“Difficulty” is not on their radar!

OK, this is the question of the day.

Why would “anyone” deliberately dump a 5 gallon bucket of sawdust in a crawl space?

Carpenter Ant Frass

Carpenter Ant Frass

I see all sorts of things dumped and stored in crawl spaces. I have even seen sawdust from when the home was built, or from floor refinishing that has filtered down through the cracks in the floor boards–making neat parallel lines on the black vapor barrier covering the ground.

But this stuff was just piled–more or less in one location–along the foundation. It was nowhere near the access to the crawl space, so one might think it was difficult to get it to where it was as well.

But the “someone” that dumped the sawdust, I am quite sure, never contemplates “difficulty.”

carpenter ant frass

This is especially true when you realize this stuff got there ONE BITE AT A TIME!

Carpenter Ants make amazing carpenters–although they seem much better at taking things apart than putting things together.

These carpenters have been working on this home for quite some time and have piled up their construction debris as prove of their industriousness and patience.

“Difficulty” and “impatience” are something that they obviously do not consider.

By Charles Buell, Real Estate Inspections in Seattle

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Hidden damage should be anticipated….

Home inspectors can’t see inside walls, but sometimes we do see things on the surface where “predicting” what will behind those surfaces is actually possible to some degree. Whether hidden damage is moderate or extensive might even be able to be predicted based on the location in the structure and whether structural elements are involved.

Damage to a non bearing wall can be quite extensive and not give itself away, while less extensive damage to key supports might prevent doors from closing, break glass in windows or cause floors to slope.

At an inspection a few months back I found a small slot in the trim around a window (the black mark on the trim right at the center of the picture).

hiddendamageants1

There was a little bit of decay/rot present at the exterior and the wallpaper was delaminating consistent with past moisture intrusion in the area.

I knew the slot in the trim was mining from Carpenter Ants and so “predicting” some amount of hidden damage was not a stretch. As inspectors, we do not very often get a chance to know how accurate our predictions are, so when I was invited back to see the damage I was delighted. The ants had indeed done quite a bit of mining in the area as can be seen in the following picture.

hiddendamageants2

Several wall cavities were filled with frass as well.

hiddendamageants3

In a way they were “insulating” the walls where there previously was none.

This approach to insulating your house should probably be avoided however.

The ants had worked across the bottom of the window framing and up the right side of the window and across the header and then up the diagonal brace above the header and into the double top plate.

hiddendamageants4

That was the extent of visible damage—but most likely other damage should be anticipated.

It would seem that the predictions never end.

By Charles Buell, Real Estate Inspections in Seattle

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A Window on the World

Carpenter Ants are pretty amazing insects.

To appreciate them it is best to think of them “outside” of our homes. For some reason Carpenter Ants cannot distinguish between the wood in our homes and the wood in the woods.

When hiking it the Northwest it is very common to come across trees that have fallen across the trail and the section of tree that crosses the trail is cut away to maintain the trail. Carpenter Ants infest can infest these downed trees—and perhaps they were in it to begin with and its falling was related to the damage they had created.

Regardless, the cut off tree sometimes exposes the tunneling done by the ants and sometimes become the “windows” where the sawdust from their mining gets dumped to the ground below.

In this first picture, I find the shapes created by the Carpenter ants very reminiscent of the shapes used in the art of the peoples that inhabited the Northwest prior to the Europeans.

Carpenterant-windows1

To me there are often parallels between nature and human art.

When I took this picture the ants were busy elsewhere or had abandoned the log. In this next picture, one can clearly see that the Carpenter Ants (Camponotus Modoc) are indeed home and doing what they do best.

Carpenterant-windows2

They have quite a window on the world.

By Charles Buell, Real Estate Inspections in Seattle

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