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Critters in the attic !
Old 12-05-2013, 01:55 PM   #1
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Critters in the attic !

Our "new to us" home has critters in the attic.

I don't know if its rats or squirrels Despite having a home inspection before we purchased the house in August I've just learned that (a) critters are still getting into the attic despite the inspector saying that everything looks tight and (b) the insulation around my HVAC ducts have been eaten away and the entire duct system needs to be replaced. My first reaction was a two fold freak-out .... (1) critters in the attic !! EEK !!! (3) OMG I didn't even THINK of that expense ! I have $1,500 / year in my "I didn't think of that" home repair budget - this is costing twice that.

I've now set aside 25k from my portfolio to cover future "I didn't think of THAT !" repairs.

I need some encouragement that others have gone through this and have survived. I'm having nightmares about needing to tear out all the insulation, replace all wiring, fumigate to get rid of droppings / urine remains, and enormous repair bills
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Old 12-05-2013, 02:08 PM   #2
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It's probably not near as bad as your imagining. We have had critters. Mostly squirrels. They're pesky little critters. I wish you could shoot them. We did have to repair some siding and insulation. Cost about $2500. But hopefuly you don't have to deal with all the other things you mention.
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Old 12-05-2013, 02:19 PM   #3
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We also had squirrels in the attic . Put a few mothballs up there & they leave immediately . Only a few or your house will reek of mothball smell.
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Old 12-05-2013, 02:25 PM   #4
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I read about the mothball thing - seems there is mixed reactions. I may try that and then take the out lest the little guys get used to (and don't mind) the smell anymore.

So far it is costing me $2500 to replace the HVAC ductwork.

Its already cost me $500 to cut down two citrus trees that were way too close to the house purposely to avoid the critter issues. Too little too late I guess.

Appreciate the encouragement. Read a prior post about the RatZapper .... I may keep a couple in the attic. At least I'll get some sort of "revenge" !
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Old 12-05-2013, 02:32 PM   #5
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Don't think that cutting the trees will prevent them from coming inside if they want...

I have a friend who has had them in his attic and he had no tree near his house....

I have heard of someone who had them in their house and they chewed through the roof....


Knock on wood.... I hope I do not get them.... we have a lot of them around and also big trees... I have seen and heard them running on our roof....
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Old 12-05-2013, 02:46 PM   #6
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If your house is indeed sealed well the critters are likely smaller than a squirrel. Mice can squeeze through amazingly small openings. Mice have evolved to give wide berth to an area they detect even a tiny amount of cat urine. Know any cat owners? Ask one to set aside and baggy a clump of used cat litter for you, then place the opened bag where you see critter evidence, or near where you guess they might be entering. Since we did that, no more mice in the attic!
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Old 12-05-2013, 02:50 PM   #7
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Step 1 get live traps or hire an exterminator. Its most likely squirrels, if you relocate them, they must be moved at least 5 miles. The most critical part is determine where they got in and fix.,
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Old 12-05-2013, 02:50 PM   #8
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We have loads of red squirrels around our place. There is one munching on birdseed that fell from the bird feeder on a table outside about 5' from where I am sitting typing this (there is a window between us of course).

A little over a year ago during the summer, they were getting up on the deck and munching on the bird feeder and we were routinely shooing them away. DW got sick of shooing them away and took the bird feeder off the hook and put it inside the house on a table near the screen door. Later in the day she returned to the house and one was inside the house on the table munching on birdseed. She approached him with a broom and he climbed the screen door to a hole he had chewed through the screen about 5 1/2' up. When she got too close for comfort he leaped OVER DW'S HEAD into our great room. DW opened the doors and chased him around the house until he ran out the open door. (I actually wished that I had not played golf that day and had been around to watch).

Then DW declared war on them. She went to the hardware store and bought a rat trap (like a big mouse trap - they didn't have a have-a-heart trap and at that point she didn't care). It worked great with peanut butter and bird seed. Killed 3 or 4 of the buggers but still parely put a dent in the local population.

We currently have a detente. If they stay off my deck and my bird feeder then I leave them alone. Otherwise, the BB gun is used. I hit one of the more stupid ones who didn't get the memo on staying off the deck twice the other day.
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Old 12-05-2013, 02:52 PM   #9
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Don't panic. It's probably squirrels, and they are a fairly common problem. It could be rats, but there's not much difference from your point of view, you want them gone.

