How To Keep Bed Bugs From Coming Out Of The Walls, Baseboards, And Outlets
Caulk: Best Bed Bug Extermination Technique
The Power of Caulk Against Infestation
Truly getting rid of bed bugs means understanding how to keep them from being driven deeper into your home, or into your neighbors home.
Many bed bug websites and forums keep reiterating the point that bed bugs are driven deeper in to your home when you spray for them. They nest in the walls, an can even travel to other homes, especially if you live in an apartment or duplex.
It is true, the bed bugs will try to delve deep within your walls through cracks and the spaces around baseboards. They move room to room via secret corridors and end up anywhere.
Humans are smarter than bed bugs. If you seal up every crack in your home you can prevent bed bugs from seeking refuge.
In most homes there are small cracks around the baseboards, these cracks need to be sealed up as well.
Learning how to caulk to seal your home against bed bugs is one of the most important ways to prevent and solve bed bug problems.
This is possibly the best advice a person could give about the prevention and exorcism of bed bugs; however, it also seems to be the most unappreciated advice, too.
If this sounds like doomsday, good! If you don’t seal against bed bugs you might as well invite them to dinner, which consist of them crawling in to bed and sucking your blood.
You don't want to be the rude neighbor who gives others bed bugs.
Sealing your home against bed bugs accomplishes miraculous things. So, get a few caulk guns and lots of caulk. They are going to be your secret weapon.
Of course, when you realize how well caulking works in bed bug prevention I urge you to tell everyone, let it be a secret no longer.
For every nest you know about, there are probably three or four you don’t. These nests may be under baseboards, behind walls, and anywhere you will never find them.
You can spray all you like, which would probably poison you, and still not solve the problem if you don’t seal.
In my experience, coupling spraying with sealing is the quickest way to get a bed bug infestation under control.
Sealing cannot be your only line of deffense. For other tips on extermination read: "How to Get Rid of Bed Bugs".
Types of Caulk Guns
Caulking Against Bed Bugs Saves Money!
Meet my friends. Mr. Caulk and Mr. Caulk Gun. Do not look at them with confusion or fear. They are easy to use, and once you develop your own technique, the end product can look pretty nice.
Many people put off sealing their homes because they dread the time and money spend on caulking their home. This is the biggest mistake anyone can make!
Yes, caulking is time-consuming. Yes, caulking is going to cost you money. However, caulking your home saves you money in the long run.
Even if you don’t have bed bugs you should caulk your home against the elements. A well-sealed home has noticeably lower utility bills than their unsealed counter parts.
When you seal, you are making an investment in your home and comfort. Sealing your home for bed bugs is very much like sealing your home against the weather, with one difference.
Some people think their home is sealed against bed bugs just because they previously sealed against the weather. This is an error in the thought process.
If you already sealed for weather, you are just one step closer. The difference is that bed bugs, unlike the weather, are living creatures whose whole goal is to find the flaw in your sealing and exploit it so they can feed off your blood.
When you seal for bed bugs, you need to seal with a critical eye.
There are many brands of caulk. I really like DAP. When working with a community outreach group we tried to help people in a bed bug infested neighborhood.
One of the things we did was seal peoples homes. We had many types of caulk at our disposal. I like dap because it is a fresher product. The caulk is smother, easier to mold, less likely to clog and leaves less of a chemical smell.
Some other caulk comes out of the tube too hard. If caulk is to hard it will not completely adhease to the cracks. When it dries, it pulls away.
Dap caulk is softer and sinks into the cracks. It shrinks less, and when it tries creates a firm seal.
Step 1: Opening Caulk
How to Seal Cracks for Bed Bugs: Step by Step Guide
Hopefully, by now, I have emphasized the fact that sealing is essential. I hope you also realize that caulking will not just save you money on pesticides, by reducing the number of times you spray, but will pay itself back in your energy bills.
If I have, you might be wondering, how do I learn to have a critical eye for preventing bed bugs by sealing? Get down to their level! First, let's talk about caulking.
Step 1: Get Materials You Need
- Expanding Spray Foam
- Caulk Gun
- Old Rags
- Razor Knife or Scissors
You need to pick up caulk guns, caulk in bulk and expanding spray foam. Not all caulk is the same; each has its place depending on what you are sealing.
I prefer to use acrylic latex caulk, which comes in many colors. Some people prefer clear silicone caulk because it is less visible. I don’t like it because silicone caulk has very strong fumes.
Step 2: Opening Caulk
My favorite caulk gun is heavy duty plastic and has a poker to open the caulk. Let’s take it a step back. When you are ready to open the caulk you need to cut the tip of the tube off. It is important to cut it at a nice clean angle.
In the picture, I am cutting it with a tool I found in my landlords toolbox. I don’t even know what that tool is called, but I found it in the electrical tool box. I am sure someone can tell me what that tool is called in the comments.
