Q. We are being pestered by house crickets, which are really scary-looking. We don’t know how they get into the house. Any ideas on how to get rid of them?
A. House crickets are relatively harmless despite their formidable appearance (adults are about an inch long).
They can enter houses through any opening or crack and are often found in basements. They can damage some fabrics but are basically harmless unless present in large numbers.
Control should start by cleaning up litter such as cardboard boxes and newspapers and drying out the infested area with a dehumidifier or fan. Sticky traps, such as roach traps, are also effective.
A cheap substitute for the traps is to place wide strips of tape, sticky side up, in infested areas. Duct tape or masking tape can be used.
Another effective control is to adopt a cat. Cats love to stalk and catch large insects such as crickets. Our cat spends hours patrolling the basement, looking for intruders.
Insecticides aren’t generally practical if only a few crickets are present. If you want to try one, get a spray-type insecticide suitable for indoor use. Spray along baseboards and in crevices where the insects might be hiding.
Q. My concrete steps have developed a large cavity in one of the risers. What is the best way to repair this?
A. Repairing vertical concrete surfaces is tricky because the patching material tends to fall out. For this reason, you need a dam to hold the patch in place while it dries.
Start by getting a bag of concrete mix at a home center. For best adhesion, buy some concrete bonder to mix with the patching material.
Next, gather several boards about three inches wide to form your dam. You will also need some bricks or concrete blocks to hold the dam in place.
Wet the surface to be patched and put one of the boards across the front of the cavity. Use a trowel to fill the cavity with concrete up to the top of the board. Add another board to the dam and repeat, adding more concrete.
Most concrete-step risers aren’t more than 8 or 9 inches high, so you will need to pack concrete into the remaining cavity while holding the last board in a tilted-out position. When the cavity is full, block up the last board and let the concrete dry for a day or more before removing the boards.
Q. I have condensation on almost all the windows in my house and have noticed yellow spots on the ceiling of my bedroom. Is there an overall moisture problem in the house and what can I do about it?
A. The house probably has an excessive relative-humidity level. You can check with a hygrometer or moisture meter, often sold in combination with a thermometer at home centers.
Relative humidity of 40 or 45 percent is considered best, although this might be difficult to achieve if you live in a region where the outdoor humidity is high for most of the year.
To bring down the indoor humidity, you will need to use vent fans in moisture-producing areas such as bathrooms, kitchen and laundry room. Make sure the clothes dryer and other appliance are properly vented to the outside.
If you have a gas-fired central heater, have the chimney checked for possible clogs. In severe cases, you might have to use one or more dehumidifiers to bring down the moisture level.
You don’t say whether the windows are the insulated type or whether they have storm windows. If they are the old, single-pane type, storm windows will often help control condensation by helping to warm the inside glass surface.
Keep in mind that condensation and excessive humidity inside a house are not just nuisances. They can foster mold, which probably explains the spots on your ceiling, and can even cause structural damage.
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