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How to Pest-Proof Your Home

Last Updated: Wednesday, March 4th, 2020

Moving into a new home can be a time-consuming and exhausting endeavour, we realize that. However, what can be even more exhausting and outright infuriating is having to perform pest extermination and control right after you’ve moved in.

In many of the more severe cases of bug or rodent infestations you might even have to abandon the home for a while, take all your personal belongings away, and process them all individually in order to combat the pest infestation.

Of course, there are thousands of different bugs and rodents that may cause problems such as these and we can’t cover them all in one brief article. Instead, here are some of the general pest-proofing steps you should take when moving in.

How to pest-proof your home before you move in:

Fortunately, a lot of the pest-proofing steps you can take will have a good effect against a wide range of rodent and insect pests.

1. Deep clean the entire place

Thousands of insect pests can hide in or below the carpet, in the dirt in your bathroom or kitchen corners, and so on. Only a few of the culprits include dust mites, fleas, bed bugs, ants and spiders. What’s more, most of these pests rely on such dirt to feed, so cleaning it makes your home less pest-friendly. The kitchen is especially important, because there is actual food stored there, and any breadcrumbs or small food particles can attract pests. Once you move in, make sure that you store all your food in airtight containers and there’s nothing left lying around after dark.

Clean the yard thoroughly as well. The vast majority of indoor pests enter our homes from our yards. With that in mind, it’s smart to consider your yard as your first line of defence against pest invaders. Clearing out any cluttered areas and getting rid of grass clippings and fallen leaves timely will take away their hiding spots, so your garden won’t attract them. Simply put, turn your yard into a “No bug’s land” and your home will be much safer too.

2. Inspect, clean and fix the attic and crawl space

The attic and crawl spaces are common entry points and nesting grounds for thousands of rodent and insect pests because they are rarely cleaned and maintained. Don’t make that mistake in your new home.

Weatherize your home and seal up all possible entry points. Everything from the space between your AC pipes and the wall to the smallest crack on the roof can be an entry point for an invasive insect species. Pay extra attention to the foundations of the house as well, sometimes shifting ground can cause small cracks, which are the perfect entry point for pests. Sometimes builders leave small holes around windows for different cables to pass through, make sure these are sealed as well.

Rats can pass through holes as small as 7-8 millimetres in diameter, because their bones as soft and flexible, and their bodies are long and cylindrical in shape. They can also gnarl to all kinds of hard materials, like wood, lead, cinderblock, brick, mortar, aluminium, glass, vinyl and improperly cured concrete. Stone and metal have proven to be the most efficient rat-proofing materials out there.

3. Designate a dining space for your pets and maintain it

If the previous owner of the house had pets, it’s a good idea to inspect the home for fleas and treat it if necessary. If you have pets yourself, never leave the food bowl directly on the ground, because pets often spill food while they eat, they step on it and get it transported all around the house. This can attract ants and cockroaches, which are very difficult to exterminate. The easiest way to avoid that is to place the food and water bowls on a rubber mat. Spilled food will be easier to spot and clean up. If you’re already having an ant problem in the new house, you can easily discourage them from seeking the pet food by placing the food bowl into a bigger bowl filled with water – ants won’t be able to cross and get to the treats.

4. Inspect your own luggage, boxes and other items before you start unpacking

Unfortunately, we often bring pests with ourselves which is especially true for bed bugs. Fortunately, that’s easy to avoid if you carefully inspect your belongings before unpacking. It will also let you avoid having to attempt taming a bed bug infestation on your own or having to call in a professional to do it for you. Common signs of a bed bug infestation include small blood stains on bedsheets and clothes, dark and rusty-looking stains left by bed bug excrements, a musty smell and of course, red itchy spots on your skin. In some cases, you can even see the bed bugs themselves, if the infestation is very severe.

5. Trim all tree branches to at least 2-3 yards away from your home

A lot of rodents and even insects often enter our homes by jumping 1-3 feet from nearby trees. Additionally, such tree branches can cause physical damage to our homes in and of themselves.
Consider calling pest control if necessary. Pest control professionals don’t just perform pest control, they can also perform expertly done routine checks for everything that might be crawling around your house.

If there’s firewood stored anywhere around the house, make sure the woodpiles are located away from the house walls and off the ground, preferably on a firewood rack or some wooden pellets. Cover the pile with a tarp or some other waterproof material, to further limit the access for pests. Pests like termites, ants and cockroaches love to hide in woodpiles and get transported to the inside of the house this way, so you need to pay extra attention. Also, always burn the oldest wood first.

