sealing suites for bed bug transmission in new renovations – a case study

As an inner city exterminator I have had the privilege of working in many 3 or 3.5 story walk up apartment blocks. These buildings are typically brick exterior with wood frame floors, and steam heat with pipe chases through the walls and floors. The spread of bed bugs through these buildings can be incredible because of the myriad of holes between suites.


I have had the privilege of working in these buildings after they have been renovated. The primary bed bug prevention measure employed was sealing all the baseboards with caulking. The first thing I noticed with these buildings was that the spread between suites was curtailed dramatically. There was still some spread from one suite to the next but it was reduced more than 50%. That is a huge success story. If the landlord would have addressed the plumbing chases as well it would have improved further.


I deal with another landlord who operates primarily newer concrete buildings with concrete floors and a few older wood frame floor buildings. His observation was that the concrete floor/wall buildings had markedly less transfer between suites than the wood floor buildings. In my own building I have a concrete building with pan poured concrete floors and I sealed the plumbing penetrations with expanding foam. I have yet to experience a case of transfer suite to suite.


What we learn here is that the construction type of a building and efforts at sealing suites has a positive effect on bed bug transfer in multi family settings. As such I highly encourage landlords to address sealing suites to minimize bed bug transfer.


Having extolled the benefits of a concrete building for bed bug transfer the management of tenant panic has a greater impact on bed bug transfer than building type. If a landlord allows mattress dragging, raid spraying, and inappropriate laundry room use the benefits of a concrete building are negated. If I had to choose between a non renovated 3 story walk up with wood floors and management that took prevention seriously and an incompetent landlord in a nice concrete building I would take the wood floor unit. The ideal is the nice concrete building with a competent landlord.

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