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Owning a home can be a scary proposition if we let it be. There are many things that can go wrong and, as Murphy's Law asserts, anything that can go wrong, will. All we can hope to do is assume the worst and make good decisions that help to reduce the risks. Here are a few things that have gone wrong in my life. Hopefully, this cautionary tale will help you make different choices than I did.

Fire, Fire, Kitchen on Fire.

Having children is a blessing--until one of them accidentally sets your kitchen on fire.

Our family loves french fries. We love them so much, we used to keep a pot of vegetable oil sitting on one of our burners, for easy access. But this turned out to be an unfortunate miscalculation.

One fateful day, my son put a pot of water on the stove to cook some Ramen noodles and accidentally turned on the burner underneath the french fry oil. When he returned to check on his boiling water, he saw that the pan of oil was smoking! As he stood deciding what one should do about a smoking pot of oil, flames appeared on the surface. This inspired him to pull the pan off the burner, accidentally sloshing the oil over the side. Soon the stove top and the wallpaper on the wall next to the stove were on fire. Within seconds, the cabinets above the oven were on fire as well. You never really understand how long 10 minutes actually is until you're waiting for the fire department to come and put out a blaze in your kitchen. Each minute was like an eternity.

The good news is, our kitchen was the only room damaged, and our insurance company considered this to a covered under our policy. But it was a lot of work getting things back to the way they were.

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No Sense Crying Over Spilt Mascara

Some threats aren't so obvious.

If you have rugs in your home, let me be the first to say, "Good luck keeping them clean--especially if you have kids." There are a-thousand-and-one ways to stain a carpet--I've seen most of them. But the one that stands out to me is what I lovingly refer to as, "The Mascara Incident." One fateful day, upon entering my daughter's room, I discovered black stains on the rug. I asked my daughter what the black stains were, and she said, "I think it's mascara." Instantly, my mind was trying to figure out how that much mascara could be on the rug. The area on the floor was nearly 3 feet in diameter. Being the clever detective I am, it wasn't long before I had followed the clues to the smoking gun, so to speak. My daughter hadn't dropped her mascara on the rug. She wiped her face with towels and set the towels on the rug. Over time, this made the stain darker and darker. Needless to say, the rug had to be replaced, and it wasn't cheap.

If keeping rugs clean, and saving the money it costs to replace rugs, are goals of yours, there are a few life choices that can help to prevent stains:

  • Don't allow kids to bring food or drinks into their bedrooms. This will prevent juice, coffee, ketchup, and other food and beverage stains from occurring. And consider making a rule that food and drinks can only be in the kitchen and dining room. Not only will this prevent damage to the carpets in your bedrooms, it brings your family together. We all have to eat and drink sometime. If we do it in the kitchen and dining room, we get a chance to have important conversations and catch up on life. That is so important in this age of computers, video games, social media, and other technologies that keep kids in their rooms.

  • Install cat scratch mats under doors to prevent frustrated kitties from digging the carpet underneath.

  • Put a protective mat under desks to prevent stains from pastels and other art and makeup supplies that can fall to the floor.

  • Put a piece of wood under the feet of beds and other furniture, to prevent deep indentations from compacting carpet.

  • Vacuum at least once a week to keep foot traffic from wearing down the fibers in your rugs. And maybe institute a no-shoes-on-the-rug rule.

What You Don't See CAN Hurt You.

Never underestimate the power of rainwater and bugs.

On the back of our home is a closed-in porch. Beyond that is a deck that is shaped like an L, covering the entire back of the home and most of one side. When we purchased our home we noticed that the gutters on the back of the house were broken, and that one of the downspouts did not channel water away from our foundation. We quickly addressed the downspout issue but left the broken gutters to fix later. Well, later never really came. Life was busy with work responsibilities, raising kids, visiting family and friends, and carving out time with my spouse. That gutter just wasn't high enough on my list of things to do.

Over time, the water that ran down the back of our house began to do damage, but we didn't see it at first. Our deck is not elevated. It is about six inches off the ground. So it isn't possible to crawl under there and take a look. Damage was being done to the wood structure supporting the deck and the porch, but we couldn't see the rot. We didn't have a clue until we noticed that the center of the porch was sinking in the middle. It was so bad, there was a noticeable gap between the baseboards and the floor.

If a sinking floor wasn't bad enough, we had ants coming into our kitchen by the thousands. They were creating superhighways across the threshold from the kitchen to the living room. One morning I woke to a line of large black ants eating from the cats' food dish in the kitchen.

Had we caught the problem early, and addressed it by repairing the gutters and hiring a pest control company to do a perimeter treatment, we wouldn't have had a porch that needed to be entirely replaced.

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Water Water Everywhere And Not A Drop To Drink

Sometimes the answer is staring you right in the face.

Sometimes a problem is so simple, you want to scream when you realize the solution. When we started having flooding in our basement, we didn't know what to think. It would come in through cracks under the basement windows and create a stream all the way to the drain at the other end of the basement, which is the entire length of our home.

Each year the problem got worse. It wasn't long before it started to flood. We hired a professional to come and check the drain to make sure it wasn't clogged. We also had someone come and apply an extra layer of cement to the walls of our basement and remove the basement windows entirely. None of this worked. We were still having flooding. And, as a young couple, we didn't know what to do about it. We were hauling buckets of water up the basement stairs, through the dining room, and pouring them in the yard.

