How to Survive Winter: 7 Genius Snow Hacks

Snow is stressful, but just because it’s the dead of winter doesn’t mean you should be left out in the cold. We’re here to make things easier and show you how to survive winter with these brilliant snow hacks.

1. Get a snow rake.

A rake for snow sounds like a joke, but it’s actually one of the best ways to prevent ice dams from forming on your roof. Snow rakes are designed to be used from the ground, with telescopic handles that easily remove snow from areas of your roof around the gutters. This helps melting snow travel through your downspouts instead of backing up into your attic.

2. Wear socks over your shoes.

We promise we’re not (just) trying to make you look like a dork—wearing socks over your shoes before you go out to shovel increases traction over ice and snow. Less slip and fall is always a good thing, are we right? Just make sure you’re using an old pair of socks, because they will get ruined.

3. Mist your shovel with cooking spray.

Scooping your driveway is bad enough, and the only thing that makes it worse is snow sticking to the shovel. Believe it or not, there’s a way to avoid it. Just spray a light coat of cooking oil over both sides of your shovel blade and watch the snow slide right off, every time. No more banging the shovel on the ground between scoops.

4. Lay out a tarp for easy snow cleanup.

If you want to skip the shovel all together, lay out a tarp on your walkways before the storm hits (make sure to stake it down if it’s windy). Once it stops snowing, pull the tarp off into your yard, shake off the snow, and behold your instantly snowless path. Clever you!

5. Set your ceiling fans to spin clockwise.

We all know that heat rises, which would be perfect if we spent our time on the ceiling. This leaves us with the problem of how to get that heat back down where we need it. If you have ceiling fans, you might have noticed that they spin counterclockwise, which draws air up from the floor. You might not know that you can switch your ceiling fan to spin clockwise instead, drawing warm air down from the ceiling to keep you comfortable.

6. Melt frozen locks with hand sanitizer.

Because of its high alcohol content, hand sanitizer is the perfect tool for unfreezing stuck locks. Why does it work so well? Alcohol drastically lowers the freezing point of water, so the outside temperature has to be much colder for water to freeze. Here’s how to pull off this trick (spoiler: it’s really easy): coat your key in sanitizer, then put it in the lock. Best of all, this method will work on any lock, whether it’s your home, your car door or a padlock.

7. Defrost icy car windows with two ingredients.

Everybody hates warming up their frosty car in the morning, but there’s an easy way to save time without having to buy a remote starter. Start by mixing up a solution of 1 part water to 2 parts isopropyl rubbing alcohol, put it in a spray bottle and watch the frost melt away. The solution won’t freeze in a cold car, so you can take it with you wherever you go, and you can even use it to open car doors when they get stuck.

From tips to get around in the snow to energy efficiency audits for your whole home, your NPI inspector is here to help you survive winter. Give us a call today to schedule an appointment!

How to Get Organized Around Your House

How to Get Organized Around Your House

The start of the new year is a perfect opportunity to set your priorities and get a handle on your possessions. Here are some simple tips to help you get organized and achieve a stress-free home.

1. Pare down your stuff.

Let’s face it, you probably received a present or two over the holidays that you’ll never use. Instead of letting them collect dust and clutter up your home, give them to a friend or charitable organization. Once you have holiday clutter taken care of, you can start tackling the rest of the house.

Going room by room, focus on one item at a time—when’s the last time you used each one, or even thought about it? If you haven’t used, worn or even looked at something in more than six months, it’s probably time to let it go. For items that you’re having trouble parting with because of their sentimental value, take a picture of it instead; you’ll keep the memory and lose the dust-catcher.

Tip: Avoid the common mistake of thinking you can take care of clutter with containers—that step comes later. Once you’ve simplified your living space by removing items you don’t care about, you can focus on creating attractive storage for all the things your family actually uses.

2. Make a cleaning schedule . . . and stick to it.

Now it’s time to bring out the cleaning supplies, but you have to have a strategy. Rather than just jumping in and cleaning the first thing you see, keep a few rules in mind:

  • It’s faster to clean by task rather than by area, so work on all the mirrors and windows first, followed by dusting, polishing, vacuuming and mopping.
  • Keep organized by working methodically down from the ceiling to the floor. This ensures you don’t accidentally dirty anything you just cleaned.
  • Once you have everything spic and span, create a weekly cleaning schedule. By focusing on one task or area a day, you make the task as a whole less daunting.

