Dear Barry,

I wonder if you would mind lending me your expertise in the area of sow bugs. My cottage is now 20 years old and until a few years ago, I experienced no problems with these bugs. Now, they are literally crawling away with the place and driving me nuts. The cottage is built on a slab and I think there might be a moisture problem attracting the bugs. Can you give me more information about their lifestyle and how I can get rid of them? – Bernadette

Dear Bernadette,

If expertise in the area of sow bugs were mine to lend, you would be welcome to borrow freely. However, since entomology is not within the standards of practice of the home inspection profession, I offer herewith my unschooled opinions only. Sow bugs (aka “roly-polys,” “pill bugs,” or “woodlice,” and unofficially dubbed by the House Detective as “entomological armadillos”), are attracted to areas where there is a constant presence of moisture and of decaying cellulose. Thus they are often found in wet woodpiles, in moist layers of leaves, or in wall cavities where plumbing leakage provides an inviting habitat. When the grade level of wet soil around a building is too close to the foundation sill plate, sow bugs often find their ways in, but they soon die once exposed to the dry interior conditions. Fortunately, these bugs are not classified as wood destroying organisms, although they do feed on wood that is already decayed.

To prevent sow bug incursions into your home, check the exterior for ground moisture conditions, for debris that would provide food and shelter to a sow bug, and for faulty grading near the building.

Dear Barry,

I have a well for the water supply in my vacation home. Recently my water has been discolored and I was told that an artesian well would solve the problem. What is an artesian well, and how does it differ from a regular well? – John

Dear John,

This writer professes no significant degree of expertise on the subject of water wells. However, my desktop dictionary defines an artesian well as “a well drilled through impermeable rocks into strata where water is under enough pressure to force it to the surface without pumping.” In other words, it is a well that naturally gushes forth from the ground as a result of geological pressure. As such, it is a well that can only be produced where the requisite geological conditions are pre-existent. Where those conditions do not already exist, an artesian well cannot be established by effort, desire, or intension. Furthermore, there is nothing in this definition that would imply a relationship to water quality. Underground pressure can propel water toward the surface, but there is no apparent reason why such movement would be related to the quality of the water. It would seem that any subsurface water would respond to pressure, whether clean, contaminated, clear, or discolored.

The fact that your water supply has become discolored implies that some manner of impurity that was not previously present has been introduced. First on the agenda is to have the water analyzed to see what type of minerals or other contaminants are currently present. Once that is known, is can be determined whether water purification devices or other remedial measures are warranted.

To write to Barry Stone, please visit him on the Web at


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