The point is, I like it. It works well for opening caulk, but because most people probably don’t have that tool, it is not really recommended. You can use a sharp pair of scissors or a knife or razor blade to open caulk.
Make sure to be cautious while you do this. The angle you need to cut it at can be a little challenging. If someone knows a better way to cut the angle, please share!
Step 3: Break the Seal
Now that you have cut he tip off the caulk, you need to break the seal inside the tub. My favorite caulk gun has a poker made just for that as you can see in the picture to the right. If your caulk gun doesn't have one, you can use a long screw or nail to open it.
You want to make sure to have a few damp towels on hand, and a few dry ones. You will need them to clean whatever you used to open the caulk gun, as well as while caulking.
Step 4: Load Caulk Gun
At this point, you are ready to load your caulk in to the caulk gun. Pull the bar all the way back and slide the caulk in the gun. Turn the bar downward so the teeth re facing the gears.
Then give it a small push. You should feel it click in to place. At this point, you can squeeze the gun a few times to move the caulk to the tip. Now you are ready to seal your home against bed bugs.
Caulk: Breaking the Seal
Loading a Caulk Gun
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Sealing the Interior and Exterior of Homes Against Bed Bugs
Now that your caulk gun is loaded, you are ready to start sealing for bedbugs. This includes sealing both inside and outside of your home.
I recommend harnessing any fear, anger or stress caused by bed bugs and transform it in to a honed intent to out smart them. Look with a critical eye.
Step 5: Inspect for Holes, Cracks and Crevices Bed Bugs Where Bed Bugs Could Live
If you have a basement, inspect the walls for signs of light seeping through. Seal those spots, both inside and out. Some basement walls, especially those in older homes are porous. I search for every little hole and fill it with caulk.
When tenants move we usually use Drylock or Behr's basement sealant after using Moldex. Even after we Drylock some basement walls have porous areas, which is why I use caulk If someone knows a better way to seal up walls like that, please share in the comments.
As you look for cracks in the basement look for signs of light coming through. You might stick a ribbon, or some kind of marker, in to the crack so you can find it when you get outside. You also want to seal the undersides of all soffits.
When inspecting it is important to consider the type of caulk you need to use. When Silicon (the clear) caulk dries it does not take paint well. This means it will need to be scrapped off if you choose to paint at some later time. Silicone caulk is great for areas that already have nice coats of paint.
Latex caulk comes in many colors, plus you can paint over it anytime with no problems. The latex will soap up the paint just like the wall. If the caulking job is smooth and seamless, when you paint over it, you will not even know it's there.
Caulking the Exterior
Expanding Spray Foam
Step 6: How to Use Expanding Spray Foam to Seal Against Bed Bugs
When sealing your home, you need to pick up a few cans of expanding spray foam (see picture labeled expanding spray foam).
There are going to be some spots that are to large to fill with caulk. In these cases, you need to use spray foam.
If you have never used this, I would highly suggest you experiment with it before you begin sealing with it.
Expanding spray foam is sprayed trough a long tube in to cracks, as it dries the foam expands.
As you can see in the picture, it expands quite a bit. If you want a clean edge, you can come back and trim the excess foam with a razor blade.
Again, if you know a better way to trim expanding spray foam, let us know (or start a hub about it!).
Caulk should be used for cracks and crevices. Larger openings, such as where pipes enter and leave the house, should be sealed with expanding spray foam.
In the picture you can see a can with a yellow lid. This is what the community outreach program used.
This is called Great Stuff. In the picture, we were only halfway through the job. We had to go back to trip the foam so it would have a smooth look.
I liked this stuff because it was easier to work with than other brands. Spray foam can be very messy, and some dries harder than others.
Great stuff gives you a medium drying speed, that lets it dry, but gives you time to trip the foam so you will have a nice looking finish.
These Crevaces Need Sealed To Keep Bed Bugs Away From Neighbors, or To Keep Bed Bugs Out
Step By Step Video Tutorial: Sealing Homes From Bed Bugs
Step 7: Seal With a Critical Eye
When sealing for bed bugs, you need to look at each and every section with a critical eye. If you think to yourself, “Gee that is a pretty small crack, and I don’t even know how deep it goes… Do I need to seal it?”
Then the answer is YES, if there is any doubt, seal it! The tighter you seal your home the less likely you are going to get bed bugs.
Remember, if your neighbor exterminated, where are they going to go? To the first opening they can find in YOUR house! Plus, you’re sealing out spiders, roaches and other bugs, too! Sealing with caulk and expanding spray foam will save you money AND prevent the entrance of bugs! Wow, who would have thunk it?
When you caulk the outside of your house you need to get down on the ground and look up. Often, there are openings that are missed simply because we don’t see them from our perspective.
