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Pest-Proofing Your Home for the Winter

Brrr! It’s getting cold out there, which means that pests of all kinds are looking for a warmer place to spend the winter months. Bugs, birds, mice… oh my! As we head into the dark of winter you best be sure that your house is pest-proof.

This article covers everything you need to know about pest-proofing your house for winter. Be sure to take these steps now to avoid dealing with any of these pests inside your home when it is completely cold and miserable outside!

Rodents

Though most rodents can build natural burrows to survive the winter months, why would they want to if it is easy to get into your house? Central heating is a lot nicer than shivering in a dirty hole! Mice and rats are the biggest threat here. While these species are generally not harmful, they have the potential to carry several very harmful diseases. Though raccoons are not technically rodents, they will be looking for some of the same entry points into your house or under your porch.

Luckily, there are some very simple methods you can use to prevent all of these critters from getting inside. You will need a few basic tools:

  • Branch Cutters
  • Foam Gap-Filler
  • Metal Mesh (<6mm holes)

Using the branch cutters, cut down any branches that get close to your roof. Rodents can climb these branches, jump to your roof, and access parts of your house through small gaps, vents, and other structures on your roof. 

With the Foaming Gap-Filler, you are going to seal up any holes or cracks in your foundation that could allow rodents to slip into your basement. A little goes a long way here, so don’t overdo it. Some Foaming Gap-Filler brands have a “pest” version that creates a perfect seal around any gap you are filling. Deploy this foam around plumbing penetrations, gaps in your siding, and in any oddly-shaped holes that lead into your home.

Finally, the metal mesh will be used to seal up any air ducts, vents, or other structures that need to maintain air-flow. For instance, you will want to cut a piece to seal up your dryer vent. You can also use the metal mesh to seal up any access panels or other areas that lead under your porch or into your basement. Be sure to get a metal mesh, as rodents can easily chew and claw their way through a plastic mesh!

Birds

Wings are definitely an advantage for animals trying to find ways into your home. Where rodents can be deterred by closing all the gaps on the bottom of your home, birds can be especially challenging because they will be targeting entrances on your home’s roof. Birds are notorious for getting stuck in chimneys, drain vent pipes, and even getting into attics through fans or vents on the roof!

While you can prevent most rodents from accessing these areas by cutting down any shrubbery or trees that encroach on your roof, you will need to install metal-mesh barriers around these structures to ensure that birds do not try to set up shop. While drain vents, bathroom fan vents, and fan openings can be covered with any type of mesh, be sure to use a chimney-specific product on your chimney opening. The air coming out of your chimney is hot and reactive – which can melt plastics and ruin certain types of metals! Your local hardware store can point you in the right direction. 

Otherwise, you can protect most of these structures using the same metal mesh that you used on the vents and access points lower on your home. Simple cut the mesh to size, and secure it with glue, screws, or a thick rubber band. If you are looking for something more aesthetically pleasing, most hardware stores sell plastic covers in different sizes that contain screens for this exact purpose!

Bugs

There are a plethora of bugs that are going to try to find their way into your house when it starts getting cold. Spiders, stinkbugs, box elder bugs, scorpions (in certain climates), ants, and many other critters will try to gain access to the warmth of your home during the colder months of the year. Fortunately, most of these bugs are harmless (though some spiders and scorpions can cause some serious pain!). 

Your first line of defense for bugs is the foam gap-filler. This should be deployed around your entire foundation, filling any gaps larger than a pinhead. This will keep out a large majority of the insects trying to access your home. However, unlike birds and rodents, these tiny critters will try to access your home through some more traditional entry points.

For this reason, you should check the weatherstripping on your doors and windows. Weatherstripping is very easy to replace and is sold in all hardware stores. Simply scrape off the broken strips and apply the new strips. Most weatherstripping comes in rolls with an adhesive backside. Simply cut the strips to size, peel off the paper from the adhesive, and stick in place. A good seal around your doors and on the bottom of your windows is sure to keep the bugs out. One last note – check your window screens. If there are any holes in the screens, this is a major way that insects can find their way into your home.

Think Like a Pest!

Though it is impossible to cover every single entry-point that a pest will try to use to enter your home, you should be fine if you put yourself in the mindset of these critters as you walk around your home. Look for the slightest crack, crevice, or hole on the outside of your home, and make sure it is filled in. This can be a big task, but it can easily be tackled in a weekend with the proper tools! While any capable adult can tackle the groundwork, any work on your roof should be carried out with caution. If you are not comfortable climbing on your roof or if your roof is very steep, be sure to seek the help of a qualified professional. Good luck!

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Written by Gabe Buckley

Gabe Buckley is a professional science writer with a Bachelor's of Science in Zoology and a Master's of Professional Natural Sciences from Colorado State University.

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