The easy way: Hire somebody that does this. They will come out, trap the beastie, and help you close up wherever it entered. Maybe they'll help you find where it has been nesting and make a recommendation about remediation.

Your could also trap it yourself. The big "snap traps" work as well as they ever did. I probably would instead choose a live trap (not very expensive: $7 at Harbor Freight) and just take the guy far away to spend the winter somewhere else. There may be more than one. Obviously, wear rubber gloves and don't let yourself get bitten. Mice and rats LOVE peanut butter, I'd bet squirrels do, too. I'd put two traps up there at least just to be sure of getting it/them quickly, check the traps every day.

Find where they are getting in and close it off. "Hardware cloth" ( metal wire material with 1/4" or 1/2" squares) will do the trick. Unless the rodents have made a very big mess up there, you may need to do nothing. Why does your ductwork need to be replaced? It can be cleaned if it is metal. If it is flexible "slinky" duct it should not cost very much to replace a moderate length of it.
At the end of this, you'll have a story!
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Old 12-05-2013, 03:05 PM   #10
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The big "snap traps" work as well as they ever did. I probably would instead choose a live trap (not very expensive: $7 at Harbor Freight) and just take the guy far away to spend the winter somewhere else. There may be more than one. Obviously, wear rubber gloves and don't let yourself get bitten. Mice and rats LOVE peanut butter, I'd bet squirrels do, too. I'd put two traps up there at least just to be sure of getting it/them quickly, check the traps every day.

Find where they are getting in and close it off. "Hardware cloth" ( metal wire material with 1/4" or 1/2" squares) will do the trick. Unless the rodents have made a very big mess up there, you may need to do nothing. Why does your ductwork need to be replaced? It can be cleaned if it is metal. If it is flexible "slinky" duct it should not cost very much to replace a moderate length of it.
At the end of this, you'll have a story!
I've heard that you'll know if its a squirrel or a rat when you set a snap trap with peanut butter. If its a rat, you'll find peanut butter and a rat .... if its a squirrel you'll find an empty trap and no peanut butter.

Cat urine - good idea ! I'll have to find a cat owner.

As to the ducts - its flex duct and the HVAC guy that was here told me that its been wrecked for YEARS - that the prior owners never bothered to replace it even tho critters had been chomping on it for years. The inspectors (home inspector AND pest inspector) never included anything in the report about any sort of critter damage, or any damage at all for that matter to the ductwork ! Needless to say I'm pretty upset about that.

Screw the hav-a-heart. If it were a fox, I'd do that. But a squirrel ? I'm an animal lover but ... really .... bushy tailed rats in the house need to be exterminated not saved.

I called the exterminator but they haven't called back with an available date yet.
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Old 12-05-2013, 03:08 PM   #11
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Maybe squirrels, maybe not.

I had a few bats take up residence in the attic. No idea at all how they got in/out, but there they were. They don't do any harm to anything, and I really like bats, so I just ignored them. When we finally sold that house 5 or 6 years later, they still hadn't done any damage, so I guess I was right to let them be.
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Old 12-05-2013, 03:14 PM   #12
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definitely not bats. I love bats (good insect eaters) ! but I see pellet droppings, not guano LOL
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Old 12-05-2013, 03:24 PM   #13
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We had squirrels in our last mcmansion. You could hear the thumps on the roof when they jumped off the blue spruce and ran around and yes, they chewed into the attic right through the roof where the eave met the eavestrough.
My solution was firstly to get up there through the attic door and cause a commotion.
I put a stereo up there blasting music for a few days and spread a few mothballs around, especially near where they entered.
When we had no evidence of them after a few days, I got up in the attic again and made sure they were all gone. Then I went up on the roof and used sheet metal and tin snips and sheet metal screws and covered up the hole with about 12" of overlap. Gnaw through that you little b*st*rds !!
Finally, rat poison spread liberally over that section of the roof, in the eavestrough and inside near the hole to (just in case). I felt bad about any birds that might have eaten any but never saw any dead (or anything else dead either for that matter). Apparently they are smart enough to recognize and avoid rat poison.
In our case I just had to spread some insulation back around in the attic. They made nests but I sure as damn didn't touch them !! You might also give some thought to the time of year... if they've nested and have babies up there you'd have to wait until the whole family exited. Otherwise... pee uwwww....
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Old 12-05-2013, 03:29 PM   #14
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Hope it's not raccoons. We had that problem a couple times. Amazingly clever how they figured out how to get in. DS recently had flying squirrels in their attic. They squeezed through the tiniest gap to get in.
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Old 12-05-2013, 04:41 PM   #15
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Coincidentally, just as we were sitting down to dinner tonight, we got a panicked call from our tenant, about mice in the townhouse attic. He'd already called an exterminator, who got on the phone with us and started vividly describing all the horrors the mice were causing and would cause, up to and beyond hantavirus. "You're looking at" $3,000.00 to remove and replace all insulation, seal up holes, repair any damaged wiring, etc. etc.

