You probably already know that with the weather turning colder, bugs and rodents will be seeking refuge in your toasty warm abode. And you probably already know how they’re getting in, too—through cracks in the foundation and gaps under the doors and windows.
But you might not be aware of one other way pests can invade your home: your plumbing.
Yes, it’s a real-life horror movie that could unfold if you’re not careful. To make sure the only unwanted guests in your home this season are your in-laws, we spoke with plumbing and pest control experts to get the scoop on exactly how these critters are getting in, and how you can keep them out.
Mice and rats
When the cats are away (and sometimes even if they aren’t), the rodents will come out to play in your house. And it isn’t uncommon for them to sneak in through broken pipes, or even through the toilet.
“Mice are a bit like cats in that their bodies seem to be nearly liquid,” says Ed Spicer, CEO of Pest Strategies. “This allows them to squeeze through almost any hole larger than a dime.”
And a small crack in one of your sewer pipes might just be enough.
“Rats are a bit more likely to enter your home in style—and by ‘style,’ I mean coming in through the toilet,” Spicer says.
While this might sound too creepy to be true, he assures us it’s very possible: “Rats are totally at home in sewer pipes and can swim for up to three days at a time.”
But before running to slam shut every toilet bowl cover in the house, know this: You can avoid playing whack-a-mole in your bathroom this winter by installing a multiflap. This one-way valve allows everything to go down, and nothing to come up.
“Frogs are one of the most common creatures to find in your toilet,” says Doyle James, president of Mr. Rooter Plumbing. This makes sense, since frogs like to live near water.
“Some frogs can climb up into the roof of your house and get in through the vent pipe, and eventually make their way down to your toilet,” James explains. “Other types of frogs might come through the sewer pipe from below the ground, usually entering through a crack or opening in the pipe.”
To keep out the pesky hoppers, make sure your roof vent is closed off. Frogs often find their way in through an open stack pipe on the roof, which is the part of your sewer system that releases gas and fumes.
“If this is the case, you’ll need to purchase a stack pipe cover or screen to put over the top of the pipe,” James says. “The cover will still let fumes out, but is small enough that critters can’t get in.”
You might not be shocked by this one, but you don’t have to resign yourself to cockroaches entering your home through the plumbing.
“Cockroaches can cause serious diseases,” says Kristiana Kripena of InsectCop. “Because they breed quickly, a few cockroaches invading your home can easily turn into a full-blown infestation accompanied by bad smell and a whole lot of other consequences.”
As we mentioned earlier, the first step in getting rid of pests is to find out where they’re coming from. But sometimes—and especially in the case of roaches coming through the drain systems—this can be hard to figure out.
“Start by employing the ‘X’ method to identify which drains are the problem,” suggests Kripena. “In the evening, simply tape an X over all your drains and leave it overnight. In the morning you’ll see which drains are harboring pests since they’ll be stuck to the tape.”
Once you know which drains they’re coming from, you can install a stopper to keep them out.
Squirrels and possums
Yep, you read that right.
“Some critters don’t come up from the sewers below,” says Spicer. “Squirrels and baby possums can wind up on your roof, at which point they may decide to crawl down your nice, warm vent pipe. Baby possums are often small enough to fit, but if you ever see a fully grown adult somehow emerge from your toilet, you have my sympathies.”
While these uninvited critters might be less common, you’ll still want to make sure you do everything you can to keep them out.
“These pests can carry diseases and cause major damage to your home by chewing away at insulation and wiring.”
Again, it all comes down to closing up those vents! Call up a plumber or do the dirty work yourself to find out about every opening in your home’s plumbing. Make sure these openings are properly covered for the best chance at keeping critters out.
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