficiency, but homeowners should also be aware of their own limitations. Each year, some homeowners attempt to clean their air conditioner with a garden house, creating a serious risk of electrocution or electrical damage to the unit. If you encounter a problem with your A/C that you can’t diagnose on your own, don’t hesitate to call in the pros.