And that's just for a townhouse.

Apparently the tenant saw a few mouse droppings and went nuts....

(Cue the chorus of "That's why I would ne-ver be a land-lord.")

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Old 12-05-2013, 05:42 PM   #16
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Coincidentally, just as we were sitting down to dinner tonight, we got a panicked call from our tenant, about mice in the townhouse attic. He'd already called an exterminator, who got on the phone with us and started vividly describing all the horrors the mice were causing and would cause, up to and beyond hantavirus. "You're looking at" $3,000.00 to remove and replace all insulation, seal up holes, repair any damaged wiring, etc. etc.

And that's just for a townhouse.

Apparently the tenant saw a few mouse droppings and went nuts....

(Cue the chorus of "That's why I would ne-ver be a land-lord.")

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We had squirrels under the eaves a while back. The variance on the quotes I got was huge. Highest bid was 100% higher than the lowest and the lowest did a great job.
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Old 12-05-2013, 05:55 PM   #17
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Don't panic. It's probably squirrels, and they are a fairly common problem. It could be rats, but there's not much difference from your point of view, you want them gone.

The easy way: Hire somebody that does this. They will come out, trap the beastie, and help you close up wherever it entered. Maybe they'll help you find where it has been nesting and make a recommendation about remediation.
+1, this is the best way to go. Most likely squirrels and you can probably see them in your attic at night. Might take a few weeks to make sure they have all been trapped and relocated. You can find their access point during the process and the trapping companies can usually handle sealing it up. Most likely there will not be to much damage inside, unless they have been there a while and knawed on your beams or wiring.
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Old 12-05-2013, 06:16 PM   #18
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Its already cost me $500 to cut down two citrus trees that were way too close to the house purposely to avoid the critter issues. Too little too late I guess.
It could be roof rats which feed on citrus fruits like orange, tangerine, or grapefruit. If you find fruits with holes in them, then that's conclusive evidence. These rats want to stay off the ground and will seek to get into attics. We have them here in AZ too. Cutting down citrus trees is a recommended way to avoid the rats by eliminating their food source.
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Old 12-05-2013, 06:37 PM   #19
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we had roof rats....had a local company come out and patch a few gaps where they could squeeze in. If you look around you may see some of these gaps and a bit of oil from the rat hair on the siding. He then set a few traps and that was it. Never caught any rats as they are only in the attic at night and outside during the day. Since he plugged these few holes we have been rat free for years.....all for 250 dollar charge...hard to beat.

Since then I have keep the trees trimmed and have trapped a few outside along a fence to keep the population down. Roof rats are very command and you do not have to live in the city or slums to have them.
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Old 12-05-2013, 07:48 PM   #20
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Hope it's not raccoons. We had that problem a couple times. Amazingly clever how they figured out how to get in. DS recently had flying squirrels in their attic. They squeezed through the tiniest gap to get in.
Flying squirrels are very common attic residents.

Unclear where OP is from. I read citrus. Could be squirrels in south USA. Maybe not California or Arizona where I guess the rats are more common.

I never even knew these guys existed. They are nocturnal. Very, very shy. Turns out they are everywhere in North Carolina, and a very common attic problem.

We had them. It seemed they did a lot of their "business" outside, not inside, so we didn't have a huge mess. Then again, we only had the critters for a month or so (estimated). They will squeeze through the smallest of openings since they are so small. They are extremely cute with those big nocturnal eyes, but can be very destructive.

We used a pro. He was great. He set up cages with peanut butter/apples on the outside of the house contacting the suspected hole. He got them both. This is when I got a good look at them and couldn't believe it! He then covered the problem area (gable vent) with thick hardware cloth. The previous screen was not sufficient.
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