Bugs. They are all around us, literally. Did you know that there are more than 10 quintillion bugs in the world? That’s about ONE BILLION bugs per person.
Love them or hate them, the one thing most people will agree on is that insects don’t belong in the home. Sure, they’re annoying. But more importantly, they create unsanitary conditions. Fleas, mosquitoes and ticks may carry diseases that they pass on to pets or humans. Bees, wasps and scorpions can cause painful stings. Meanwhile, even the common cockroach can be a major contributor toward allergies and asthma attacks, especially in children.
The great news for you…by understanding what attracts bugs to your house, you can begin making changes that will help get rid of them and keep them out for good.
Here are the top 10 tips to keep bugs out of your house:
10. Start with the Yard
Let’s start outside in the yard. Keeping your yard in shape can have a big impact on bug infestation. Standing or pooled water = breeding ground for mosquitoes. Getting rid of standing water in your yard is one of the top ways to keep mosquitoes from taking over. Also, make sure to keep your yard free of clutter or piles of debris.
Puddles of water – If you have an area in your yard that seems to always hold water, see what you can do to help it drain. Perhaps this means aerating the soil. Or fixing the grading so the water can run off properly.
Clogged gutters or drains – Keep your gutters free of debris. If leaves or other debris accumulate, they can prevent water from draining and may become an unseen nursery for mosquito larvae.
Fountains or bird baths – Change the water in your fountains or birdbaths twice a week to keep mosquito eggs from hatching in them.
Pools – If you have a pool, keep it chlorinated and filtered, even when not in use.
Piles of debris or leaves – While you’re evaluating your yard, be sure to remove any piles of leaves or debris. These areas are the perfect hiding spot for insects to hide and reproduce.
Tree limbs – Keep tree limbs and branches from coming into contact with your home or roof (3 feet of clearance). While this also helps prevent damage to your home from low-hanging trees, it will also make it more difficult for insects to have access.
9. Keep Your Foundation Clear
- Soil level – In our experience, this one comes up in 99% of home inspections. Around your home, foundations should be visible at least 4” above the soil level for brick veneer and at least 6” above the soil line for all other exterior cladding. Over the years, dirt can build up, raising the overall soil level. As the soil rises up the foundation, it gets closer and closer to the exterior fascia of the home and gives bugs an easier chance to get inside.
- Siding or trip gaps – Often, the bottom row of siding or trim is not securely sealed to the home and provides a gateway for insects. Check up under this row for gaps or poor connections, and use trim, caulk or foam to fill this space.
- Mulch in flower beds – The same rule applies here. You should see at least 4-6” of the foundation above the mulch line in flower beds to keep those bugs out!
- Shrubs and vegetation – Make sure your shrubs and other vegetation are not touching the home.
- Stacked firewood and/or debris piles – Keep piles of wood, leaves, mulch or grass clippings away from foundations, and place firewood far away from the house to avoid tempting termites.
- Wood decks – Make sure no part of your wood deck sits directly on the ground (wood contact with the ground = wood rot and a welcome sign for termites).
8. Welcome and encourage natural predators
One of the easiest solutions to help bug-proof your home is to rely on the insects’ natural predators. Small insects are the main source of food for a large number of birds, bats, toads and frogs.
- Birds – Purple Martins, warblers and swallows, in particular, are avid mosquito killers. To encourage birds to help with your pest control efforts, it helps to provide trees and bushes where they can establish nests. Add a fresh water supply, and change it often so that it doesn’t grow stagnant. You may also wish to add a birdseed or nectar feeder to supplement their insect-based diet.
Bats – Bats eat a much larger variety of bugs and pests, including wasps, flies, spiders, mosquitoes and even scorpions. Bats have an unearned reputation as something to be feared. However, consider that bats sleep during the day and only fly at night. This means you’re unlikely to even notice them. While you’re sleeping, they’ll be hard at work getting rid of bugs before they can crawl their way into your home. Encourage bats by installing a bat house or roost in your yard.
Toads and frogs – While they do consume their fair share of insects, it is generally not enough to put a significant dent in vast mosquito populations. Nevertheless, frogs and toads are extremely beneficial little creatures and are usually a measuring stick for a healthy environment. Frogs and toads prefer damp, shady areas. They also need shelter to hide from predators and escape the heat from the daytime sun. Create a shelter by arranging stones or an overturned flower pot into a small cave.
7. Guard your home’s large openings
Some of the largest holes in your home’s exterior are actually MEANT to be there. They serve a specific purpose. Because they are large, however, these openings are more difficult to cover.
Holes in the roof (i.e. chimney and roof vents) – You can use very fine wire mesh, sometimes known as hardwire cloth. This mesh comes in rolls that can be stapled over holes to keep out pests. It’s not only a preventative for bugs, but can block squirrel and raccoon infestations. These pests in particular may often bring fleas, ticks and other insects into the home. For the chimney specifically, a pre-fabricated chimney cap can be used in lieu of wire mesh.
Crawl spaces under the home – Again, wire mesh should be installed over holes in crawl spaces and basements.
6. Make sure doors are sealed
Not only will gaps around your door allow air to pass through, but bugs and pests will use these wide open passes to enter your home as well. Examine your door closely and you will likely be surprised at the number of unsealed gaps you see.
- Door sweep – A door sweep is inexpensive device found at most hardware stores. Looking like an inverted “U”, the sweep helps to cover the gap between a threshold and the door bottom. Choose nylon brush sweeps over vinyl or neoprene, as they offer the best protection against bugs.
- Threshold guard – To keep insects from crawling under your door, make sure you have a sturdy steel or aluminum threshold installed under the door.
