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Animals Under the House - Keep them Out

10.17.2003 - This is an older house in Orlando, built in the 1940's.  Like many Florida homes, it is elevated off the ground to prevent water damage.  It of course has no basement.  Most such homes have solid walls leading to the ground.  They have vents, for airflow, but at least they have walls.  Not this home.  It was simply an elevated home with no walls, and just a wide-open space leading under the home.  It's no surprise then, that over the years this house has been a favorite home to wild animals!  Critters just love to live in a dry place, and an open home like this is a magnet for opossums, stray cats, raccoons, armadillos, and snakes.

The only real problems with having critters under the home is that they tend to leave waste behind, and it smells bad.  Stray cats in particular, when they spray, cause an odor problem.  Also, they bring parasites and I've been to many houses which have a flea infestation because of critters living under the home.  They can also break into the house, finding and tearing open larger holes where pipes go through the floor or walls.  In addition, a common job that I deal with at least once a week is a case in which an animal has died under a house, and is now causing a huge odor problem.

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In the case of this house, now owners moved in, and there were opossums AND stray cats living under the house.  These animals were spreading fleas to the owner's two cats, and also eating all the cat food left outside.  This homeowner finally decided to do something about the critter problem.  Instead of offering pointless animal trapping, which is what the customer requested at first, I proposed that we solve the problem for good by eliminating the attractive habitat.  I proposed a steel exclusion barrier around the perimeter of the house.

I dug a trench, and buried this heavy-duty quarter inch steel screen a foot into the ground, with the bottom end turned out (to stop any animal that wants to tunnel under the screen).  It's bolted into the wood at the base of the house.  After installation, I filled in the trench and raked the woodchips back over, and it looked nice and neat.  Of course, I made sure all the animals were out before closing it up for good.  Now the problem is solved permanently!

Remember, the most important step in a total wildlife control solution is to stop the source of the problem - if you have wild critters in your attic or home, the only way to permanently solve the problem is to close all the entry points! This is a special skill, and it requires extensive knowledge of both architecture and animal behavior. Being a skilled repairman also helps. All repairs should be done in such a way that keeps animals out for good - this often means sealing with steel, and sealing openings so that they are airtight, with no trace of airflow for animals to detect. Remember, rodents can gnaw through almost anything, and raccoons can tear through almost anything. While it's important to trap and remove animals, and clean up the waste they leave behind, the most important step in solving the critter problem and in keeping animals out forever is to identify and repair every last critter access point into the building. Without this crucial step, the job isn't complete.

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