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updated: 8/11/2014 4:00 PM

Seal off entry points to cut off insect invasion

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Q. Bees and wasps are making our home theirs. How do we deter them from doing this? We've had D-Bug and Terminix come to no avail.

A. Where do the insects make your home theirs? If they get inside, you need to find how they get in, and caulk and seal the entry points. If they make nests under the eaves, you can use a wasp and hornet spray that shoots 12 to 20 feet. Wait until dark when they are home sleeping and spray the nest.

If your house has large beams supporting the roof that extend beyond the walls to the eaves, this is an ideal place for insects to enter because the beams may have shrunk just enough to let them crawl in. Caulk all sides of the projecting beams where they exit the wall.

Other potential entry points include around the electric entrance cable (where they can nest inside the electric meter), a dryer, bathroom or kitchen vent, and fuel delivery pipes.

With the few details you gave me, that's the best I can do.

Q. I just recently noticed that hornets and bees have started making small nests by both corners of our garage door. The good thing is that it is toward the outer side of the garage. My husband used a broom and brushed away the nests, but just recently I've noticed that they have started all over again.

Why have they chosen that corner again and how can we permanently eradicate them?

Your helpful advice is highly appreciated.

A. I don't know why the wasps and hornets chose those corners, except perhaps that they select hidden places. They often choose spaces between structural members in roof overhangs or secluded spots in corners under a roof by a chimney, a projecting wall or any other similarly protected area.

I suggest that you buy a wasp and hornet spray and apply it to the nests in the evening when they are home. The residue will prevent new wasps from choosing the same location to build new nests.

Q. Thanks for all your great tips over the years.

I have a nasty problem and cannot get rid of the rust from the snowplow last winter, which somehow got metal rusted parts embedded in the concrete from the plow rubbing the concrete.

I have tried several remedies -- lime juice, lemon juice, Rusterizer from the Internet, Rustoleum rust removal, Whink rust remover, professional rust remover granules you use with water, and a liquid rust stain remover. They all make the concrete whiter and cleaner, but none actually remove the rust. I also used my power washer, but it only cleans the concrete and has no effect on the rust. Any ideas? I've attached pictures in which I tried to do a before and after.

In addition, you indicated you have not found any gutter covers you like. Instead, you and many other contractors suggest new larger gutters, 6-inch gutters with larger downspouts.

Next to my home, we have Linden trees and Maple trees, both letting go of thousands and thousands of seeds in the spring and summer. My neighbor installed larger gutters, and had sprouts growing out of the gutters during the first spring after installation. I in turn installed gutter guards, Raindrop Gutter Guards, which can only be purchased through a contractor. All is working very well after two years; see the type at Maybe this will change your outlook on gutter guards. If you would like pictures, let me know. You can see the guards on the website.

A. Removing recent surface rust stains that have not penetrated too deeply into concrete can be done as follows:

The basic formula is to mix one pound of oxalic crystals to one gallon of hot water in a plastic or glass container; never use metal with oxalic acid. You may not need a gallon of the mixture, depending on how large the area to be treated is. Adjust the proportions as appropriate.

Be aware that oxalic acid is very toxic; wear old clothes, skin and eye protection, including heavy rubber gloves.

Apply the solution to the stains and leave it on for two to three hours. If practical, cover the treated areas with plastic to retard evaporation, or keep adding solution if the weather causes it to dry too fast.

Once the solution has had time to do its work, scrub the surface with a stiff brush while flushing the area with your garden hose. It may require repeated treatments to remove all traces of the rust.

Buy oxalic acid in paint or janitorial stores. When done, dispose of any leftover mixture environmentally at a hazmat depot.

If the rust stains have been there for several years and are deeply embedded, removing them is more difficult. In this case, let me know and I'll cover the procedure.

Q. I've been meaning to write about this for a couple years: Our Cape Cod-style home has a fan at the top of the stairs in the landing ceiling between the two bedrooms. It is covered with vents that open when a switch is turned on. The switch is a timer and will run for an hour or longer.

I am not sure how to use it efficiently, or if I should use it at all. We have whole-house AC, but each bedroom upstairs has a window unit that we put in every summer.

When I turn that fan on, it pulls cool air up when the front door is opened and -- I assume -- sucks out hot air. Obviously, I do not use it when AC is on.

The upstairs bedrooms get very hot. When, and how, do I put that big old thing to work? Should the bedroom doors be open? The bedroom windows? Should I use it in the morning or the evening? Thanks, once again, for your wonderful advice.

On another note, in regard to my letter of several weeks ago regarding the possibility of having just my bathtub recovered and not the surrounding walls: A reader added his input and suggested ReBath. It was very thoughtful of him to take the time to write. However, I did find ReBath on my own and was disappointed to learn that they (at least the one I contacted) also will not do just the tub. I am going to keep looking. We read your column in the Tribune-Review.

A. Because the upstairs bedrooms get very hot, you may want to look into adding more insulation in the attic. Having six or more inches of cellulose blown in would help tremendously. But make sure that any soffit vents are not going to be blocked by insulation in the process, and if they are blocked now, they should be cleared.

Using a whole-house fan was popular many years ago, but it really does the best job for the rooms in which the windows or outside doors are open. You could open downstairs windows slightly and the hot bedrooms windows as fully as possible, but without increasing the attic's insulation, the bedroom ceilings will be radiating heat for a long time.

It would be best to use the bedroom window units, if you do not need to use your central air-conditioning for the rest of the house, after having added attic insulation, and not using the whole-house fan. If this is what you decide to do, consider capping and insulating the fan housing in the attic to prevent heat loss in the winter.

Sorry about the ReBath people. I guess it's an individual dealership's decision. I hope you find another one more flexible.

Q. I have a house built in the late '80s that has gable and soffit vents. Three years ago, I had a new roof put on and a ridge vent was installed. I am in the process of getting quotes to have vinyl siding put on the house. Everything I have read says that the gable vent should be blocked off and to go with ridge and soffit venting.

The contractors that I contacted, each with 30 years of experience, have different opinions. One says to block the vent so it won't interfere with the airflow. The other states new information says to leave it open -- reasoning that the more ventilation, the better -- and that most local building inspectors want it done this way.

What is your opinion?

A. Everything that you have read is correct, and so is the contractor who agrees with it. Hopefully, you have an externally baffled ridge vent, such as Shinglevent II.

Gable vents kept open while having soffit and ridge vents are causing a short circuit between soffit and ridge vents, and reducing to a minimum, if not interrupting completely, the air intake from the soffits. This defeats the purpose.

The combination of soffit and ridge vents with an uninterrupted airflow between them is sufficient to take care of attic ventilation as long as there are no convective paths from the conditioned space below to overwhelm its ability to do the job.

I am not aware of any building inspectors who "want it done that way." If any such inspector says so, he or she should go back to school.

Great tip from a Vermont reader: An Essex Junction reader has successfully dealt with fruit flies -- the bane of our kitchens -- by putting a small amount of vinegar in a narrow mouth glass jar. She makes a funnel with a paper towel. The fruit flies get in and she swishes the jar to drown them. An alternative to their extermination is to let them out outside where birds can take care of them.

• Henri de Marne was a remodeling contractor in Washington, D.C., for many years, and is now a consultant. Write to him in care of the Daily Herald, P.O. Box 280, Arlington Heights, IL 60006, or via email at

© 2014, United Feature Syndicate Inc.

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