After we lost our furnace to the flooding, we bought a sump pump to suck the water out. This inspired us to get a second opinion from city officials as to what our problem might be. When the city came with their cameras to check to see if our drain was letting water run all the way to the culvert system, they showed me something that left me speechless. There was a second drain that was much larger than the drain in the floor (which had been painted shut by previous owners). With the cap off, it easily allowed any flood water to run to the culvert quickly! We didn't have to carry all of those buckets of water up the stairs. We didn't have to get a sump pump and be ready to use it any time it rained too much. We didn't have to live in fear of losing another furnace. There was a drain more than capable of allowing all the water to channel out.

While this didn't fix the leaking basement, it was one step in the right direction. There was still a much larger issue of drainage around the perimeter of our home that needed to be addressed. Over time, the leaking and the flooding had allowed too much water into our drains and a large repair was needed to the pipes in the ground around our perimeter that worked to capture rainwater and channel it to the culvert. But that is another story.

What My Family Learned

We learned a lot of hard lessons as young people raising a family and figuring out the complexities of owning a home. It is amazing how something simple that only requires a simple fix, can lead to much greater damage over time. What started as a leak coming in underneath our basement windows turned into flooding. And that flooding caused issues with a vital set of pipes around our home. What started as a broken gutter turned into a ruined porch due to a constant attack from water and wood-chewing pests in a location we couldn't see. While things like accidental fires and carpet damage are hard to avoid, there is something we can do about problems that work slowly over time.

The Problem Of Termites

When termites damage a home, it doesn't happen all at once. It takes a few years before walls start to bulge, floor start to sink, and your back porch to be replaced. It takes time for termites to tunnel up into wall studs and create structural warping that leads to doors and windows sticking. They aren't going to weaken the load-bearing beams that support your home within the first week of infestation. They are a problem that develops over time. And, like some of the examples above, the damage they do can have a cascading effect, leading to extensive repair costs. This is the kind of unexpected cost that can bring a family to ruin and lead to foreclosure.

Like that termite damage, financial ruin often develops over the course of time. It begins with a few school loans, followed by a loan for a vehicle replacement and slowly over time more and more debt for things you can't live without, like a furnace, a stove, or refrigerator. No one sets out to get into debt. No one says, "My goal in life is to be strapped with thousands of dollars in loan and credit card debt that will have me shelling out more than a thousand dollars of my income straight to loan payments that are mostly interest." It sneaks up. And, when termite damage is discovered, the house of cards can crumble. Fortunately, termite damage isn't inevitable. There is something we can do about it.

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Termite Control

Termite control is a complicated process that should be done by a trained and certified professional. Installing an impenetrable barrier around a house isn't as simple as spraying pesticides on your foundation perimeter--which can be toxic to children, pets, and adults maintaining flower beds, bushes, shrubs, and other ornamentals. The product needs to be injected into the soil.

The most destructive termites in the United States are subterranean termites. And, just as their name implies, they live under the ground, not on top of it. So, they will attack your home from the ground. If you know this, it may lead you to believe that topical pesticides will kill them when they come up to feed on your home, but topical pesticides don't last long. Not only can they be washed away, or diluted by rainwater, the active ingredients break down. This creates openings for termites to get through. And, since termites feed on the inside of wood, if you don't stop them before they get in, you're not going to be able to exterminate them when they do. The solution is to apply powerful products into the soil around your foundation. But this should be done by a professional.

At Arrow Pest Control, our educated and experienced termite control technicians trust Termidor, the number one termite control product in the United States, to create a complete barrier that destroys termites and prevents termite damage. Termidor also works to destroy termite colonies. When termites pass through the product, they don't detect it. This coats worker termites with an active agent that is shared with other workers and eventually brought back to the queen. When the queen dies, her colony dies with her. She is the brains of her colony. Without her sending out orders, the termites slow down and eventually stop moving altogether. They simply don't know what to do without her instructions.

When termites attack, there may be several colonies sending out workers. Worker termites can tunnel as far as the length of a football field in search of food. Termidor strikes back at all of them. And it does it 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, and 365 days a year. You don't have to do anything. That is termite control you can trust.

The Termidor barrier is so effective, we are able to back our termite service with a one-year renewable warranty. What do we mean by renewable? That barrier isn't going to last forever. It is important to have a routine checkup and additional treatments added when necessary. Your termite control specialist knows how to inspect your yard and your home for signs of termites, and ensure the integrity of your termite barrier so termites are not allowed to hurt your home over time.

In the unlikelihood that termites breach the barrier, you're certified termite professional will know it. The pest control technicians at Arrow Pest Control are not only trained in industry-leading inspection methods developed by experts, they know how to apply targeted Termidor treatments to quickly resolve termite problems if they ever get into your home.

Don't trust your termite control to DIY termite products. A home investment is one of the largest investments a family can make. Protect that investment and protect your equity with ongoing termite service from a trusted professional.

If you're in our New Jersey service area, we would like to invite you to reach out to us. Every New Jersey home should have a termite control plan. There are enough unexpected problems that can threaten your home. Termite damage doesn't have to be one of them. Let out experienced termite control specialists guide you through the process of having a Termidor barrier installed around your property. When you have termite control, you decide how much you're willing to allow termites to cost you. And you never have to wake up and find out that your home has been totaled by these tiny wood-eating pests.

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