FM Articles

Don’t Welcome Pests When You Renovate


The building boom is on again for the healthcare and education sectors, as more and more facilities are either expanding or undergoing renovation.

Today, construction projects including renovations and additions abound in the healthcare sector, according to a recent survey of Association for the Healthcare Environment (AHE) members. Nearly one out of three respondents had a renovation planned for the next year. More than 40 percent indicated they were at least somewhat likely to add on wings to existing structures or construct all-new facilities.

The story is similar in schools across the country. A combined 56 percent of public schools are scheduled to perform repairs, renovations or modernization work in the next two years, according to the latest report on America’s public school facilities from the National Center for Education Statistics.

These renovations will benefit your staff, students or patients, but the construction can also encourage pests. Renovation work can disrupt the sanitation and maintenance programs already in place at your facility, leaving you more vulnerable to a pest infestation.

Further, new construction can uproot pests, disturb their habitat and force them to search for new sources of shelter, water and food – all necessary for their survival. If pests find what they’re looking for in your building, they can cause serious problems.

Each pest poses its own threat to the success of your renovation or new construction project. For instance, cockroaches reproduce quickly, can spread disease, contaminate food and even cause allergies. Rats and mice can carry several diseases and cause structural damage within a facility – rodents will gnaw on wood, paper, dry wall, pipes and wires, all of which are often exposed during construction activities.

Then there are termites, which target wood in both structural timbers and flooring and ultimately cause more than $5 billion in damage every year in the United States, according to the National Pest Management Association.

Managing these pest issues during construction typically falls on your contractor, which means you should work with both your contractor and pest management provider before work begins to put together a proactive pest management program. A successful Integrated Pest Management (IPM) program begins with understanding the reasons construction sites attract pests.

IPM aims to limit access to the resources pests need to survive, using preventive measures like sanitation, exclusion and ongoing maintenance. As a result, you can keep pests in their place – outside and far away from your facility.

Here are a few tips to get builders, contractors and staff on the same pest management page throughout the entire renovation or building process:

Plans and Blueprints
A successful construction project is nothing without a solid foundation, and pest management plans are no different. Before the first hammer hits a nail, have your licensed pest management professional review your site and your construction plans. Much like your contractor’s blueprints, your pest management professional can create a plan to help keep pests away.Pests

Your pest management professional can also provide a better understanding of your facility’s surroundings and climate and the special pest pressures they can create. Pest monitors can be used around the area to detect and assess any existing pest populations.

No matter your plan or your location, pests like termites should always be kept in mind throughout the entire building process, especially when sourcing building materials. Non-cellulose building materials make the best deterrence. Additionally, your pest management professional can apply a preventive termite barrier to the property.

On the Job
Incoming materials should be inspected for signs of pests before being brought onsite – contractors can literally build pests into a building by using infested materials, which can lead to expensive structural damage and costly infestations down the road.

And just as you, your pest management provider and your contractor must be on alert for pests, you should double check for cracks and gaps along new walls and the foundation. Mice can squeeze through dime-sized openings, and cockroaches can pass through openings barely noticeable to the human eye.

Should construction stir up pests, you can keep your building and your neighbors from becoming victims of your renovation process with the assistance of your pest management professional. Your pest management professional can set bait stations and traps around building materials and your facility’s exterior to help keep pests from finding a new home.

It’s also important to keep your construction site as clean and clutter-free as possible during the renovation or construction process. Ask workers to place all trash in appropriate bins so food wrappers or soda cans aren’t sitting out at night – providing pests with an easy meal.

Focus on Borders
Along with renovating the inside of your facility, there are “big picture” decisions that need to be made outside as well. For instance, your maintenance and landscaping programs can play a major role in keeping pests away from your refreshed space. Keep plants and flowerbeds at least two feet away from your buildings. By limiting irrigation, trimming trees that overhang or touch the structure and preventing the growth of weeds, you can discourage pest activity at your facility.

Now is a good time to work with an HVAC professional to ensure your facility has positive airflow, which means the air movement is toward the building’s exits as opposed to pushing toward the building’s interior. Likewise, install air curtains at entrances to further prevent flying insects from entering. Ensure all doors and windows have tight seals and are flush against frames.

For lighting on or near your building, use sodium vapor lights, or LED lighting which are less attractive to flying pests than mercury-vapor bulbs.

Stay on Offense
As renovation or construction work wraps up at your facility, pests will still be looking for a home to settle into. You may have laid out a new foundation for pest management and prevention, but keep in mind that pest management is an ongoing job.

Work with your pest management professional to educate your staff on proactive methods to keep pests away. With pest management as a top priority, you can protect your facility from pests during construction and in the years to come.

Patrick Copps is Technical Services Manager for Orkin’s Pacific Division. A Board Certified Entomologist in urban and industrial entomology, Mr. Copps has more than 35 years of experience in the industry. For more information, email Mr. Copps at or visit