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Ted, please help. I live in a rental condo. This is the 2nd yr. All of a sudden, I’ve gotten an infestation of fungus gnats- scuttle flies also known as humpbacks and coffin flies. I’ve researched these ad nausem, so no need to explain where they come from and how to control them. The problem has been finding the site of origin. The exterminator has covered the place very completely. He finally brought a moisture meter and tested all the walls. The only significant reading was a shared kitchen and dining room wall with a neighbor. The part of the wall toward the front of the kitchen read 100% moisture. When he measured the dining room wall closest to the kitchen, it measured 60%. All other areas of the house were 0-20%, except an unshared wall that faces East. That read 45%. The exterminator states there is moisture in the wall where the gnats are breeding. Should I call a leak and mold company?
At first we thought the flies were coming from the drains, but they show up when it’s dark and I turn a counter light or light over my stove on. They swarm at the light by the stove and seem to be cing from behind it. The exterminator literally removed the bottom draw of the stove and got down on the floor to check the back wall. There was no sign of leaks.
Please respond. Thanks in advance.
Ellen Kreshover, email@example.com
Well, that’s a tricky problem to diagnose from afar. Are you sure the gnats are coming from the detected moisture inside the walls and not house plants? I’m not a pest specialist, so I’m not sure about all the potential growing conditions that might be contributing to the infestation.
As for the moisture, do you remember whether the moisture meter had pins or probes on it or was it the type that just slides along the wall and has a meter that reads moisture detected? The pin/probe moisture meters are much more accurate as they measure based on a physical measurement of the wall conditions. The other type can be thrown off by metal in the wall or other conditions.
If there is indeed 100% moisture in the wall, than the wall would be deteriorating. Are there any other signs of moisture there? When you tap on the wall, does it sound different than a typical wall? The more moisture the lower the pitch of the sound when you tap. And if it’s that moist, the wall might be mushy.
Another telling sign of moisture is paint peeling off the wall and discoloration of paint.
If that were my wall that measured 100%, I would cut a hole in it and do a physical inspection of the interior. The problem is, it’s a rental so you can’t do that. However, your landlord should. If there is actually moisture like this in the wall then the structural integrity of the wall could be compromised. The longer it’s left, the more expensive it will be to fix. So I’d report everything you’ve told me to the landlord, in writing. If they don’t fix it, I’d insist that they sign the letter, stating that they have read and understood your concerns and acknowledge that you have no liability for any problems that may arise. I’ve owned several rental properties and believe me, the last thing I want is for any moisture problems to go unchecked!