Critters come with the turf for home inspectors.

Get a few home inspectors in a room and, pretty soon, you’ll be hearing their snake, spider, skunk, mice and raccoon stories.

It’s first-hand experience homeowners can put to use.
After years of inspecting homes, here are a few “inside scoops” on handling the animals you do not want moving in.
First, make the house yours – not theirs.  Secure your home against intruders. Close their doors.
Taking away invitations to animals to drop in, and slamming the door on their entry points, is a more effective, and safer, strategy than bombing your home with chemical sprays and gasses.  Who knows what’s in that stuff?  And it’s pretty hard to believe chemicals killing unwanted animal guests are just fine for people living there, and their pets.

It’s a nice bonus that animal-tight home is more energy efficient too.

Start with the cracks in your foundation.  Sealing cracks makes good sense, not just for pests, but also to prevent water penetration.

Repair any holes.  Screen the ones you need to stay open, such as gable vents and crawl space vents.

Repair or replace warped or loose trim, siding, and any other entry points. Make sure corners of the roof line are closed and weather-proof above gutters.
Don’t think for a minute that new construction is animal proof.  Plenty of homes built in the boom years, only a few years ago – in every price range – were put up so fast that they are dotted with easy entries.

Keep vines off of a home.  Vines are expressways for animals to cruise in.

Shrubs, tree branches, and other plants should be about a foot away from a house walls or roofing.  Think about how branches and shrubs move in storms.  Be sure links and branches won’t get blown into the siding or the roof.

Be on the alert for signs an animal got in anyway, despite the repairs.  Look for animal droppings in basements and attics.  Poke around the attic every once in awhile.  Look for light coming in.  Where you see light, you see a beacon for animals.  They sense the heat coming out and smell the food cooking.  That’s like inviting them over.
Many animal intruders follow walls in the basement.  Chewing, on wood, cardboard boxes, or papers, is another sign.
Strolling around your home once a month or so is a sensible habit.  You get to enjoy your plants and the change of season more than way anyhow.
Spring, or as early as April (late March, last year), is the time to start evicting any unwanted house guests.  Bats that are dormant all winter starting hunting up food around that time.  (Termites tend to swarm that part of the year too.)  Bats only need an opening around a quarter of an inch wide and about an inch long to get inside.  Usually they slide in along the roof line.  Where bats are going in and out, the opening is smudged and you usually find droppings nearby.  (They sparkle when they’re smashed.)  Once they get inside an attic, bats usually live inside walls.
No matter the season, openings in homes don’t have to be very big.  An opening the size of a dime is just the ticket for mice and chipmunks.  And we haven’t even started talking about bugs here.  A rat only needs a hole a little bigger than a nickel.
Keeping your nose on alert is as important as keeping your eyes open.  Bats tend to poop in the same place, making mounds.  It does not take many bats to start to smell the mounds.  Bird often build nests at attic gable vents, or inside soffits.  The bigger piles of hay and grasses for nests reminder most people of the smell of a barn or hay loft.
Let’s not forget the sounds.  Scurrying sounds in the attic often announce squirrels or birds.  Bats inside walls make similar fluttering and scratching noises.  None of the, will go away quietly, most of the time.  They have to be evicted.
Garbage cans always should be kept securely closed, unless you’re really interested in inviting furry friends to your buffet.  Putting out garbage cans out on the morning of pick up is a good idea.  Finding a garbage can open, turned  over, or spilled out tells you an unwanted animal guest has been dumpster diving in your home.  Chances are good that critter is still around.
Wood piles should be well away from the house.  Same for compost heaps, leaf piles, and the like.  They’re all Club Med for wildlife.
As our cities and suburbs keep creeping out into the farms and woods, it is inevitable that lots of wildlife will get displaced.  Some will come nosing around for food and shelter.
Around 30% of Americans used pest control services last year (2012), according to the National Pest Management Association.  That was a big increase from 2004, when only 20% of Americans put pest control specialists to work on their homes. But not all pest control contractors are born the same.  Have second thoughts about a contractor if you find anyone  applying toxic chemicals with their bare skin exposed and no eye protection.
Deer in the yard are a breeze — even when they are beheading plants and nibbling shrubs or trees – compared to trying to run off raccoons, mice, skunks and snakes.
Those critters like pretty much everything people like.  The same food, the same temperature, the same roof over their heads in the rain.
An once of prevention is worth a summer of cures, and way better than drums of chemicals.
If it starts to feel like a losing battle, your home inspection probably has a few more tips.  And the names of skilled, safe pest control experts in your area.
    Never hesitate to call your home inspector for advice.
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