How to Keep Animal Pests from Damaging Your Home
by Bob and RodMan, of The Bob and RodMan Home Show on 920 AM-WGKA
A recent furnace problem encountered by a new homeowner confirmed the urgency of critter security around the home. The furnace simply stopped working. No problem with the thermostat, no problem with the breaker, and no problem with the computer control card. The problem was with one wire associated with the condensate pan float valve. A squirrel had nibbled through the insulation, nipped the wire and broken the electrical connection. This tripped a protective circuit that shut down the furnace. Easy fix, certainly, but fixing the furnace was only treating a symptom. The real problem was that squirrels have a taste for plastic and that they had easy access to the attic. The seriousness of the situation was revealed when further inspection showed additional sections of the home’s wiring gnawed to expose the bare copper wire. Now things were dangerous. Without proper protective measures all sorts of critters can gain access to the attic. Squirrels, rats, bats, opossums and even raccoons might make a home in your upstairs. While most folks are initially only concerned about the noises in the night, in reality, the outcome can be disastrous. Discounting the nocturnal thumps and bumps, your attic squatters pose hazards to health and wellbeing. Some are disease carriers in their own right – bats and raccoons are notoriously subject to rabies. All scatter their waste throughout the insulation, setting the stage for potentially harmful toxins or microbes. And then there is the potential for damaged wires and resulting electrical fires. Prevention and remediation are pretty straightforward. Prevent access by proper flashing and by securing existing ventilation openings. The first line of defense is a metal flashing detail called “drip edge.” In home construction there is invariably a gap left between the roof decking and the outer tail of the roof rafter to ensure that the decking does not interfere with the installation of fascia board (that’s the board behind your gutters). Once the fascia is in place, this gap is supposed to be covered with an angled metal strip – drip edge – that kills the opening by overlapping the deck and the fascia. This is part of proper roofing procedure but is neglected in most cases. When drip edge is neglected, the unprotected gap provides a perfect starting point for critter invasion. Other penetrations should be secured with screening reinforced with hardware cloth. Hardware cloth is a coarse, heavy-duty metal mesh resistant to the usual efforts of rodent attack. Regular screen material might keep out the skeeters, but it is hardly a barrier to furry miscreants. Gable vents (louvered vents at the gable walls) should be backed by screen and wire mesh. Ridge vents benefit from a hardware cloth barrier installed underneath, and turbine vent openings should be masked the same way. Keep the little critters out, and you won’t have to trap them later. Whether you do it yourself or hire a critter control company, removal is only half the project. Without barriers, the evicted will return along with their kith and kin. Get Bob and Rodman's advice on buying and caring for granite countertops.