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Preventing Home Damage from Wild Animals

Author: JD Leatham

Bat Droppings PictureMost homeowners find wild animal neighbors to be enjoyable and welcome additions to their daily lives.  Unfortunately, when these neighbors become roommates, they are welcome no more.

Wildlife can damage many areas of your home including electrical and ventilation systems and if they have already moved in, it is likely that they have exploited a weakness in your home’s structure to do so.  Make no mistake, wild animals belong outside and prevention is the key.

The best defense against unwanted guests is good home maintenance starting with a thorough inspection of both your home and its environment.  Animals have the same basic needs we do and they begin with food and shelter.

Am I providing food or shelter sources?

  1. Where do I store my garbage? Is it sealed tightly or can it be accessed?
  2. Are my compost bins screened and placed a reasonable distance from my home?
  3. Do I have debris piles close to my house that could be used as shelter?
  4. Do I have materials in the yard that would be viewed favorably for shelter building?
  5. Is my bird feeder sealed so that seeds don’t fall to the ground? Is it high off the ground and placed so that it can’t be climbed or jumped to?

The idea is to remove the sources that encourage animal visitors.Squirrel on downspout picture

Have I provided transportation routes?

  1. Do tree branches extend over or close to roof’s, decks or ledges?
  2. Do I have trellises or netting against the house acting as ladders?
  3. Where is my downspout located? Can it be climbed?
  4. Are utility lines creating a bridge to my home?

Animals are more versatile than humans are. They can fly, climb, jump and swing to places that seem unreachable to us. Once you’ve identified and closed off the transportation routes, you can begin to inspect your home for possible infiltration points.

Can doors and windows be used to access my home?

  1. Do I leave my exterior doors open?
  2. Are my windows screened?
  3. Do my doors and windows close tightly?
  4. Are my window wells meshed?
  5. Can my window ledges be used as staging areas?
  6. Does my pet entrance door swing firmly back into place after opening?
  7. Does my garage door close flush to the ground?
  8. Does my attic hatch fit solidly into its opening?

unprotected window well pictureMost home owners are surprised to learn that animals will boldly enter a home through an open door but it's very common. Mice are notorious for scampering in without being seen. Small animals can squeeze through gaps under doors or windows so be sure your exterior openings close firmly in place.

If you live in an area prone to skunks, raccoons or other medium size animals, you may want to eliminate the pet entrance completely and if you have window wells, make sure they are screened so that no animal accidentally falls in.

Finally, if you suspect that your window ledges could be used as a staging area, you may want to apply spines to them.

The next common lines of entry are intake and exhaust vents.

How many vents are in my home, where are they located and are they appropriately covered?

Some of the more common vents are dryer, bathroom, soffit, weep, roof and ridge.mouse entry gap between brick and wood picture

Each of these vents should be screened with appropriate materials. Please use caution when screening vents. Vents play an important role in the air flow in your home and inadvertently interfering with this flow can have dire consequences. Once you have identified your vents, contact your local building supplier who can advise you on the appropriate covering for each vent type and for your climate as well as proper installation techniques.

Be sure the entrances are sealed from the outside to stop animals from squeezing in between.

The chimney is the most important vent in your home and its flue is one of the easiest access points. A chimney flue should be capped with an approved cover designed for this exact purpose. Wiring meshing can plug with debris or even snow and ice and cause the noxious agents released through the flue to retreat back into your home. This is no joking matter. Don’t mess around with homemade fixes.

The type of heating system you have may include air intakes and exterior cleanouts. Check that the intakes are appropriately screened and that the cleanout doors seal firmly into place. If your chimney runs up the exterior of your house, ensure that it hasn’t pulled from the building creating gaps.

Does my roof or siding have damaged areas?

  1. Is my roof in good repair? Are roofing materials accounted for and firmly attached?
  2. Is the flashing in valleys and around roof top objects tightly sealed?
  3. Are there gaps or holes in the soffits?
  4. Are there gaps or holes at intersection lines?
  5. Has moisture along the gutter line caused deterioration?
  6. Is my siding firmly attached?

Damaged areas on roof’s or exterior walls can be Racoon Damage to Roof picture exploited and enlarged creating access points. A gap or hole expanded to even a ¼ inch can be entered. Cracks or loosened wooden siding is attractive to insects whose residence encourages unwelcome attention from predators looking for a food supply. Again, what you are watching for is holes, cracks or gaps that can be entered or enlarged for entry.

The final entry point is ground level.

  1. Are decks, porches and stairways skirted in?
  2. Are there weaknesses along your foundation line that can be exploited?

woodchuckdenundertrailerAreas under decks, porches and stairways provide both shelter to wildlife as well as provide hidden areas to undertake infiltration activities. Block animal access by skirting these areas with appropriate materials. In areas where burrowing is a problem, installing metal mesh both a foot underground and away from your exterior wall and extending up the wall itself will block access.

Taking the above outlined steps will go a long way in preventing unwanted animal guests in your home and the related home damage their occupancy will cause.

For further information about animal control techniques, go to the Internet Center for Wildlife Damage or contact your local animal control center.

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