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How to keep mice out of your home this winter

POSTED: November 20, 2017 8:10 a.m.
Garth Haslem/

Look at all the perforations in your home's exterior — any and all of them can be front doors for critters.

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For most homeowners, few things cause revulsion faster than seeing mice scurry around their kitchen or down the hall. These furry little fuzz balls can cause panic and disgust, including a strong desire to board up the rooms you saw them in, never to be entered by humans again.

Let’s face it: we all get mice now and then, but poisoning critters out of existence isn’t always the best answer. Many experienced home inspectors can explain a simple truth: To successfully solve a household problem, you must first eliminate the cause of the problem. This applies to mice, spiders, mold and any number of other uninvited household guests.

With winter now upon us, that insulated wall in the basement looks pretty posh for many rodents: It’s warm, it’s safe from predators and there’s a marshmallow and chocolate chip stash just around the corner in the pantry. What’s better than that if you’re a mouse?

As the homeowner, you might see things a bit differently. Mouse feces are unsanitary, ruin food and carry diseases like hantavirus. This is not a disease you should take lightly. It can kill you — or just make you wish you were dead. According to the Center for Disease Control, there have been 728 reported cases of hantavirus in the United States. Personal experience as a real estate trainer indicates that the number of unreported cases could be higher.

Killing the little fuzz balls is one thing, but as long as the front door is open, they’ll keep coming in. So how do you slam the door? Two words: eliminate their food and shelter. The first thing to do is to help rodents realize that in your home, they will go hungry. All the food is in places they can’t get to, and there’s no food in the basement. If there is, it’s in bins they can't access.

However, more important perhaps than keeping the rodents hungry is preventing your home from becoming a shelter in the first place. Here’s how to do it:

Mouse elevators

Do you have a siding exterior? Do you have those corner beads that start a short distance from the soil, then run all the way up the exterior corners? In certain circles, those are called "mouse elevators." If you have exterior siding, take a look at these corners. Imagine yourself as a critter and imagine the places you could access because of the way your house exterior is set up.

Get those mouse elevators sealed— expanding foam or exterior grade caulk can work. Mix in some steel wool as well.

Siding

Exciting as it may not sound, the base of your siding may be a red carpet entry for critters. Siding is not often attached at the base, and as a result, just flaps in the breeze. Those little mice can often just push the base of the siding out of the way on their journey into your home.

Central air

You know those two pipes that go into your home from the central air condenser? The big line and the small one with the black foam insulation? They go into the home through a hole drilled large enough for both of them, and that hole is also big enough to allow rodents to enter. All they have to do is walk the pipeline, and it’s a bridge right into your home unless you block the hole.

Dryer vent

The dryer vent can be another entry point to your home for mice. The open vent is usually not too far off the ground, making it easily accessible for rodents. From there, these mice can visit your freshly laundered clothes or just drop into your laundry room and go visit your master bedroom. Your shoes and favorite sweaters are excellent places to hang out.

Masonry and stucco

Don’t have siding on your home? You’re not out of the woods because many rodents are good climbers and can scale the stucco on homes. Mice can climb an 8-foot masonry wall, then let themselves in to your house at the eaves. It’s a bit more difficult but is definitely possible for mice.

Door sweep

Sometimes, it’s a good idea to lie on the floor and see things from a mouse's perspective. Can you get in through the door sweep? Many doors leave a perfect gap. Get a door sweep and a threshold that seals things up tight. Your heating bill will also thank you.

Other prevention

Are you inviting rodents with the food you are leaving around? Are there open Cheetos bags on the floor of your teenager’s room? Are you storing exposed marshmallows, popcorn and rice in your basement storage area? Are there boxes that have never been moved in years? If you answered yes to any of these questions, you should re-evaluate how to make your food more rodent proof.

Conclusion

If you see mouse feces, it’s time to take action. Do it carefully though, and do it well protected. Keep yourself and your family safe by eliminating food and shelter for critters.
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