Monday, July 28th32.2°C
About The House

Hugh Cairns: Carpenter ant damage

To read last week's article, Carpenter Ants, click here.


In this case of this home, Camponotus vicinus have made themselves at home. The vicinus species have a black-red-black body. The other kind of carpenter ant, Camponotus modoc, is easily identifiable as a large black ant. Both species vary in size, ranging in size from 4 mm to 12 mm long, their relatively large size makes them easy to spot. In our area, damage to buildings caused by carpenter ants is considered more serious than that caused by termites.

Corrective measures: One of the best things that you can do to dissuade these wood destroying organisms is to not invite them to your home. They definitely enjoy moist wood so make sure your roof is in good repair and make sure that your irrigation system is directed away from your structure. Remove any and all decaying wood from the yard. Store firewood off the ground and far from the home and should you have some delivered, inspect it prior to unloading for infestation. Carpenter ants can be imported onto a property by delivery of organic landscape material from an infested site elsewhere or from firewood delivered from another area.

Get your vegetation well away from your house. In my experience, carpenter ants tend to give preference to such food sources as sugars produced from evergreen trees and shrubs, berry vines and bushes, ivy and other climbing and crawling ground covers.


Carpenter ants can infest a structure by a singular fertile reproductive or by way of an entire colony. When a single reproductive establishes a colony it can take up to six years for the colony to mature. A parent or satellite colony cab move from one location to another in a matter of hours.


Hugh Cairns: Carpenter ants

Carpenter ants are the most visible—and perhaps the most intimidating—of the wood destroying pests encountered in the Okanagan.

Carpenter ants, as their common name suggests, are wood workers and classified as a wood destroying insect. Unlike their termite counterparts, Carpenter ants do not eat wood, but rather they bore or mine wood out to create galleries to nest in order to expand their colony. They excavate galleries in wood or other materials by chewing but they discard the debris (called frass) outside the nest. Frass often looks very similar to saw dust. Frass may sometimes be found under a hole or other opening but is often discarded inside wall voids.

In a house, Carpenter ants can inflict serious damage to structural framing components. Damp conditions inside of the walls of a building can attract Carpenter ants. Their primary interest in locating within a structure is to use it as a nesting site. They prefer wood, but it’s interesting to note that they don’t seem to care what kind of building material they nest in as long as it is in close proximity to a food and a moisture source. Sometimes their nests can be found in insulation materials rather than wood. The danger is that the inevitable expansion of the nest will lead them to move into adjacent wood components.

I can tell you from experience that once Carpenter ants have infested a structure, remediation is best left to the pest control professional. I see ant traps and home remedies frequently. This type of action can simply cause the colony to relocate, and in some cases make extermination more difficult. Colonies embedded in insulation, wood framing, or flat roofs lacking attic access can be particularly difficult to eradicate.

Hugh Cairns: Vegetation against house

Sure vegetation increases a home’s appeal, but it might add other things too. Vegetation growing on the house attracts insects to the house and they will make a home if they can, and get inside.

Climbing plants growing on the walls will attach themselves to the siding material and, if given opportunity, will actually get in and grow inside the walls, soffits and facia. I have seen vines growing into wood shake roofs on occasion.

Most climbing plants have strong tendrils with sticky roots that attach themselves to the surface of your home. The result is they are hard to remove and their residue is evident and very difficult to eradicate.

Vegetation and their roots hold moisture against the house and foundation walls. Trees can be especially damaging. They can hold moisture against houses. Aggressive roots can push on and even crack foundation walls.

The ivy on this house is growing under the vinyl siding, between the vinyl siding and the synthetic stucco on the chimney, and is holding moisture against that synthetic stucco.

My recommendation: plant trees well away from the home. Shrubs at full growth should end up being at least 3 feet away from the home. If you must have smaller plants, consider placing them in large pots rather than flower beds. If you must have a climbing plant, build it a trellis.


Hugh Cairns: Inspection friends

It seems that most homes that I visit have animals. On the outside we see mice, rats, raccoons, snakes, chickens, horses, cow, critters and birds regularly. Inside we see pet snakes, tarantulas, ferrets, fish, hamsters, geckos and caged birds to name a few. But it’s cats and dogs that I see the most.

Cats are definitely the easiest to work around. I think that there are basically two kinds. Those that are seen and those that are not. The ones that are seen usually just hangout in their favourite spot and watch. They open their eyes every once in a while in an effort to seem interested. The ones that hide are a lot more fun. You never know where they may be lurking. Once discovered inside a closet or under a bed - they bolt without warning. Usually the path is around me, but it’s more like through me - it seems that I’m always between them and the escape door. As fast as a bullet, it never ceases to amaze me that they can exit a space in a fraction of a second without notice.

The common thing that cat owners request is not to let the cat outside. Written instructions are strategically placed in good spirit as reminders, but can be interpreted as burdens for home inspectors. It’s those unseen cats that we worry about. If we never see the cat how do we know that it already hasn’t escaped. Who wants to be responsible for a lost cat? It can be a bit of a mind game.

I call dogs my inspection friends. Most are just bloody happy to see someone new to be petted by. Once past the pat and sniff test they seem to be pretty content. Definitely dogs are more interested in inspections. It’s probably because of the tools. Camera flashes going off, ladders being packed around and a new pair of shoes at the front door to be sniffed.

Dogs usually know something is up. Probably because they haven’t seen anyone go up into their attic or take the cover off of their electrical panel before. Sometimes they are a little wary, some are protective.  Nobody wants to think or believe their cherished pet would hurt anybody, but home inspectors that have been bit a few times always reserve a little bit of instinct to stay out of harm’s way. Again, I think their uncertainty is related to the tools. Thankfully, most pet owners take the extra steps to separate anxious or aggressive dogs from the inspection process.

Read more About the House - Hugh Cairns articles

About the Author

When you need advice or guidance with for DIY home improvement and repairs, Hugh Cairns can help you with the answers.

Home improvements can be rewarding and turn your home a nicer comfortable place to live and increase its value. Whether you are renovating your kitchen, converting a loft, giving a room a lick of paint or making improvements to your home’s energy efficiency this column is here to guide you with some useful information and key things to remember.

Do you have a renovation question or concern? Please feel free to send Hugh your questions. Contact him through


The views expressed are strictly those of the author and not necessarily those of Castanet. Castanet presents its columns "as is" and does not warrant the contents.

Previous Stories

RSS this page.
(Click for RSS instructions.)