Critter Proofing Your Home

Now that most of the leaves have fallen from the trees and freezing temperatures are becoming more frequent, mice, moles and similar vermin are seeking for a warm place to bunk down for the winter.  That means its a good time for you to critter proof your home.

The first step in properly securing your home is to check all the possible openings for wildlife to enter.

Attics: First go about checking all the vents, eaves and gables to make sure all screens are still intact. If you find any holes in the walls or torn screens use some mortar or metal hardware cloth at least 26 gauge in thickness. Make sure to tack the metal cloth down securely!
*If an animal has already made its way into your attic use some ammonia to induce the animal to leave. Once the critter decides to relocate it’s time to find where the entry was gained and repair it.

Chimneys: Make sure that your chimneys are securely capped with hardware cloth, and have been properly fastened down. Animals can easily shimmy their way into small gaps and loose openings. If you notice that your chimney isn’t capped, check with area chimney sweeps or roofing companies to have this done.
If an animal has already made its way into your chimney do not attempt to smoke it out by lighting a fire. It may overcome the animal and cause it to drop into the fire. This will cause a much bigger problem. Simply place a dish of ammonia at the base of the chimney and open the damper a ½”. The vapors will force the critters up and out.

Dryer vents and exhaust fans: Make sure all your screens are securely fastened around each area. Make sure to use heavy metal screen or metal hardware cloth of at least 26 gauge in thickness. Make sure to clear any nests or debris prior to installing the screen.

Pipes entering home: Go over all the areas where pipes are entering your home. Small rodents like moles and mice seek out these areas especially. If you encounter any cracks or holes make sure to stuff them with very coarse copper wool. This will prevent not only rodents but can also assist in bat prevention.

Trees near home and roofing: You can further help limit access to your home by keeping up with pruning overhanging tree branches. Simply tacking some sheet metal around areas where animals climb can help to prevent them from getting the footing they need for roof access to your home.

Garbage: Last but not least, make sure you have a secure and durable garbage can. Nothing promotes animal intrusion more than food. If you can keep the food away from them chances are they will keep away from you and your home.


And of course, if your efforts fail to prevent invasion, contact a licensed pest control company. Ask for a free estimate, timeline, and if they will come back and do free follow up as part of their service.

It’s Good to Vent… The Attic

Your home should be a respite of comfort, even during the most humid months in Wisconsin. However, that can be challenging when one of the most common problems homeowners face is inadequate attic ventilation. Poor attic ventilation can make your home unbearably warm and cause damage to the roof (e.g. fatigue the sheathing) when moisture gets trapped. This will also increase your energy costs as your air conditioning is run more to dissipate the heat.NOTE:Attic insulation stores up the day’s heat and can increase the temperature of your interior ceilings to as much as 110 degrees.

winter attic ventingNot Just a Summer Issue

It’s still important to vent the attic even in the Winter.  Moisture from indoor activities will migrate from the living spaces to the attic. This can delaminate plywood, rot roof sheathing and framing or cause mold/mildew to grow.

What to Look For

Rusted nails and stained roof sheathing (boards) are the first signs of a ventilation problem.  Here’s what to look for seasonally:

  • Winter – Moisture or frost on exposed nails at the underside of the roof sheathing.  Frost can loosen and push nails out.
  • Summer – On warm and windless days, there should be a maximum 10-15 degree difference between the air in the attic and a shady spot outside.


  1. Clear any blocked soffit vents. This can often cure most ventilation problems.
  2. If you don’t have vents, install ridge and soffit vents to allow for natural airflow.  Cool air enters the soffits under the exterior roof overhangs and circulates the hot air via natural convection to a roof or gable-mounted low speed fan.
    : During Summer operation, the thermostat will automatically operate the fans as needed to force air circulation.In the Winter, the fan should be operated by a humidistat and attic should be kept cool to avoid ice dam issues.
  3. Have a Home Energy Audit performed. This will often illustrate hidden problems while providing you with a plan of what areas to address first.

Having adequate attic ventilation year round is important to the long-term health of your home, optimum interior comfort, and reduced heating and cooling costs.

Stop Leaking Profits (Part 2)

The big ticket items are where the equity disappears.  One of the biggest is the roof.  Once a potential home owner sees water damage on the walls or ceilings; notices the old shingles or is alerted by their home inspector that there is a roofing problem that equity quickly vanishes.

A pre-listing inspection can not only let a seller know what they are facing ( repair or replacement) and in the case of repairs can give them some less expensive ideas for fixes.  Just like basements, it is best to look at this head on and not to just paint over water damage. Just because the leak seems to have stopped it does not mean that it will not come back. Do not paint the basement!

Rain or water from thaw comes at the house from different angles.  Light rains might not recreate the problem leading the home owner to think that the issue was a onetime deal.  But a later hard driving rain with winds from the right direction might renew the problem.

Replace?  Most roofs last about 20 years.  So if the roof is older assume that it will need to be replaced.  Other things to look for are moss or other green algae from constant moisture; wear around the chimney or other protrusions; shingles with damage or that are missing.  And of course the interior signs brown water spots on ceilings or walls; areas of puffy dry wall or outright drips.

 A full roof replacement is the costliest option but it will increase the value in the buyer’s eyes.

 In some cases a second roof patch can be added.  It looks and works like a new roof but will not last as long as the full replacement.


Leakage or damage around protrusions: The chimney and pipes have all had the shingles and roofing materials worked around them. This creates potential for the water to work it’s way in via small openings or cracks that eventually grow.  Likewise the gutters may pull away, twisted or not have been attached well, allowing water to stream along the exterior wall and down into the foundation.  Check the attic on a sunny day and turn the lights off. Check the underside of the chimney and the stack vent. Look for little pinhole spots of light indicating that the roof needs repair or replacement.

spring roofA temporary fix: There are options that can create a barrier. In the past, tar or epoxies might have been swabbed around these areas. Often this is now replaced with new materials such as self adhering, water proof sheathing underlayment like Grace Ice & Water Shield.  Additionally, flashing can add air and water proofing.  After your fix, return to the attack and recheck for those pinholes.

Repair cracked shingles: If there are only a few cracked or torn shingles then repairs can be simple. The home owner may opt to do it themselves.

 A temporary fix:   With roofing sealant and a putty knife the crack can be filled. First a bead of sealant under the cracked shingle covering exposed areas.  Then press the shingle down. Repeat placing sealant on top and use the putty knife to spread it ensuring that all areas are filled.

Torn or missing shingles:  Only use the above method if the shingle is cracked. Otherwise replace it.  Match the shingle to the existing ones as closely as possible.

Curled corners: Older shingles may have begun to curl but are not yet broken or cracked.

A temporary fix:  With a bead of sealant under the curling edge press the shingle down. Hold for a few minutes until it stays.

Warm, dry afternoons are the best time to try a repair.  The shingles will be suppler from the sun making them less likely to crack.

NEVER climb onto a roof that’s wet, icy or covered with morning dew, be extra cautious if there is moss as well – these are all slipping hazards.

Be alert to the signs of water damage. Often if caught in an early stage there is an easy fix.  Whether done by the home owner or a professional taking the time to search out issues before listing a house will help decide rates, anticipate final expenses and keep the profits from leaking away before the close.