By Erik J. Martin, CTW Features
Attics come in handy for homeowners who want to store things out of the way or utilize extra square footage for living space. Problem is, attics can also attract unwanted guests: furry, winged, or crawly squatters trying to carve out their own space in your upper level.
If you suspect animal or insect undesirables upstairs, don’t delay in doing something about it, the experts agree.
“Attics are dark and cozy retreats for a variety of rodents and wildlife, including mice, rats, squirrels, flying squirrels, bats, birds, possums, and raccoons,” says Natasha Wright, a board-certified entomologist with Braman Termite & Pest Elimination in Agawam, Massachusetts. “Insects can also creep inside attics through voids from outside, allowing pests like yellowjackets to build some big nests in attic spaces. A variety of overwintering insects often attempt to enter structures and attics to survive the winter months.”
Curtis Whalen, COO of Blue Sky Pest Control in Gilbert, Arizona, says other common vermin found in attics include silverfish, cockroaches, and even scorpions in the American Southwest.
“These pests can do serious damage in the attic. Rodents can chew on contents and electrical wires, possibly causing a fire. Pet droppings and excrement they leave behind can be unsightly and carry diseases. And other pests spread bacteria. Plus, once they are in the attic, some pests may want to move into other parts of the house,” cautions Whalen.
Consider that pest waste can lead to the inhalation of airborne fecal material, spreading diseases like histoplasmosis, hantavirus, and leptospirosis.
“Bats can even transmit rabies, sometimes without you even knowing you were bit. And yellowjackets, hornets, and bees can sting, causing life-threatening issues for allergic individuals,” adds Wright.
To prevent critters from getting into your attic, focus on exclusion measures.
“Work on sealing, screening, or plugging openings or gaps where they can get in. Roof rats, for example, can get in through roof vents, T-vents, plumbing vent pipes on the roof, and other areas. Wire mesh can be used in these spots and attached securely with right-sized hose clamps,” suggests Whalen.
Other roof entry points can be problematic, including where differently sloped roofs converge or overlap, creating corners that aren’t sealed up properly or often have openings large enough for rodents or other wildlife to enter your attic.
“Sometimes metal mesh screens, if strong enough, can be molded to effectively cover these areas. Other times, it’s necessary to have a contractor fix these holes,” Whalen adds.
Matthew Smith, owner of Green Past Management in New Castle, Delaware, recommends spraying expanding foam into any cracks and crevices in your attic space.
“Additionally, inspect every pipe and electrical wire coming to and from the house. If you have siding, check every corner; most of the time, they are not filled and instead are open at the bottom. If you have brick, check the seals where the air conditioning unit enters the house – remember that mice are amazing climbers and can easily scale wires and brick to the second-floor roof,” Smith says.
Birds will often use vents and the side of your home to push their way into the soffit. If you notice you are missing a few tabs on your vents exiting the home, replace them immediately, adds Smith.
Additionally, survey other areas outside of your property carefully.
“Is there any standing water that should be removed? Is trash being managed properly? Look for overgrown landscaping. In particular, look for and remove any branches or ornamental plants that may be touching your roof or home, from which animals may be able to get to your attic,” says Timothy Best, a board-certified entomologist with Terminix.
Furthermore, be sure to store anything in your attic within a sealed container that is impervious to pests.
If you already have critters in your attic, proceed carefully.
“Call a pest management professional or wildlife specialist in your municipality. Do not try to manage rodents, wildlife, or stinging insects on your own,” advises Wright. “Remember that some animals can transmit deadly diseases like rabies. Bats are protected and cannot be harassed or poisoned, either.”