19 Tips to Pest-Proof Your Home This Winter

squirrel on chimney with cap
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Much like us, wildlife, insects, rodents, and other animals look for warm and comfortable spaces over the winter. Inasmuch, they’ll saunter, crawl, and squirm inside your home, or wreak havoc on the roof, siding, and attic. They might also make a mess of your yard.

But there are things you can do to dissuade pests from bothering your abode.

1. Bait Them Away

While most experts and homeowners agree that providing food sources for animals often lays the foundation for problems, there are times when making food easier for animals to find can solve potential issues for you at home.

In other words, bait them away from the house with food on the outskirts of the property. It doesn’t have to be a buffet, but planting durable winter plants or providing some seeds can redirect attention away from the home.

2. Provide Habitat

wood bat house on tree

Similarly, if your pest visitors get a suitable housing offer, they may avoid your home as an option. Build or buy bat houses to place outside. Also provide homes for the butterflies and birds.

If you have a bit of property, create natural protection with brush piles, placed well away from the home.

3. Clean

Probably the single best thing you can do to keep rodents, insects, and spiders out of your home is to be impeccable in your cleaning. Always keep kitchen counters clean and wiped down. Also sweep and mop or vacuum floors regularly. Any residual food is a dinner invitation to ants, mice, and other unwelcome guests.

Clutter is a problem, too because it gives pests a place to hide. Avoid stacks, especially paper and paper products. Mice and rats will use it as bedding, ripping it apart and transferring the bits to their nest, wherever that is.

Stacks of any items should be moved away from walls where rodents can use it for cover. Instead, put items on upper shelves of a bookcase.

In the garage and outside, be sure to avoid any type of pile too. Even a stack of boxes can provide shelter that will draw them close to the house. In addition to paper products, rodents particularly like natural fibers, such as cotton, so you may find them tucked into your shirt drawer or making a home in the box of fabric.

4. Leave Out the Herbs

basil on counter near window

If you have a determined pest it will prettyy much plow through any obstacle, but foods with strong scents can work as a deterrent.

Sprinkle coffee grounds in problem areas, annoy fruit flies with apple cider vinegar mixed with a bit of dish soap, litter cloves inside the drawer, put a lavender sachet beneath your pillow, and dust around your garden plants with chili powder or cayenne pepper.

Spiders hate all types of basil, so consider keeping some in pots in your kitchen during the winter. They also avoid other strong-smelling plants, spices, and herbs such as mint, eucalyptus, vinegar, and citrus.

Mice don’t like mint or cinnamon, cayenne, vinegar, cloves, or lavender. You can use sprays, oils on a cotton ball, or fresh herbs to deter them.

5. Seal Up Holes

Your first, and repeated, course of action should be to find and fill any gaps, cracks, or holes that provide access into the house. Obviously spiders and insects can get in through tiny holes, but did you know a mouse can squeeze through a hole as small as a pencil eraser?

Start on the outside of the home. Walk the perimeter, looking for any gaps in the siding. Use caulking to fill them. Also check along the fascia, under the eaves, and along the foundation.

Locations where plumbing and electrical enter the home are prime spots for a gap around the wires or pipes that allow critters in.

From the inside of the home, make the space dark and look for anywhere light comes in. It can help you identify gaps around doors and windows or other spaces.

If caulking or putty aren’t appropriate to fill the spaces, you can use copper mesh or steel wool. Add an additional layer of protection with a blast of spray foam insulation.

6. Pressure Wash

The fall is the perfect time to pressure wash the house. Not only will it remove the grime that built up over the summer, but it will knock down stink bugs, spider webs, nests, and hives.

If insects and rodents have to start over, they may just decide to do so elsewhere. Plus, cleaning the deck removes food and grease scents from your summer grilling and outdoor dining that may otherwise draw in hungry pests.

Removing the dirt and grime will also help expose cracks or holes that need your attention.

7. Move the Wood Pile

wood pile

Critters love wood piles. A wood pile is a premade home for small animals who live in the forest. It’s also a shelter for spiders and rodents.

Worse, having the wood pile next to the house gives unwanted pests a window view of what’s inside. Eventually, they will break through the barriers, moving from the once cozy wood pile to a warmer, cozier, indoor space instead.

Keep the wood pile away from the house by either building a wood shed, storing it in a barn or other existing building, or even stacking it between trees some distance from the home.

Also be careful with lumber you have around the home. Put it up near the rafters rather than stacking it on the ground.

Lumber racks and wood racks are a good way to keep the wood off the ground but still accessible. Just also keep the wood from coming into contact with the building from the back.

8. Check the Garage Door

In the closed position, look at the bottom of your garage door. If any light is seeping in, pests have space to come in too.

Depending on how large the gap is, a new garage sweep may be in order. Door sweeps tend to get warped, dried out, and cracked over time so check your other doors while you’re at it.

If your garage door sweep needs to be replaced, simply remove the old one and put the new one in place.

A gap underneath the garage door opening can also be caused by a gap in the flooring. For example, if the garage cement was poured in sections, there will be a gap where the sections connect. If that gap runs up the middle of the garage, you’ll be able to see a gap and a stream of light beneath the door. Fill it with a concrete patch to make the floor level and close the opening.