A regular cleaning schedule can also yield unexpected benefits. For example, cleaning out the fridge once a week cuts down on food waste, helping you save money and avoid gross “time capsule” leftovers.

3. Create a storage solution for every area.

What works in one room won’t necessarily be your best bet in another. Take your mudroom—this space is perfect for a hook and cubby system to keep your family’s belongings off the floor and organized. Your living room lends itself to decorative storage baskets for holding useful items like DVDs and other media, while your bedroom closet could benefit from an over-the-door shoe rack or modular shelving. For overcrowded garages, look into overhead storage for bigger items and wall-mounted racks for tools like shovels, rakes and brooms so you can free up much-needed floor space. The possibilities are endless, so you can get as creative as you want!

4. Get organized for safety’s sake.

Keeping your home organized also lets you concentrate on the safety issues in your home that might otherwise slip your mind. Make sure your home is equipped with both smoke and carbon monoxide detectors (and that they have fresh batteries installed). You can also have an NPI inspector check your home for radon—one in every fifteen homes has elevated levels of this odorless gas, which causes around 21,000 lung cancer deaths each year.

Moving to the laundry room, your dryer vent can often become clogged with lint (even if you always clean the trap). Lint is highly flammable, and it’s responsible for starting over 15,000 building fires a year, which is more than enough reason to make it a priority. If you notice your dryer taking more time than usual to dry a load of clothes, this is a sign your dryer vent needs cleaning. Depending on the length of your dryer vent and the number of turns it takes, you can either DIY the process with a dryer vent cleaning kit (these cost around $20) or hire a professional.

Maintaining an organized home is key to your family’s well-being and safety. Your local NPI inspector is here to help, so schedule an inspection today!

Get Organized Now: 5 Home Resolutions for the New Year

The start of a new year marks the perfect time to enact positive life changes. What better area to start than the place you call home? Here are five home resolutions that will help you get organized now and create a happy, healthy living environment you can feel proud of.

1. Get Organized

Clutter consistently tops the list of at-home stressors–that’s why it tops our list of resolutions. When it comes to exactly how to get organized, nixing clutter can be tricky. Depending on the type and quantity of items you’re dealing with, as well as the space you have to work in, your solution could vary wildly from the next person’s.

To get organized now, though, here are two rules, that apply to just about everyone’s clutter situation:

1. Donate anything you don’t need and/or don’t use on a regular basis.
2. Make wise decisions about the items you introduce into your home.

When it comes to creating more storage solutions for your home, one key piece of advice is to look up. Mounted wall shelves, cubbies and racks can not only free up valuable floor space, they can also double as attractive décor. Getting organized and giving your space a fresh look to kick off a promising new year is a win-win.

2. Save Energy

We all want to save more, earn more and spend our hard-earned wages on the things that really matter. Recommitting to cutting back on energy use and considering “going green” is a great way to accomplish a little bit of everything in the finance category. You can shave hundreds of dollars off your bill in the course of a year and potentially earn tax write-offs and homeowner’s insurance discounts. Plus, by investing in things like energy-efficient light bulbs, you’re investing in the health of our planet. Check out our best tips for saving energy here.

3. Do That Project You’ve Been Putting Off

Whether it’s re-caulking windows or finally taking down that outdated wallpaper border, we all have that one home maintenance project we’ve been putting off for months (or in some cases, years). Make 2018 the year of doing. It might be a pain to spend a few evenings up on that ladder, but the feeling of getting it done will be well worth it. So put on your favorite music or a podcast and get scraping! (Or caulking, cleaning, refinishing. . .). You may even be able to get the whole family involved.

4. Plant a Tree

Trees are excellent for the environment because they help keep the air clear of pollutants. They can even help save energy by keeping streets cool, cutting down on air conditioning needs in the summer. Trees also happen to be beautiful to look at and neat to watch grow. This year, plant a tree (or a whole row!) as a family. You’ll make fun memories and create lasting good with just one small act.

