Whether breaking ground on new construction or remodeling an existing property, facility managers should be aware that renovations can turn up the heat on pest pressures.
Construction uproots pests, disturbing their habitat and forcing them to search for what they need to survive: water, food and shelter. Even if a robust sanitation and maintenance program is already in place to deter pests, it can be disrupted by renovations and leave a property more vulnerable to infestation.
Each pest comes with its own set of unique challenges that can affect the success of renovations and construction. Cockroaches reproduce quickly, can spread disease, contaminate food and even cause allergies. Then there are carpenter and acrobat ants, which target wood in structural timbers and hardwood flooring. Rats and mice can carry several diseases and may cause structural damage within a facility, gnawing on wood, paper, dry wall and wiring. They frequently mistake the wiring on electrical equipment for plant roots and their chewing on them can become a major fire hazard.
All of these pests can actually be built into properties during the construction process. Fortunately, there are ways to seal out pests while renovations are ongoing to prevent infestations later.
An Integrated Pest Management (IPM) approach stresses prevention over remediation by focusing on proactively limiting pests’ access to key survival elements with measures such as sanitation and facility maintenance. Be sure to meet with building contractors before they finalize the blueprints to discuss how an IPM program can be incorporated into the construction process. Follow the below tools of the trade in all three phases of construction to build a solid foundation for pest management.
Phase One: Planning and prep work
Survey the site for potential pest issues and prepare an IPM program that addresses building and site-specific needs. Monitoring devices can be used to detect pest presence, assess populations in the area and take note of the property’s surroundings. Certain geographic, topographic and climatic conditions might create additional pest pressure. For example, forested and wooded areas may see increased carpenter ant activity. It’s important to:
- Review blueprints and plans to ensure potential roosting or nesting areas for birds and other animals are minimized.
- Aim to start construction in the driest season. Wet conditions amplify pest problems.
- Inspect the construction site and incoming materials for existing pests and monitor for on-site pest activity in materials such as shingles and wood.
- Grade the land around the property, if possible. Grading the land will help prevent puddles from forming and remove sources of water.
- Choose pest-resistant building materials, such as non-cellulose insulation and fiber-cement siding.
- Install a first line of defense using a non-toxic baiting and monitoring system around the facility to monitor and detect pest presence. Once detected, the pests can be controlled using the appropriate techniques.
Phase Two: During Construction
When construction begins, pests will be displaced from their homes and typically start to appear on site. This is when a property is at the highest risk of pest infestation. Take the following steps to manage their relocation and ensure easy access to their survival needs is not being provided:
- Monitor for moisture to help prevent pests, such as foreign grain, plaster and fungus beetles, which feed on the fungus that grows and accumulates on wet wood.
- Keep the construction site clean. Ask workers to dispose of food scraps, wrappers and drink cans and cover up building supplies to avert pests such as ants, flies and rodents.
- Install LED lights on site to make it less attractive to flying insects.
- Thoroughly inspect the foundation for cracks and crevices. Some pests can access buildings through openings of less than two millimetres.
- Ensure that all doors and windows are flush against frames and sealed with weather stripping.
Phase Three: After the build and beyond
The facility manager’s job isn’t done once construction or renovation is complete. It’s important to remember that effective IPM is an ongoing process, not a one-time event. Continue to fortify facilities against pests with the following tips:
- Install a half-metre gravel strip around the building. Rodents do not like to be out in the open, and this provides a no-cover zone. Gravel also creates a rough terrain for insects to traverse.
- Trim plants to keep them at least half a metre away from the building. Branches should be cut back to prevent bridge-like, easy access to the building. Avoid fruit-bearing trees that attract flies and pest birds.
- Ensure the building has positive airflow — air that flows out the door, rather than in. When doors open, air should push flying insects out and not suck them into a building.
It’s possible to keep pests out of facilities undergoing construction or remodeling by design. Making pest management a top priority before renovations turn up pest pressures can protect these types of investments and create a solid foundation for a pest-free future.
Alice Sinia, Ph.D. is quality assurance manager – Regulatory/Lab Services for Orkin Canada focusing on government regulations pertaining to the pest control industry. With more than 15 years of experience, she manages the Quality Assurance Laboratory for Orkin Canada and performs analytical entomology as well as provides technical support in pest/insect identification to branch offices and clients. For more information, email Alice Sinia at firstname.lastname@example.org.