9. Add a Chimney Cap

Wildlife and rodents can also enter your home through an open chimney, especially when you’re not actively burning fires.

Keep rodents from scaling the inside of the firebox, and don’t allow birds to make nests. Close the chimney opening with a chimney cap to keep them out.

10. Adopt Insect-Eating Plants

bug eating plant

What can be better than enjoying indoor greenery, except having plants that also help control the pest population? There really are carnivorous plants, and they really do eat bugs.

Some options include the commonly known Venus Flytrap, Cape Sundew, Spoonleaf Sundew, Butterwort, and Tropical Pitcher Plants. Find a sunny windowsill to place your plants, get some popcorn, and enjoy the insect-eating show.

11. Dehumidify

Moisture is a problem in the home for a variety of reasons. It can lead to mildew and mold, which is unpleasant, unsightly, and can cause health issues.

A damp atmosphere also attracts critters that like to hang out in dark, moist spaces, like spiders. You can help dissuade them from making a home in your home by regularly dehumidifying, especially during the winter months.

You may have a central unit or a dehumidifier you can put in specific locations. You can also rely on inexpensive units that hold moisture-absorbing beads. The beads draw moisture from the air and collect water at the bottom of the reservoir.

Check your reservoir frequently to empty the water that has collected and to add more gel beads as needed.

12. Leave Out Sweet Snacks

Sugar ants are another problematic pest. They can visit anytime during the year and tend to come and go in cycles as they move home base.

If you see them marching two by two through your home, look for the entry point. It’s typically near a window or door. Close it up if possible.

Also leave them a sweet treat they can take home to mom. Sugar ants earned the name because they are attracted to sugar. Entice them with a combination of powdered sugar and a surprise dose of Borax.

Just be sure to keep other pets away from the Borax. If there’s any chance they will get into it, try putting the mixture into a small plastic container and punch small holes in the lid where ants can come and go.

If you’re not protecting other pets, you can lay out the mixture in a powdery trail on the inside or the outside of the house.

13. Invite Predators to the Party

ladybug on leaf

Sometimes, mirroring nature inside or around the home is the best solution. For example, if aphids are mowing down your garden, introduce ladybugs to the mix. They devour aphids without damaging your plants.

The same idea works for mice. Borrow, adopt, or otherwise rely on a cat or cats to keep them at bay. An efficient cat will hunt pretty much any pest you don’t want in your home. They will take down bats, birds, mice, rats, and even spiders.

If cats aren’t an option, a dog may help with the issue too. At the very least, their acute sense of smell and hearing will alert you when there are rodents in the wall or behind the furniture. Pay attention to their body language if they’re not vocal.

If you’re a fan of snakes, you’ll find they also enjoy spiders and small mice too.

14. Trim Bushes and Trees

Have you ever sat and watched a squirrel or chipmunk scurry up a tree? They are agile and confident in their descent as well as their journey to the outer reaches of limbs. Mice, rats, opossums, raccoons, and porcupines all climb trees too.

Don’t let your landscaping be an entry point for unwelcome critters. Trim back branches from the roof, sides of the house, and even the foundation.

15. Enter the Attic and Crawl Spaces

At least once each year, you should pop into the attic and any crawl spaces within your home. Take a bright flashlight and look for moisture, damage, droppings, chew marks, wood shavings, or other indicators of pest activity.

16. Get a Locking Lid for the Garbage Cans

Your garage cans, both inside and outside the house, can be an invitation for pests. Make sure outside trash receptacles have a tight-fitting lid. In some areas, you may need to weigh down lids with an additional layer of protection, such as a chain or mounted 2x4, in order to keep out larger predators such as bears.

Inside the home, keep garbage cans beneath the sink or ensure they have a reliable lid. Watch for signs of pests, such as chew marks or droppings in the area.

17. Invest in Storage Containers

Keep food in storage containers with tight-fitting lids. Make sure any open bags or cereal are on upper shelves.

In the garage, closets, and other storage areas, invest in plastic storage containers for holiday decorations, blankets, craft supplies, clothing, and anything else that is made from fabric, paper, and other materials desirable to rodents.

18. Dust With DE

Any discussion on the topic of pest control should include diatomaceous earth (DE). It’s a long name for a substance that is non-toxic, so it is safe to use around children and pets. Plus, it’s inexpensive, easy to find, easy to use, and hated by many of the creepy crawlers in your house.

Fleas, cockroaches, dust mites, ants, bed bugs, earwigs, stink bugs, spiders, and more can be eliminated with the use of DE.

It works by dehydrating bugs, so expose them by leaving trails of DE in pest highways throughout your home. You want them to stomp through the DE. Once exposed, they will go back to where they came from, dehydrate, and die within 24 hours to five days.

You can apply DE in your crawlspace, on carpets, around the outside border of the house, on mattresses and furniture, in the back of cupboards, in window sills, and along baseboards.

Focus on areas where you’ve seen pest activity and those spaces infrequently visited by the vacuum. When applying DE, create thick lines in focused areas rather than lightly spreading it across areas.

19. Check Screens Throughout the Home

Autumn is also a great time to get those screens replaced and repaired. Even small holes create a freeway for bugs and spiders. Patch them or replace the screening material completely.

Find out more about pest prevention in 11 Natural Pest Repellents and understand what you’re facing by reading our guide to Common Pests by Region.