How do I prevent unwanted pests from getting into my home?

When the weather outside is cold and wet, animals and critters seek out safe places to shelter themselves. They will do everything it takes to gain access to the protective areas inside of your home, even if that means causing further damage to get in. Once inside, they nestle in areas that are uninhabited by your family, like basements, garages, attics and crawl spaces.

By the time you notice that there is a breach, it may already be too late, as a single pest can be a sign that there are more, or that there is damage somewhere in your home. A pest control service can assess your problem, once there is one, and help establish a plan to minimize the chances the pests will return. But isn’t the goal to prevent them from being there in the first place?

Animals and critters can gain access to your home through unprotected chimney flues, separated roof joints, open attic vents, around piping and conduit, through dryer vents, via foundation cracks, and through open holes or gaps in outdoor trim. Larger animals will even bite and claw through weak spots on the exterior to create an entrance to your home.

The most effective way to keep animals out of your home is to make sure all potential access points are sealed off. Prior to the winter season, carefully walk the perimeter of your home to identify and eliminate any vulnerable areas in your home's exterior. This may require the assistance of a professional, but if there are any signs that an animal may have entered your home, it is important to get to the root of the problem immediately and while the weather is on your side.

Keep in mind that even small holes can be a potential problem because squirrels can fit through holes that are only 1 ½ inches in diameter, and rodents and bats can get through gaps as small as ½ inch. Signs of a rodent infestation include droppings, the smell of urine, scurrying noises at night and holes gnawed in food boxes. 

Skunks, raccoons and opossums can easily burrow under your patio slab or stake out territory in your garage, crawl space or basement. Take note of any entry holes around the perimeter of walkways and slabs, and check under your deck. While the weather is still comfortable go up into your attic and take a good look around. Make sure that insulation is intact, and there is no sign of droppings or damage to the contents of your attic, as these are signs that there may be something living in it.

Animals living in your attic can also cause damage to electrical wiring, plumbing piping, air conditioning ductwork and potentially the structure of your home, while also leaving behind disease. Strategies for keeping an attic animal-free mainly involve consistent home inspections and maintenance. Block any animals from entering your home by being proactive and sealing any gaps.

Bird feeders, garbage bags and pet bowls left outdoors can be the reason pests stay around. It is important to always keep your property free of debris and lock down trash lids with bungee cords. The buildup of leaves, wood or construction materials around the perimeter of your home can attract infestations of bugs, snakes and rodents and can damage your foundation.

Seal holes or openings in windows and doors. Make sure they are caulked so that no sunlight appears around the perimeter of the frames. This can also help with efficiency. Keep your kitchen clear of open food containers and clean all surfaces and dishes every night. To pests, your kitchen is considered a buffet if you are not careful to clean it well.

If your home has roof vents, protect your home by placing ½ inch hardware cloth made of wire, not mesh, over the vents. Securely fasten the cloth to hinder access to the attic. Don’t forget to install covers on your soffit vents as well. Your soffit vents are located on the underside part of the roof that hangs over the sides of your home. By sealing your roof access points, the chances of having unwanted critters in your attic is minimized.

If you have a chimney, put a cap on it. First, inspect the chimney with a flashlight and look for any signs of animal habitation. Once you’re sure there are no animals inside the chimney, install an animal-proof chimney cap that will allow smoke to escape while keeping animals out. Birds enjoy a nice warm chimney and have a knack for building nests inside. 

It may be impossible to eliminate squirrels from your property, especially if you live in a wooded area or value your trees. As a comfy alternative consider installing a squirrel nesting box on your property in hopes that they choose the nest over your attic. If there are fruit bearing trees or plants on your property, be sure to harvest or pick up any fruit or nuts that have fallen. Eliminating food sources is a good way to keep animals away from your property. 

Squirrels typically enter where dormers meet roofs or where shingles overhang fascia boards. Squirrels can jump 10 to 12 feet through the air, so it is important to keep branches and tree limbs at least that far away from your home. If you have trees that extend over your roof, you may want to trim back the branches to restrict access to the roof. Remove larger branches with a pruning saw or chain saw. 

There is no doubt you will know when there is a squirrel in your attic. Insulation will be missing from spots near eaves, you will see piles of nuts and ½ inch to 1-inch long droppings. Remember, squirrels carry rabies, so this may be a job for a professional pest control company. There are many ways that you can trap animals, but live catch and release traps are the best because they’re humane. 

Once you have had pests in your home, unfortunately they will likely have left their feces and other waste behind. Mice, rats, or other animal droppings require professional cleanup and sanitization to prevent any spreading of the bacteria and diseases that they carry.

Contrary to what many think, mothballs, ammonia and plug in noise machines do not deter animals from entering or living in your attic, especially raccoons and mice. While there is some subjective evidence that the method may be effective, mothballs are not a sure fix and can be toxic to your home's inhabitants. Furthermore, the mothballs will kill the squirrels – risking that the squirrels will die inside your home – potentially in a place where you cannot get to them. If you smell a strong odor of decomposition, then you may have reason to suspect this is the case. 

Remember, animals and pests cannot get into your home unless they have a way in. The single best way to keep pests out is to be proactive and seal all access points to your home before you have a problem.

Jon Adamo – President     Phase One Construction

(718) 554-6565       admin@phaseonenyc.com 

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