How to Prepare Your Home to Keep Winter Pests Out

The cold weather may be well on its way (or may have already arrived, depending on where you live), but that doesn’t mean you’ll get a reprieve from household pests or invasive wildlife. The reality is that, while equipment like hydraulic load cells can operate in temperatures of -76 degrees Fahrenheit, humans and animals can’t — which is why we all seek out warm shelter during the wintertime. And although these creatures may not realize you don’t like them invading your personal space, it’s important to take preventative action to avoid an infestation. Otherwise, your holiday might be more scary than merry.

In 2016, approximately 68% of all pest control service revenue nationwide was attributed to residential services. That means you should be concerned about what might make its way into your home, particularly if you don’t want rodents or bugs to ruin your Thanksgiving dinner or New Year’s Eve toast. Here are just a few ways you can prep your home to keep these unwanted winter pests out and preserve the health of your family into 2020.

Inspect and Seal

One of the best ways to protect your home and your family is to conduct regular visual inspections and seal up any holes or cracks you might find. The EPA Energy Star Program estimates that adding insulation and properly sealing air leaks can decrease monthly energy bills by 20%, which can be a welcome cost-saving measure in winter. But sealing your home can also keep bugs and other animals outside where they belong, as it’s easier than you might think for them to squeeze in through a tiny opening. Look for holes in walls, siding, and doors and fill in any you find with caulk, concrete, or copper mesh. Despite concrete’s excellent durability, some rodents can and will chew through its close cousin: cement. Ensure that your fix for even the seemingly strongest materials will stand the test of time (and teeth).

You will also want to ensure that specialty home features, like sump pumps, are properly maintained and inspected. Passive mitigation systems have been shown to reduce radon levels by up to 4%, but an improperly installed sump could still create problems in the form of pests. Just like a hole in your wall, your sump pump should be properly managed to reduce the risk of vermin.

Keep It Clean and Contained

Regular cleaning can also help to keep unwanted visitors away. The kitchen, attic, and garage should be particular points of interest, as these often provide easy access points and sustenance for these creatures during the winter. Cluttered attics and garages also offer places for pests to hide out, so you’ll want to make it a habit to clean up these areas and invest in proper storage solutions. Speaking of storage, be sure to store all food and garbage so that bugs and rodents aren’t able to access it. You’ll want to wipe down counters regularly, use airtight containers to store food, keep trash stowed in secure totes, and stay on top of your housework. Just remember that the toxicity of household cleaners makes these agents three times more likely to cause cancer than external pollution, so use products that don’t emit VOCs and that won’t harm your health.

Take Natural Precautions

We may not be as likely to interact with nature during the colder months, but you might be surprised by how much the outdoors can impact your life inside. Your landscaping techniques can discourage insects and rodents from coming inside, for example. If you keep bushes and trees trimmed at least a foot away from the house, this can prevent easy access for critters. If you have mulch on your property, make sure to turn it at least once a season to disrupt pest activity and check for termites. Be sure to lay down mulch away from your home’s foundation to keep pests away, as well.

For homeowners with wood-burning fireplaces, it’s also important to store and check firewood properly before bringing it inside. You’ll want to keep firewood stored off the ground and keep it as dry as possible to dissuade termites, beetles, and carpenter ants from taking refuge. Be sure to look for visible tunnels or trails in the wood you bring in to avoid allowing insects entrance into your domicile. Finally, if you bring any plants in from outdoors to protect them from frost, carefully inspect these plants before doing so. Gnats and spiders can easily find their way indoors this way, so you might want to give careful consideration to where you keep these plants (and whether it’s worth the risk to bring them inside).

In most cases, your home will not be completely free of pests. But anything you can do to prevent an infestation will provide you with major peace of mind — as well as improved health — throughout the season.