Rat proofing your house is the one sure way to prevent a rat infestation before it starts, or to keep the problem from reoccurring after a building has been cleared of the rodents. Most rat proofing can be accomplished by a homeowner in a couple of hours with some very basic tools and inexpensive supplies that are readily available at the local hardware or home and garden stores.
Here is a list of the tools required:
• Staple gun
• Putty knife
• Tin snips
And here is a list of suggested supplies:
• 1/4 galvanized steel hardware cloth (sold by the yard) for screening.
• House vent insert
• Crawl space vent
• Stucco or plaster patch
• Bronze or steel wool
• Door threshold or door sweep
• Door weather stripping
• Flashing (sheet metal)
• Large rat snap traps (not mouse traps)
• Metal trash can (for pet food)
Pipes leading to outside water mains, spigots for garden hoses and hot water tank connections often end up with gaps around the actual pipe where it comes through walls. Rats are adept at squeezing themselves through spaces no larger than a quarter making these junctures prime entry points for the rodents.
Rat proof these areas and other small holes by:
• Stuffing the area around the pipe with steel or bronze wool• Using stucco patch to fill in the open margins around the pipe, sealing off the hole
• Using galvanized hardware cloth or other mesh, cut a hole the size of the pipe diameter in the cloth, affix the screening around the pipe and over the hole. Make sure to leave no gaps and anchor the mesh securely.
Vents in subfloors or attic spaces are other points of easy access for both black (roof rats) and brown (Norway) rats. Black rats are accomplished climbers; brown rats burrow and prefer subsurface points of entry.
• Attic vents: louver type, open or those with damaged screens should be covered by hardware cloth and stapled securely from the inside, leaving no gaps.
• Subfloor and other venting should either be repaired using hardware cloth or replaced with new inserts.
• Crawlspaces are often not screened at all; after clearing the area of any rats or mice, close off all crawlspaces with vents designed for the purpose, or fashioned from the galvanized steel hardware cloth. All vents and screens used in crawlspaces should fit tightly against the openings.
• Chimneys should be screened at the top; plumbing vents such as toilet vents should be screened off with galvanized steel hardware cloth and a hose clamp; heat and oven vents should be screened off; roof turbines should be screened off from the inside.
• Garage entry doors and all other outside doors should be upgraded with thresholds and/ or a bottom of the door “sweep”.
• Garage doors should have weatherproofing fixed to the sides and bottom edges of the door. In lieu of weatherproofing, thin slats tacked along the bottom to close up the narrow gab between the door and the driveway surface may be utilized.
• Rat proofing your roof should begin by inspecting the roof for open overlaps, missing shingles and missing or damaged attic vents. Missing shingles should be replaced; the open ends of any roof overlaps screened with hardware cloth and any small holes filled in with stucco patch, plaster or tightly packed steel or copper wool.
• Problem areas on the inside of a house include openings behind counters, under sink openings and stove hood vents. Stove hood vents are to be screened at roof level/outside only; openings under sinks should be patched snugly around water lines coming into the house. Screen off behind counter openings wherever possible.
• Dryer vents, air conditioners, pool heaters, pool sheds, fences made of blocks, areas under decks and dog houses should all be screened off. Do not block airflow in vents, use steel or bronze wool stuffed into non-venting holes or gaps. Cap off or seal block fencing.
You should rat proof a building just as assiduously as you rat proof your house: use weather stripping to seal garage, shed and other outbuilding doors; repair or replace any vents in these structures that appear damaged. Seal any and all holes and gaps bigger than a dime in building walls, ceilings. roofs and foundations with appropriate materials: metal, hardware cloth, mortar, concrete or copper mesh wool.
Rats destroy wiring, plumbing and insulation in attics and walls in homes, businesses and outbuildings. Insulation made of fiber and foam is particularly prized by rats (and mice) for nesting materials, and both types are easily gnawed and tunneled through by the rodents.
New types of rat proof insulation have been introduced into the construction market, one of which is made of tough reflective metalized film and nylon. Other rat proof forms of insulation include foams which dry to the hardness of concrete after application, and which have a desiccant effect on rat fur and skin should they be able to tunnel into it. Whenever possible, old cellulose, fiberglass, fiber and foam insulation should be removed, the areas involved cleaned thoroughly; then the insulation should be replaced with one of these new technologies.
Rat proofing your garden and yard
Keeping lawns mowed; bushes and vines trimmed back and away from buildings will go a long way in discouraging rats from taking up residence on your property.Rat proofing yards and gardens should involve making them unsuitable rat habitats. Rats are drawn to quick and easy sources of food and water, and will stay permanently where both are readily available. They also prefer ground cover, and will avoid open areas, preferring to slink through overgrown grass, bushes or weeds.
In a food garden, fruits and vegetables should be picked as they ripen and brought into the house to be stored securely. Garden and yard debris should be removed before it can accumulate.
Trees, shrubs and vines should be trimmed back at least four feet from roofs, utility poles and power lines. Vegetation overgrowth around buildings and fences should be thinned periodically. Wood should not be stacked against walls or buildings; at least 12 inches of space should be left between the woodpile and any structure. Stacks of wood and household items should be raised and stored at least 18 inches above ground.
Bird feeders should be rat proof in design; any spillage from feeders should be cleared daily. Pets should be fed outside only during daylight hours, and uneaten pet food should be removed immediately. Pet foods should be stored in rat proof metal containers with tight fitting lids.
Garbage cans and recycling containers should be kept covered at all times. Any stray trash around the cans or other trash receptacles should be picked up immediately. Garbage cans should be cleaned periodically, and pressure sprayed with a garden hose both on the inside and the outside.