Keep the Critters Away
You may not like to think so, but homeowners and household pests share at least one similarity: the need for shelter. In the temperate months, you probably spend as much time as possible outdoors, enjoying nature and open-air activities. Insects and rodents aren't so different; in spring and summer, they, too, tend to roam free. When the weather turns cold, however, you wisely seek refuge in the warmth and comfort of your home. The catch? Pests want to get in there with you. To protect your home from this winter invasion, you need to shore up your defenses. Act now to protect your property by following these recommendations from the National Pest Management Association.
Store Wood at a Distance
Are you among the many homeowners who love to sit, toasty warm and mesmerized, watching a roaring fire in your fireplace? If so, here’s a tip: Resist the temptation to store any firewood indoors. Certainly, a pile of logs may lend seasonal ambience to your living room, but it may also introduce a population of destructive, wood-boring bugs. As a safety precaution, bring firewood indoors only when you plan to use it right away. In addition, be sure to store your supply at a distance of about 20 feet from the house and, if possible, keep it raised off the ground.
Prevent Ice Dams
Nothing says winter quite like the sight of a roofline studded with shimmering icicles. Far from being a benign hallmark of the season, however, icicles may indicate the presence of a winter hazard—an ice dam. When icy buildup forms on the edge of your roof, it leaves rain and snowmelt without a path down to the gutters and out to the ground. As a result, your roof may become compromised, allowing incursion from not only water, but also pests such as termites and carpenter ants. Inspect your roof for ice dams throughout the cold months and, if necessary, pursue options for prevention.
Put Away Pet Food
Pests live off your leftovers—all those little crumbs you fail to sweep off the floor and remove from other household surfaces. Where there’s no food, there’s no infestation. Still, while this concept sounds simple, we all know how much diligence it takes to maintain a clean home. You'll never get the upper hand, though, if you leave pet food out in the open day and night, where any number of pests may be feasting on it. The wise course? Keep pet food stashed except at designated mealtimes. Afterward, rinse out the bowls and stow them away until it's time to feed the pets again.
Schedule an Energy Audit
Though seemingly unrelated, your home's energy efficiency and its vulnerability to pests are, in fact, closely tied. Why? It all comes down to cracks and crevices. The same openings that allow heat to escape your home can also grant entry to pests. Because these potential entry points are often sliver-sized, locating all of them on your own can be a futile effort. With advanced tools and techniques, the experts can identify problem areas that you may never have noticed yourself. This added benefit gives you yet another incentive to hire a local service provider to perform an energy audit on your home.
Fix Leaky Faucets
Picture the cavity beneath your sink or behind your shower wall. It’s cramped and dark, and if the plumbing has sprung a leak, then it’s wet too—precisely the sort of environment where many types of pests thrive. Obviously, pest control and prevention aren't the only reasons to repair faulty pipes and connections, but they're a reason to do so sooner rather than later. After all, you wouldn't leave out food for an extended period of time because it might lead to an infestation. By the same token, you shouldn't let plumbing problems persist—those pests need water as much as they need food.
Sweep the Chimney
Particularly at the beginning of the season, when you're not yet using your fireplace regularly, the chimney may be attractive to pests of various kinds—squirrels and raccoons, for example, or bats and birds. Consider installing a chimney cap as a deterrent. In addition, remember to get your chimney cleaned, not only to remove creosote buildup, but also to clear out any accumulated nesting or waste material. Unchecked, pest debris can compromise your chimney's ability to vent the dangerous byproducts of combustion, including particulate matter and carbon monoxide.
Trim Back Trees
Early in the season, well before the darkest days of winter, take pains to separate your house from the landscaping that surrounds it. Even sparsely planted areas can provide a safe harbor for pests, so it's only prudent to maintain a buffer zone around your home. Along the foundation, trim back plants and bushes to a distance of about 18 inches from the house. Higher up, prune any branches that touch the house or hang over it, so rodents won't be able to use tree limbs to reach the roof and exploit any vulnerable openings.
Check the Dryer Vent
In the course of its normal operation, your dryer vent exhausts stale, warm air from the appliance to the outdoors. That’s fine, in theory. But on a frigid winter day, that warmth can become a beacon that lures shelter-seeking pests of all types. Fortunately, dryer vents typically come with a damper that, among other functions, prevents creatures from tunneling in. Perform due diligence, though, and double-check that the damper hasn't become damaged or stuck open. As well, examine for cracks along the seal between the vent and the surrounding wall.
Repair Storm Damage
Homeownership isn't easy. Veterans know that even upholding the status quo takes a great deal of persistence. That's never more true than in winter, when severe storms threaten to disturb those elements on which the integrity of the home depends. After extreme weather, don't forget to inspect your home's exterior for damage, be it a missing roof shingle or a crack in the foundation. Any such breaks in the building envelope serve as an open invitation to insects and rodents. Make the necessary repairs as swiftly as possible, and remain vigilant in the wake of future storms.
Call in Backup
Do you want to learn more about pest control and management or find a licensed pest control professional in your area? Visit PestWorld.org , the official website of the National Pest Management Association (NPMA), a nonprofit organization committed to the protection of public health, food, and property from the diseases and dangers of household pests.
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