Pay special attention to where one surface meets another surface. In some older houses, the way the walks meet each other leave small openings, or they have appeared over the years.
These areas are sometimes overlooked when weatherizing a house because they are not on a wall that receives the bulk of the sun, wind or rain. When caulking for bed bugs, you need to get down on their level.
Once you find an opening, place the tip of your caulk gun on the angle and squeeze.
The caulk can rotate in a circle while in the gun. This allows you to adjust the angle of the tip. You may need to experiment a little to figure out which angles work for which cracks.
This is why you need some damp and dry cloths with you. If you mess up, you can use the cloths to clean the caulk up.
You need to wipe misplaced or excess caulk up as soon as possible. Once it dries, it will be difficult to remove. One warning, caulk does not stick well to wet surfaces.
If you use a wet cloth, be careful not to get the caulk, or any surface, wet. If you do, use the dry cloth to dry the area before you continue.
Sealing the outside of your home will prevent bed bugs from entering. However, if you already have bed bugs, it also keeps them from getting out.
If you are infested, you might be tempted to spray, and then COMPLETELY seal the inside and seal the outside a few weeks later. This is to give any bed bugs looking for a meal, time to go someplace else.
Of course, doing it this way drives them in to your neighbors houses (not nice). For this reason, I suggest scheduling sealing activities for at least a week, or more, straight.
Getting both inside and outside done will trap them, leaving them to die. Add spraying and sealing furniture and you are well on your way to being bed bug free forever.
When you are finished outside, it is time to move inside. Most people caulk windows and doors when they weatherize. When you caulk to prevent, or eliminate, bed bugs, you have to take this many steps further. It will become your mission to cut off all openings which allow them to hide in places which make them impossible to kill.
This means sealing ALL baseboards, top and bottom. This also includes trim along the walls and ceiling, which are like a bed bug super highway.
Choose a caulk that will work with your homes design. That might mean using a particular color, or using clear silicone (remember this stuff is not water soluble and has fumes).
The last house we sealed against bed bugs had carpet. Lucky for us, the carpet was pretty old and needed to go anyway. When we ripped up the carpet, we were able to get access to the baseboards.
In some newer houses, the trim and baseboards are above carpet level, but not in this case. We used white caulk because the room is painted blue, with white accents.
If we had ripped out the carpet and laid new carpet without sealing, we might as well have tossed our money down a well. Bed bugs hiding behind the trim are going to infest any new carpet you lay. In really severe infestations, you might even have to go a step further.
Wallpaper is your enemy. When wall paper peels it provides another super highway for bed bugs. Wall paper is not a good product in a home that is aspiring to be bed bug free.
Some people, take it further, and plaster any small nail holes in walls, or any other crack, and then repaint. Essentially sealing bed bugs in. I suggest you start with sealing your trim work and outlets.
One area that often goes forgotten is outlets. When inspecting for bugs you need to look behind outlet covers. You might find that the outlet itself has gaps which allow bed bugs in. If so, take some plaster and make sure those are sealed. Remember; don’t forget to check outlets and vents for cracks!
Sealing can be a long, difficult task. Try to get everyone in the house involved, to speed the process up. Everyone EXCEPT for people with asthma or breathing problems.
I have noticed that both latex and silicone caulk trigger my son’s asthma. If you should find you need to stop caulking, but there is caulk left in the tube, you need to take special precautions.
Step 8: Sealing Left Over Tubes of Caulk
When you are finished caulking for the day, you need to seal the tube of caulk up tight.
You do not need to do this if you are walking away for a short moment, but if you leave the caulk unsealed for too long, it will start to thicken.
Once the caulk starts to thicken, it is very difficult to manage. At some point, it will be too thick to use.
Eventually, it will dry, making the rest of the caulk useless. Caulk is expensive, so I suggest sealing unused tubes. It is easy to keep caulk from drying, and to use up any left over caulk.
- To seal a tube of caulk do the following:
- Take the tube of caulk out of the caulk gun.
- Get a long screw or nail and slide it in to the opened tube.
- Wrap Tape Over the nail and the neck of the caulk
Step 9: Inspect and Touch Up
Once you finish it is important to give the job about a week to adjust to the weather, and to give bed bugs time to adjust to it.
Depending on where you live, weather can cause caulk to shrink or crack. The better the caulk you use, and the better your technique, the less chance this has of happening.
Either way go back and reseal anyplace that has cracks or holes. While you do this, be looking for bed bugs, bed bug feces and bed bug skins. Sometimes bed bugs will find that one place you missed.
Because they have fewer options, there is a higher chance of seeing bed bug evidence in those areas.
Anyplace you think a bed bug is getting through, touch up with the caulk gun. After this, you should do bi-monthly inspections on your caulking and touch up as needed.
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