- Weather stripping – You should check the condition of the weather stripping around your door annually as it might be damaged or deformed. Run your hand around the perimeter of the door while the door is closed. Feel for air coming in between the door and the frame. If you can feel air coming in, you will need to remove the old weather stripping and replace it with a new seal.
- Auto-closing door – None of the above techniques will matter if your doors are left open frequently. Do you have family members coming in and out all the time? You might consider investing in a door closer. This hydraulic device will automatically close and latch your door after it’s been opened. You can find affordable door-closers at your local home improvement store, and the average homeowner can install this device with just a few tools.
5. Window screens
Most homes in the southern United States come with screens already installed on windows. If not, screen installation is relatively simple; choose a 20-mesh or finer to keep out the most common bugs and pests. Once installed, check your window screens regularly for holes or tears. Insects can easily enter the home through a rip in the screen. You can find instructions to fix a torn window screen here.
4. Seal around small holes
Think about it. While our lifestyles are moving further and further away from wires and cables, our homes have had various utilities run to it over the years.
- Utility penetrations –Whether it was water, gas or electrical piping, a cable line, phone or Internet wiring, the installers likely ran the lines into your home through holes drilled in the exterior walls. There are likely at least some utility or pipe penetrations in your walls that are surrounded by large gaps, providing an open invitation for insects. Inspect around your home to find them, then fill smaller gaps or cracks using pipe sealants or caulk. For larger openings, look for expandable polyurethane foam.
3. Repair cracks
Bugs are tiny and can easily enter your home through small cracks or holes that are almost invisible to the home owner. Try to look at the exterior of your home as if it is the first time you are seeing it. Spot damaged or missing sections of siding, cracks in foundations, loose or crumbling brick and rotted wood. Make notes as you go along and then plot your course of action to fix each opening.
Roof line – Pay particular attention to the roof line, where wasps, yellow jackets, or even bees frequently build nests. You might also consider using chemicals to prevent these stinging pests from making a home.
Rotting wood and damaged siding – Replace rotting wood or trim, and repair or replace damaged sections of siding or cladding.
Foundation cracks – Use mortar or cement to patch foundations and masonry walls. Clear away damaged bricks and replace with new ones, filling the joints with mortar.
Caulking – Add caulk around window frames, as well as around any air intake or exhaust vents. You can also use caulk to patch small cracks in foundations and siding, or use it to seal joints where the siding meets the roof or foundation. Latex varieties are best if you plan to paint over them, while clear silicone caulk is more flexible and less likely to dry out and crack over time.
2. Get rid of clutter
Even with the most vigilant bug-proofing practices in place, chances are some bugs will still manage to find their way into your home. You don’t want them to feel like a welcome guest and hang around! So get rid of their favorite amenities by making sure your home is clutter-free.
Insect hiding and breeding places – Whether it is stacks of paper or magazines, old furniture pieces, long-forgotten boxes, or whatever miscellaneous items you may have accumulated in your yard or in your home, pests can hide inside, underneath or among them. Once they find the perfect, cluttered spot, they will build their nests inside the numerous nooks and crannies it provides. Having found such a perfect shelter, they will be able to steer clear of you and will grow in number, unnoticed and undisturbed. By the time you detect the problem, you may have to deal with a major pest infestation.
Insect food for thought – Food scraps, pet food, crumbs, and leftovers that fall into hidden spaces, dirty containers, cardboard pieces, or even rotting wood can be excellent sources of food for a variety of pests. Store all food in airtight containers. Whenever possible, store unsealed food products in the refrigerator. Limit food consumption to a single area of the home, and wipe up crumbs or spills quickly. Wash dishes or put them in the dishwasher immediately after use. Put pet food away after mealtimes. Alternately, invest in a bug-proof container which will give your pet access to food while keeping insects out.
1. Store trash properly
This one may seem like a no-brainer, but proper storage and handling are critical to prevent insects from feasting on your trash.
Limit where food can be disposed – Keep food trash in the kitchen and not in wastebaskets throughout the house. The trash should be placed in a can with a lid, and should be emptied each night.
Receptacles and bins – Exterior cans should have self-closing lids along with tight seals to keep insects out. All interior and exterior trash receptacles and recycling bins should be cleaned and sanitized regularly, especially if they’re exposed to spills. Don’t forget about the large bins provided by your waste pick-up provider! Make sure you are scheduling time to clean them yourself, or find a bin cleaning service that can help.
Regular home maintenance can give you an edge to keep bugs out of your house!
Your house works as a system of interdependent parts, similar to the engine of an automobile. Every part has an impact on the operation of many other parts. A typical home has more than 10,000 parts! When all of the parts work together in the most desirable, optimal way, you are rewarded with a house that is durable, comfortable, healthy and energy efficient. SafeShield inspections offers this FREE, general, seasonal, home maintenance checklist that you can use and incorporate into your regular maintenance program for your house.
Don’t forget to schedule your Annual Home Maintenance Inspection!
Even the most vigilant homeowner can, from time to time, miss small problems or forget about performing some routine home repairs and seasonal maintenance. That’s why an Annual Home Maintenance Inspection will keep you aware of your home’s condition and help you prevent it from suffering serious, long-term, and expensive damage from minor issues that should be addressed now.
Just as you regularly maintain your vehicle, consider getting an Annual Home Maintenance Inspection as part of the cost of upkeep for your most valuable investment…your home.
Your future deserves the attention of a professional. If you have questions or would like more information on a Home Maintenance Inspection, please contact Micah Stephens with SafeShield Inspections, LLC at (832) 953-6992 or email Micah@SafeShieldInspections.com. CLICK HERE for a free quote.