It only takes a few minutes of browsing on social media to discover videos of acrobatic squirrels and other furry creatures doing all manner of adorable activities, like swatting at bubbles, taking a sudsy bath, or scampering around in doll’s clothes. Funny stuff for sure. But to any homeowner who has had to repair a roof or replace damaged wiring, animal infestations are hardly a laughing matter.
Case in point: A homebuyer in Ohio recently moved into their “dream” home only to discover a nightmare lurking behind its walls and in the attic: raccoons. The presence of the ring-tailed nocturnal beasts made the home uninhabitable for several months, caused untold headaches, and required repairs costing into the thousands. A home inspection contracted by the homebuyer revealed no signs of the animals, but much of the attic was sealed off and blocked, making this critical area inaccessible to the inspector. As we’ve discussed in previous posts, a home inspection really isn’t complete without a close look at the attic. In this case, that proved painfully true for the new homeowner.
Over the last 27 years, the inspectors at A-Pro have found evidence of a veritable menagerie of animals, from bats to raccoons, mice to chipmunks. Catching wildlife in the act of performing mischief in a house isn’t always possible, but inspectors are trained to report on signs that indicate animals are living on the premises, have easy access to it, or have once been there.
Note: While home inspectors have a good eye—and nose—for rooting out animal problems, don’t ask them to help you remove them. That’s beyond the scope of an inspection and demands the assistance of a certified animal control professional.
Here is a home inspection checklist of what your home inspector will be looking for when searching for signs of household pests:
Holes: Small holes in a house will allow entry for mice (they only need a ¼ inch opening to find passage), squirrels, birds, and bats. An opening in and of itself doesn’t mean there is an animal problem, but it will alert the home inspector to be on the lookout for other signs, such as droppings around a hole—a major red flag that critters are afoot.
Animals seeking shelter will target premade roof holes often found at corners and gables where expansion and contraction have produced a virtual “Free Room Here” sign for squirrels. More industrious invaders will simply use their strong teeth to carve out their own holes in vulnerable areas such as moisture-softened fascia boards. It is not uncommon for an inspector while evaluating a roof, to spot a bold squirrel darting directly into a hole. But without concrete evidence, it may be difficult to determine with absolute certainty if damaged shingles, for example, are the result of squirrels, raccoons, or another force at work.
Gaps around penetrations (vents, pipes), foundation cracks, and holes caused by rotting window sills and door frames will also be noted.
Droppings: Animal feces on a roof, particularly when found near a chimney or opening to an attic, will be reported on by the inspector and prompt further investigation to determine if there are other signs that wildlife might be present, such as fur in an uncapped chimney flue. Mice droppings, which resemble small grains of dark rice, are often discovered near kitchen cabinetry and other food sources.
Other Indicators: Your inspector will note scratching or scurrying sounds in the walls/ceiling, and strong or stale odors, especially coming from ducts where an animal may have crawled in and died. Deep scratches on a downspout may offer evidence that raccoons are accessing the roof via the gutter system. The inspector will report on overhanging trees, which can cause damage to the roof as well as provide easy access for critters. Trimming overhanging branches is a highly recommended measure for limiting access, though anyone who has dealt with a determined family of squirrels knows there is little that can deter these tenacious, world-champion climbers.
Other indicators include feces in the attic; chewed through vent screens; holes and trails made by squirrels, raccoons, or mice in fiberglass insulation; feces in or under attic or crawlspace insulation; and damage to electrical cables and wiring.
Reporting on signs of potential household pest problems is part of A-Pro’s 500-point home inspection. Ask your local A-Pro Home Inspection team about its complete foundation-to-roof inspection in New Orleans. To schedule one, call 1-504-533-8890 or visit the link below.