Around the House: Thwart mice, spiders and squirrels now

Pests of every variety are apt to be more bothersome as the weather cools. Here are some ways to un-pest your place:

Mice can sneak through the most amazingly small cracks, so seal perimeters near the ground. Often overlooked is the gap left by careless framing between the siding and foundation. Use a small mirror and flashlight to spot cracks that could let the little critters sashay into your house. They can be sealed with fiberglass insulation chinked in with a screwdriver, or you can squirt canned foam insulation into these spaces.

Mice enjoy the comforts of fiberglass insulation batts, despite the obvious hazards to their little lungs. So the walls of unfinished but insulated basements are vulnerable. Pay extra attention to holes penetrating outside walls for gas lines, water pipes and wires in these areas.

And don’t neglect the garage. When you come home with a load of groceries, you might leave the big garage door and the door into the house open for a few minutes. That’s like a freeway for these little guys. So whatever bait or traps you prefer, set a few along the edges on the garage on that concrete foundation lip.

Other than a cat, the best weapon is still the old-fashioned spring trap — the one for which nobody’s ever built a better version — baited with bacon, peanut butter or both. I think it’s the most humane way to dispatch mice, and I prefer them to sticky traps or poison, which can prolong panic and suffering.

Spiders and other creepy crawlers thrive in woodpiles, thick bushes, window wells and other secluded areas near the foundation. So it’s a good idea to create a “zone of air” around your house at least 1 foot wide. Move firewood, lumber and other material away from the foundation, cut back bushes and remove their fallen leaves, and clean out window wells regularly.

Crawl-space vents are especially attractive to spiders. Remove their webs with an old broom, then spray the vents with a grocery store variety bug killer. Repairing even the tiniest holes in screens and air vents will help, too.

It’s also vitally important to separate wood from dirt. Allow at least 8 inches of clear space between your home’s siding and the surrounding landscape. Ditto for deck and porch posts. Any less is to invite carpenter ants and termites to do their thing. Make sure under-house areas such as crawl spaces and porches stay as dry as possible. Tiny piles of sawdust, discarded wings, holes in wood members and insect tubes clinging to foundation walls can mean it’s time to get an exterminator involved.

Squirrels are perhaps the most persistent invaders of our living spaces. They, too, seem to enjoy nesting in insulation, especially in attics. So cut back any overhanging branches and make sure attic vents have an underlying screen. Squirrels are easily trapped by an animal-control professional, or you can buy a trap at a feed store and do it yourself. And don’t feed these little critters. When they’re fat and sassy, they breed more and become tamer, bolder and peskier. Plain old household ammonia or one of the several varieties of repellents available at the pet store also will discourage their visits.

Source: American Society of Home Inspectors (ASHI); written by Ken Moon; originally published in The Gazette

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