(BPT) – It’s late and you’re in your favorite, cozy pajamas. You get in bed and pull up the warm comforter. You turn out the light and are just about to drift off to sleep when you hear a noise coming from the attic. You sit up to listen, but it quickly goes quiet again. You lay back down and close your eyes, and just as you fall asleep, the noise is back, this time it’s coming from inside the wall.
You have a visitor — an unwanted visitor.
As much as we all enjoy our cozy homes, they are also the perfect setting for pests like rats, mice and raccoons to snuggle up and escape the cold air, too.
“There’s nothing more unsettling than knowing you and your family may not be the only ones enjoying this season indoors,” said Buck Hempel, manager of wildlife services at the pest control company Terminix. “Luckily, there’s still time to prepare your home to prevent critters from finding their way in.”
Whether you’ve already noticed signs of pest activity or just want more peace of mind at home, use these four preventative tips to eliminate and prevent potential pest infestations.
1. Seal off entry points to stop rodents from squeezing in.
Rodents can enter through holes as small as a dime, and will use any vulnerable opening to get in—from your foundation to your roofline. To keep these unwelcome intruders out, start by checking the perimeter of your home and repairing any small cracks or holes. In order to prevent rodents from chewing through these sealed areas, layer your sealing work by stuffing it first with a metal mesh, such as steel wool, and then sealing it down with caulk. This can also help keep summer pests such as spiders and ants at bay.
Don’t forget to check for gaps around conduit pipes, worn-out door sweeps and garage seals, as well as torn screens behind gables and roof vents. And, avoid leaving your doors open unnecessarily—even between trips to the car for groceries.
2. Secure food sources to eliminate the attraction.
Pests are not picky eaters. Once they find a food source, they are notorious for overstaying their welcome (and inviting friends). While critters can thrive in even the cleanest of houses, homeowners should remove any temptations by sweeping up spills and crumbs immediately. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends storing food in airtight containers made of thick plastic or metal. This is especially important when storing pet food or bird seed in the garage.
3. Clear up clutter in your yard.
Stacks of firewood, old tires or other debris leaning against your exterior walls are a perfect, protected pathway around your house. Leave at least a foot of space between these items and your home, and move mulch away, too. Then, clean out your gutters and remove any dead leaves. Not only do piles of colorful fall foliage make for the perfect autumn Instagram photo, but raking these away from your home can help prevent pests like earwigs and snakes from finding warmth and building nests.
Homeowners with green thumbs should also thoroughly clean out planters before bringing them in for winter, as spiders will often lay eggs at the bottom of pots to hatch next spring.
4. Know when to call in the pros.
As with most home improvement projects, there are great do-it-yourself methods available to prevent pest control issues in your home. However, waiting until it’s too late to call in a certified professional can be dangerous and lead to major damage, costing you money and time. Pest control companies like Terminix offer free pest inspections to assess your home, and if needed, can remove any critters that may have settled in. To keep your family worry-free, they will seal any entry points to ensure winter pests can’t return.