Category Archives: sealing leaks

Whence come the roaches?

SkillLevel1Whenever we returned to the beach house after being gone for several days we would find a handful of mostly dead (in “The Princess Bride” sense) roaches scattered about. Where were they coming from? I caulked or foamed every crack I could find. Fortunately, my ever-loving wife, “Rochelle” (not her real name) was patient and cut me some slack because she knew I was really trying. (Not to be confused with the phrase, “He can be really trying,” which means something else entirely. I’m pretty sure I heard Rochie correctly but now I’m starting wonder if I was listening carefully.)

Plumbers and electricians like to drill holes. Lots of holes. The licensing test for plumbers has two questions:

  1. Can you glue PVC pipe?
  2. Can you drill a hole?

If yes, here is your license.

For electricians the questions are different:

  1. Can you strip Romex cable?
  2. Can you drill a hole?

Here’s your license.

Notice there isn’t a third question: Can you seal the hole? So although they are both good at drilling holes, the answer to that one is typically, “Not so much.”

Dryer vent in wall and floor needs to be sealed
Dryer vent in wall and floor needs to be sealed

In the pantry I found a dryer duct going into the floor that had enough space around it for a squirrel to get through along with a year’s supply of nuts so I foamed around that baby to slow down the varmint traffic. But still the roaches came.

I foamed the holes around the water pipes in the sink cabinets in the kitchen and all of the bathrooms. Still they came.

In the attic, I foamed the wiring holes that go into the tops of the walls. I caulked around the outside doors. It didn’t slow them down.

I pulled out the kitchen stove and foamed the openings in the floor underneath the stove. Same for the refrigerator. I squirted little puddles of roach bait poison in corners and by the doors. They are supposed to take the poison back to the nest so that the whole colony is wiped out. Maybe the roaches can’t read the instructions or they purposely flaunt them but that didn’t work either.

Major roach portal in cabinet floor
Major roach portal in cabinet floor

Then one day my ever-loving wife said she saw a roach on the countertop that scooted off and disappeared under the edge of the countertop. I looked up under there but couldn’t see where it had gone so I took out the top drawer to get a better look. (The drawer slides on each side have a little plastic lever that releases the drawer.) Nothing obvious so I figured it must have gone down behind the other drawers so I took them out too. Eureka! The answer was blindingly obvious.

The electrician had drilled a hole in the base of the cabinet to run a wire for the outlets. Oh, and I’m sure he sealed the hole. NOT! I was staring at a roach superhighway. The whole roach contingent could have crawled out of there side by side in parade formation. It was now clear that the little black dots in the drawers were roach rest areas when they needed to take a break from the highway.

Roach superhighway in cabinet bottom and through subfloor
Roach superhighway in cabinet bottom and through subfloor

Not only was there a hole in the bottom of the cabinet but there was another hole in the subfloor below it. Taking advantage of a more-or-less direct line to the roach hoard, I shot some poison down both holes.

Superhighway is now closed
Superhighway is now closed

Then I foamed the subfloor hole by sticking the Great Stuff gun down the cabinet hole. Did I mention it was a large hole? Then I foamed the hole in the cabinet bottom and replaced the drawers.

Result? No more roaches.

Sometimes I like to imagine the puzzled look on their stupid little faces when the survivors, if any, bump into all of that foam. What the …? It warms the cockles of my heart, if I have any, which I doubt because I tried to pay attention in school and I have no recollection of any mention of “cockles” when we were learning about hearts.


The return should suck more

Skill level skill2

We had turned off the heat in the house while we were gone for a few days (which saves a lot of electricity, by the way) and turned it back on using a web app about three hours before we returned. That remote control of the temperature is a very handy feature.

Energy usage chart shows how setting back the thermostat can save big time
Energy usage chart shows how setting back the thermostat can save big time. The wavy brown line is the outdoor temperature and the red area is when the heat is on while we are there over a winter weekend.

Normally it takes 2 – 3 hours to get the house back up to a comfortable room temperature if we let it get down into the 50s. It was pretty chilly outside when we arrived and my ever-loving wife, “Gladys” (not her real name), said it felt good to be inside. The indoor temperature, however, was still in the lower 60s downstairs. Upstairs was fine, Continue reading The return should suck more

Air is devious

Skill level skill3

For some reason I am always cold sitting at the kitchen table in our house. My back and the table feel just frigid anytime the outside temperature is below 60. My ever-loving wife, “Francine” (not her real name), on the other hand doesn’t complain as much about it. Her chair is in the middle of the room while mine is near the outside wall. So, being the quick study that I am, after 5 years of shivering I started wondering if cold air could be coming in through the windows or the floor.

Whence the air?

We had replaced the 1923-era windows with triple-pane units a couple of years ago so they really shouldn’t be the source of the cold air. I took a closer look, or should I say feel, and found cold air leaking between the floor and the molding at the base of the wall. This is not a place that anyone talks about as a source for cold air. “Caulk the windows. Caulk the doors. Yada, yada, yada.” But they don’t tell you to caulk the floor.

leaky floor molding
Air is leaking between the molding and the floor and out of the outlet.

The cold air was pouring through that crack at the floor. It was also coming in around the outlets near the floor. (If you want to feel for air leaks just get your hand wet and hold it near suspicious spots.)

We have a sun room in the front of the house and it too always seems cold in the winter and warm in the summer. The wooden windows don’t fit very well so I had previously screwed the lower sash to the upper sash of each window to stop some of the air flow. But there was still plenty of air coming in from the great outdoors. Placing my hand along the floor-to-wall molding in the sun room confirmed that even more cold winter air was pouring through those cracks than in the kitchen.  Continue reading Air is devious