No one wants to share their home with bugs/pests – cockroaches, spiders, mice, whatever… Most of us would like to avoid using silly gadgets that need a charge or plug into a power point, pesticides and poisons for our own health as well as the health of our family and planet. Here are some tips to use simple materials to help seal up and bug-proof your house or apartment, while also improving energy efficiency for heating and cooling your building.
It should go without saying that the first task of pest control is to remove food and water sources. Make sure you never leave dirty dishes lying around, and if you have pets, wash out their bowls before going to bed. You don’t want to give the bugs food if you don’t have to.
Next, seal up leaks to prevent the bugs from moving around your home. Here are some tips that just about anyone can do with commonly-available tools and materials that can be found at your local hardware store.
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Focus on windows and doors
- As obvious as it sounds, leaving windows and doors open at night will let pests in. If you want to leave a window open, make sure it’s one with a well-fitted screen that can keep bugs from crawling in.
- Seal doors with a tight-fitting door sweep along the bottom. Some doors have a saddle, which is a plate on the floor that stretches across the opening of the door. A door sweep should rest up against the door saddle, but not interfere with opening and closing of the door. Brush-type seals are a bit more forgiving of uneven floor surfaces, but they’re not as effective as a solid rubber door sweep matched with a level, flush saddle.
- Seal the sides and top of doors with a good quality weather-stripping kit. The best kind come pre-assembled in a rigid kit that you nail onto your door frame. These are often better for avoiding interference with the door operation and they last longer than the rolls of peel-and-stick weather-stripping.
- Many vents have a screen mesh installed, but many do not and the resulting holes are wide enough for pests/bugs to enter. If you can pop the vent out, applying a mesh screen on the inside will work. If you can’t access the vent inside, consider placing mesh screen over the outside of the vent, or sealing up the vents entirely. NOTE: Vents are required by the building code in rooms with gas heaters for safety. If one is installed, don’t seal up the vents.
Cracks along the skirting along the floor in all rooms
- Where skirting is installed caulk can be used to seal it to the floor
- Where skirting is not installed, large gaps can be filled with compressible foam backing rod, low-expansion spray foam, or compressible foam weather-stripping, before sealing with caulk. Thin cracks can be sealed with caulk.
- In rooms with carpet, there is often a gap where the plasterboard or skirting doesn’t quite reach the floor underneath. This gap can be large enough for bugs to crawl in and along without being seen. Use a roll of compressible backing rod or weather-stripping and a putty knife to shove a seal into the crack under the skirting. Remember that it needs to be continuous around the whole perimeter to be totally effective, but if you can find the biggest holes, it should help quite a bit.
- The presence of cabinets makes sealing up some plumbing penetrations difficult, because the real source of the problem are the cracks and holes in the wall behind the cabinets. Therefore, the further back you can get, as close to the wall as possible, the better. Stuff the largest gaps with some sort of foam backing rod or spray foam, and seal any remaining cracks with caulk. Again, when you can remove the decorative escutcheon to seal further back, do so and then replace it.
- Seal the sides and bottom of cabinets as well. There’s often a decorative trim underneath that hides a long and sometimes sizeable crack under many cabinets. You can’t normally see it, so imagine you’re a bug and get down in there.
- If you still have a problem with bugs in the kitchen, you may need to seal up cracks in the inside of the cabinets themselves.
- Check the floor area around the toilet for cracks and holes that may have resulted from past repairs. Caulk can close most small cracks and gaps.
- Plumbing lines – pull the decorative ring (called an escutcheon) that hides the hole for the pipe, seal around the pipe itself, then put the ring back. For larger gaps, canned spray-foam, foam backing rod, bubble wrap, or even bits of squishy packaging foam can be used, but all of these must be sealed over with caulk.
- Floor drains – these need to be kept open for obvious reasons, but pop out the grate and place some steel screen over the opening, then replace the grate. This will let water and air get to the vent but won’t let critters out.
- Be extremely careful if you remove a plate from an electrical outlet to seal a crack. It’s best to turn the power off before doing this. With the plate off, cracks around electrical boxes can be sealed with caulk or plaster patching compound, but don’t stuff anything into the boxes themselves, to avoid the hazard of fire. As an alternative, don’t remove the plate and make a light application of caulk around the outlet to seal it.
Clean up the food sources and seal up these entry points for bugs, and you’ll be a long way towards a healthier home that is much less likely to need chemical pesticides. You’ll be doing a favor for yourself, your family, your wallet, and the environment.
Remediation Photo Examples
by Sean Maxwell