6. Inspect the property and outdoor area for water stagnation

Water stagnation is a real scourge for every homeowner. Sometimes it’s a process that happens naturally, when for instance there’s a storm, the water is pouring in huge amounts and can’t reach the soil, because the space there is already filled. And sometimes people just forget small amounts of waters around the garden, like in a flower pot or a bucket. Standing water is a perfect breeding ground for mosquitoes, which carry all kinds of dangerous diseases and can make your lives very miserable. To prevent mosquitoes from making your new property their permanent home, make sure to empty the water from any pots, buckets and containers around the garden and inside the house. If you notice any outdoor areas that are prone to flooding during rain and there are puddles forming, fill them with a proper material. If your new backyard has a pond or some other water feature, make sure there’s a pump installed to move the water around.

Signs that your home is infested with pests, bugs or cockroaches.

For a more targeted approach, here are some signs to look for:

1. There are insect predators such as spiders and ladybugs crawling around

Both species feed exclusively on insects. Their presence around the property could indicate that there are other insects for them to feed on. Even if you don’t notice any other bugs, that probably means that these beneficial creatures are keeping the population down, but this won’t last forever. You’ll need to take timely measures to find the source of the infestation and remove it. The constant presence of birds around your garden is also a sign that you have pests on your hands.

2. There are tapping noises coming out of the walls or attic

This is a very common sign of anything from termites to roof rats, squirrels or bats. Termites are probably the biggest and most damaging offender as far as homeowners are concerned, so before moving into your new home, make sure to check for signs of these pests. Except for the tapping noises, which are caused by the termites banging their heads against the wall, you can also look around for small piles of fish scale-like elements. These are termite wings – they shed them while they swarm or reproduce. And if you often hear scratching and banging in the attic after you move in, it’s a good idea to inspect the space for rodents, bats, squirrels or possums. Placing a few non-lethal traps can help you catch the burglar without hurting it. You need to thread lightly here, because possums in particular are protected animals and hurting them is forbidden by the law.

3. There are mud piles alongside external wall edges

A lot of insects cover their in-wall nests with mud to protect them. This is typical termite and wasp behaviour, they build tubes of mud, dirt and saliva around their nests, to protect them from predators and other external dangers. Be very careful if you notice something like that in your new home, especially if you’re dealing with wasps. They are very territorial and will attack you if they feel you’re endangering their home.

According to Alexander Crawley, an entomology consultant for Fantastic Pest Control, the best time of day to inspect or remove a wasp nest is an hour before sunrise, while the insects are still sleeping. But since wasps can sting more than once, and they are highly toxic to allergic people, it’s not recommended to approach them yourself, professionals are better suited to deal with it, because they have protective clothing and all the necessary knowledge. If you prefer to do the job yourself, Crawley recommends to locate all the holes the wasps use to enter the nest (there’s always more than one), fill them with steel wool to trap the wasps, then spray the inside of the nest with a mixture containing a powder called carbaryl, and seal the last opening. The wasps should die in 5-6 days.

4. There are dead bugs, bug scales or bug droppings across the floor

As we already mentioned, swarming termites and other insects often leave behind various body parts, like wings, legs or entire dead bugs. Termites also leave droppings behind, they are usually small round and wood coloured pellets. Mouse droppings, on the other side, look like black sesame seeds or basmati rice. And if you notice piles of shredded paper or clothing fibres in the house or garage, it’s a certain sign that mice are trying to build a comfortable nest in your home. Don’t ignore those as you’re cleaning – they are an indication of a larger problem.

5. You notice weak floors and peeling paint

This is another certain telltale sign that there are termites in the home. They usually burrow into wood and leave a lot of moisture behind. This is not only detrimental to the wooden parts of the house, but can also cause paint to peel off the walls. So, if the floors in your new house feel weak, or if you notice any paint bubbling, peeling or cracking, you may already have a serious termite problem on your hands and the help of an exterminator might be needed.

6. There are weird smells inside the place

A lot of pests leave unpleasant odours behind them, especially if they die inside the house unnoticed. Bed bugs are famous for their musty smell, which some people also identify as sweet and “fruity”. Rats smell a lot like ammonia, while mice give off more of a urine-like smell. Roaches can leave an oily aroma in the air, that many people associate with soy sauce gone bad. In any case, if you notice any out of the ordinary smells in your home, it’s best to inspect it for hidden pest invasions.

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