Creating kitchens and baths for finicky customers since 1993

backsplash features inset metal tiles for accent and texture

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Bathroom projects: Bugs in the tub!

bathtub walls hid a nest of black ants
Who knows what evil lurks behind a 30-year-old ceramic tile tub surround? I do! About half of my jobs involve new tile bathtub walls, mostly to modernize dated designs. Day one almost always involves some heavy lifting -- tearing out old walls and tubs and hauling the debris down a flight of stairs. It's hard work but generally routine.

The usual tools required are a saw, hammer, pry-bar (I have a really big one), and sometimes even a sledgehammer. But I don't usually need a can of Raid! When your old tile has missing grout, however, water can seep behind the tile and create a haven for certain bugs and mold or fungus. Moldy drywall behind the tile is pretty common, but finding a nest of ants lurking back there is (thankfully) rare.

close-up of ant colony found behind bathtub
The mess shown in this close-up shot is all cleaned up now, but it was touch and go there for a few minutes. I don't carry bug spray, and so had to hastily search my customer's basement shelves for a remedy. Those little critters were extremely healthy and mobile. They would've spread far and wide if I hadn't come up with a quick cure.

When I've finished this job I'll stop back and post the after picture. This time I can safely guaranty "major improvement"!

Have you ever found something scary hidden behind the walls during a remodel project? Or have you discovered a long-lost treasure under the floorboards? Leave a comment here or contact me via email if you'd like to share your find.


  1. Anonymous8:53 PM

    Jim, little black bugs have been driving me insane! They appear in my bathtub and shower every morning. I vac them out every morning but their back the next morning.I was told that they are pre-ants is there such a thing?
    I'm inclined to replace the tub and shower surround, could that be where they're coming from?
    I also live on a lake.

  2. I'd say no, don't replace the tub yet. You don't know enough. Can you take a picture of them, and check with you local Cooperative Extension (or similar Agric'l agency)?

    Some bugs just love the residual moisture from showers (they get thirsty too!). You may have an infestation somewhere around your foundation, rather than in your shower walls. Is there visible damage or leaking in the tub surround?

  3. More info about Household Bugs can be found here:
    Hope that helps!