Have you ever gone to a house to do an estimate for new flooring and detected an odor of insecticide? And maybe the carpet doesn’t look all that worn or old? The combination of the 2 might mean there were bed bugs in the carpet. Some home owners (or hotel/motel/rental managers) may be embarrassed to mention it, but don’t hesitate to bring the subject up.
The population of bed bugs was greatly reduced when the insecticide DDT was still in use. They have increased in recent years, partly from being brought in from areas of the country and parts of the world where bed bugs thrive. As far as the health organizations know, they don’t carry disease, but they still pose a health risk. The little creatures live in the dark recesses of a home and have commonly been found in and around beds. They are attracted to CO2 (carbon dioxide) and their only source of food: warm-blooded animals, like humans.
This article is not about the bed bug, but does concern the flooring professional who is asked to work in an environment or replace flooring in a room that has been infested with bed bugs. It is not a run and hide situation. It can be a good source of additional profit. It is a service you can perform for your customers that will assure them the problem has been disposed of. This article should help to make estimators, retailers and flooring installers aware of the problems and the procedures for successful remediation.
The proper removal of old floorcoverings that have been infested with bed bugs is important. If care is not taken, you risk the chance of transporting the bug to a new location – maybe your own home. These parasites are a hardy creature and can be difficult to kill. The eggs tend to cling to carpet fibers and sometimes can’t just be vacuumed up like your every-day soil. The bite of the bed bug may not be felt when it happens, but can cause severe itching and infection when scratched. Some people might even have an allergic or asthmatic reaction to the bug bite or the shed skin as the bug grows. These severe reactions may be very rare, but there’s no way to know who may be susceptible to these problems.
Removing carpet and pad that may have been infested with Cimicidae (their scientific term) begins with protecting the person removing the materials. The picture to the left is an example of good hair protection. Your handling of the materials during tear-out may create an opportunity for the bugs to become lodged in your hair and scalp. That hairnet is made of mosquito-type netting that will allow your scalp to breathe, but prevent bugs from getting in your hair. You can purchase that hairnet and other protective clothing here: Hairnets & more on Amazon.
In addition to a hair net or other head protection, you may want to tape your sleeves and cuffs closed. Wearing a scarf tied around your neck may also help to reduce the chance of bugs or eggs getting down your shirt. This may seem like overkill to you. If you have a secluded place to remove your clothing to shake them out and wipe your body free of the bugs before entering your home or another building, then you may choose not to take some or all of these measures. But it takes just a few minutes to properly prepare for removing the old materials. Knowing you won’t be taking them home to your family may be your best motivation.
Unfortunately, carpet and pad cannot be rolled up and taken out normally. If you put the used materials in your van for transport to the waste disposal site, you will be infecting the inside of your vehicle. It’s best to cut the old carpet into narrow strips and put them in a heavy-duty trash bag. Pack the bags loosely, tie the top securely and then place the bag in the hot sun. It has been reported that the bugs can be killed at temperatures of 120° F. Inside a dark plastic bag in the hot sun can get very hot. At the very least, the bags, if kept closed, will prevent the bugs from infesting any other location.
When you have removed all the carpet and cushion from the rooms, you can then finish the removal process by sweeping the floor to dislodge any skin or eggs that remain along the corners or crevices of the floor and walls. Use a vacuum with a hepa filter to clean up the sweepings. Remember to dispose of the vacuum bag in the same manner as you bagged the old carpet and padding.
It is best to change your clothing before proceeding to install new flooring. Any live bugs or eggs that are clinging to your clothing could be transferred to the new materials. Remove your clothing and wash them in 120° F. temperature water. You can also put dry clothing in a hot dryer for 20 minutes to kill any left-over parasites. The hair netting above is disposable, but you can wash and reuse hair nets too.
You may be thinking this is a lot of trouble to go to. It is and if you explain to the customer the problems of re-infesting their home or yours, and the procedures you will use to prevent that, you will have set the stage for an added service you can be paid well for. It will also improve your referrals because customers like to brag to their family, friends and associates about the great extra service you gave them.
I can’t suggest how much to charge for this service, but you can figure it to take approximately one extra hour for each average room, plus the added expense of protective clothing, plastic bags and other supplies. It’s not a service you will sell regularly, but you may want to suggest it to apartment managers and landlords if you suspect there could be a bed bug problem. During any measuring and estimating process on-site, you should make note of any suspicion you have that there could be a bed bug issue. This will give the sales person or contractor the information they need to discuss the possibilities with the customer. Installers will want to know and be prepared and they should be paid according to the effort and care required.
This article was prompted by a discussion at the best source of information about floor coverings, The Floor Pro Community Forums, thanks to my friend, Mike Sliwinski. You can learn more about bed bugs here: Medical News Today – What Are Bed Bugs, How To Kill Bed Bugs.
Your comments and shared experiences are welcome.
Jim McClain grew up in rural Plumas County, CA. After a short, but exciting stint in the US Army, where he dodged work in Germany and incoming rounds in Vietnam, he settled back into country living and took a part-time job as an installer’s helper to work his way through college. He fell in love with the business and turned it into a career. Retiring from sales & installations in 2006, he still carries on his love affair with the industry through the use of a computer, a digital camera and a little space in “teh Ether”.