December 4, 2015

When insects, rodents, or other animals make their way into your home it’s generally because they are looking to satisfy one of two basic needs: food and shelter. Sometimes they come looking for one and find the other, and then they can be even harder to evict. In most cases, prevention is the best way to avoid a pest infestation, and there are several simple steps you can take to make your home less appealing to uninvited guests.

Keep Surfaces Clean

Materials Skill Level Estimated Time
• Sponges Beginner 10 to 30 minutes
• Paper Towels
• Basic Cleaning Products

Bugs and animals can be drawn to all sorts of food sources, even some that may be undetectable to us. Keeping floors, counters, and other surfaces clean after spills and regular use can eliminate attractions that may be invisible. Pay special attention to food prep areas, cupboards, and the floor around the wastebasket or in the pantry.

Store Food Securely

Materials Skill Level Estimated Time
• Plastic Bins Beginner 10 to 60 minutes
• Steel Garbage Cans
• Glass Jars

Use sturdy plastic bins for long term storage of dry goods and store extra grains and herbs in your freezer if you have the space. Bugs and rodents can easily access most cabinets and pantries and crawl or chew through loose packaging, paper, plastic bags, and cardboard, so more secure storage can prevent attracting pests as well. This applies to pet and livestock feed as well, and is especially important in more accessible areas like garages in barns. Steel garbage cans with tight-fitting lids are a good defense against all sorts of critters.

Cover Trash

Materials Skill Level Estimated Time
• Bungee Cords Beginner 10 to 30 minutes
• Sturdy Trashcans

Whether stored outdoors or under cover in your garage, secure trash in sturdy garbage cans with tight-fitting lids until pickup day. If raccoons, dogs, or other can-tippers are a problem in your neighborhood, use bungee cords to help secure the lids to the cans and the cans to the side of the house, garage, or fence.

Store Bedding Materials

Materials Skill Level Estimated Time
• Plastic Storage Bin Beginner 30 to 60 minutes

Many rodents are as likely to make their way in your home looking for bedding material as they are for food, even if they don’t plan to make their nest there. This is particularly common in garages and sheds, where seasonal items are stored. Use plastic storage bins or other means to secure materials they may find attractive, such as patio furniture, pool towels, linens, insulation, and upholstered furniture.

Minimize Access

Materials Skill Level Estimated Time
• Hardware Cloth Beginner 30 to 60 minutes
• Pruning Shears or Saw

It can be a challenge to make your home impervious to all creeping, crawling intruders, but tightening up security can help keep out animals that may be looking for a warm, quiet place to call home. Make a thorough inspection inside and out, looking for missing screens, holes in siding or trim, loose flashing and shingles, gaps in doors and windows, and missing grates on vents. Make repairs as needed to damaged materials and add hardware cloth or metal screen to vents and openings to prevent animals from getting through. Some rodents can squeeze through holes smaller than a nickel, so never assume any hole is too small! Be sure to make a proper repair rather than trying a quick fix such as stuffing a hole with rags, insulation, or foam, which animals can chew through in no time. Also check for tree limbs hanging over the roof or within ten feet of the house and trim them back to remove a potential roadway for larger animals looking for access to your nice, quiet attic.

Discourage Pests from the Area

Materials Skill Level Estimated Time
• Repellents Beginner 30 to 60 minutes
• Pruning Shears

Beyond securing your home and removing potential attractions, it can help deter pests by making your place undesirable in general. Using repellents can keep many types of insects and animals at bay, from unsavory or predator scents to herbs, insecticides, and visual or auditory deterrents. Also, minimizing potential habitats around your house can prevent pests making their way inside. Brush, mulch, and plantings against the house and accessible areas under porches and steps can be too hard for many creatures to resist, and the proximity to your home could provide easy access to food supplies and nesting locations down the road.

Level of Difficulty

The best preventative measures to take in your case may depend on your location and the type of pests that are problematic there, but addressing the basic issue of accessibility to food and shelter should greatly reduce the likelihood of all types of pests setting up housekeeping at your place. Most tasks are suitable for a home-improvement novice, but making repairs to prevent access may require intermediate to advanced carpentry or repair skills. If you need a hand getting your house or yard in shape, consider calling on a professional handyman to identify and correct any potential problems.


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