5. Purify Indoor Air

Even the most spotless homes can feel a little stuffy or take on a musty odor. Now is a great time to make sure that the air quality in your house is top-notch. You’ll likely notice a positive change in your overall mood by:

Cleaning up after your pet. This includes thoroughly cleaning up after any accidents that happen as soon as you can after they occur. You should also vacuum often to remove fur and pet dander from furniture and carpet.

Change your furnace filters. You should change your HVAC system’s filters at least once every three months. They need changed once a month during months of heavy use, like winter.

Don’t smoke inside. Really, don’t smoke at all! But definitely refrain from smoking or allowing others to smoke inside your home.

Open the windows. Every now and again, it’s a good idea to let a little fresh air in the old-fashioned way. This isn’t always possible because of harsh weather conditions, so be sure to take advantage of mild days.

To get a handle on what needs done around your home, call your nearest National Property Inspections inspector today. Our highly trained inspectors have the knowledge and experience to help you accomplish all your home resolutions.

The Best (and Worst) Firewood to Burn This Winter

Whether you’re new to the world of wood-burning stoves and fireplaces or a seasoned veteran (pun fully intended), it helps to know the right woods to use to get the most for your money. Here’s some of the best firewood to burn, along with other kinds you should avoid at all costs this winter.

A Word on Seasoning

Before we get into specific types of wood, we need to mention “seasoning,” a term that will apply to all the woods we talk about going forward. Seasoning refers to the process of drying firewood before it’s burned in your stove or fireplace. Burning unseasoned (or “green”) wood releases more smoke and water vapor, which means more creosote buildup and a greater chance of chimney fires over time.

How can you tell the difference between seasoned and unseasoned wood? It’s easy. Green wood often looks freshly cut with visible saw marks, while seasoned wood will look gray or white. The ends of seasoned wood shows radial cracking and the bark should come off easily. If the wood isn’t cracked and the bark is firmly attached, it’s still green and shouldn’t be used in your fireplace yet.

The Best Firewood to Burn

The firewoods that made our “Best to Burn” list had to meet a number of criteria, including having a high heat value and a pleasant experience (fragrance, long-lasting burn, etc.). One cord of each type of wood here produces heat equivalent to burning 200-250 gallons of fuel oil.

• Apple: deliciously fragrant aroma, slow-burning
• Beech: burns at very high heat, great for colder climates
• Cherry: hardwood with pleasant fragrance and long-lasting burn
• Oak: hearty and heavy weight, low level of smoke
• Sycamore: dense wood for long-lasting fire

The Worst Firewood to Burn

As a general rule, wood from coniferous trees isn’t very good for burning in your fireplace because it lacks the density of hardwood. It burns faster and doesn’t put off as much heat, so you need to use more wood to heat your home. The woods below produce more smoke that ends up as creosote deposits in your chimney, and tend to spark much more than hardwood, making for a less than relaxing fireside experience.

• Birch: bark produces lots of soot and smoke
• Cedar: filled with volatile oils that create popping and sparks
• Balsam Fir: lots of smoke with sparks
• Spruce: lightweight and fast-burning
• Pine: a resinous softwood that creates lots of creosote

Other Poor Choices

It’s definitely a bad idea to burn any type of treated lumber, as the chemicals used in the manufacturing process can be released in the smoke and inhaled. You should also only use locally sourced firewood to avoid the problem of invasive insects like the Emerald Ash Borer and the Asian Long-Horned Beetle, which can cause massive damage to native forests.

Find Your Local NPI Inspector for a Safe Fireplace

National Property Inspections wants your winter season to be warm, bright and safe! Give your local NPI inspector a call today to help keep your home’s wood-burning systems in top condition.

Preparing for a Storm Checklist: Winter Edition

While nerve-wracking, a winter storm is nothing to be afraid of, especially if you’re prepared. Follow this preparing for a storm checklist to ensure you’re ready for anything when the snow starts falling and the wind picks up.

Make sure everyone is on the same page.

Keeping everyone in your household in the know is the best start to winter storm prep. Sit down with the entire family and discuss what to do in the event of inclement weather. You should also show everyone where emergency items are located and assign small children a “buddy” to stick with. You should also make a plan for communicating with family members if you happen to be away from home when a storm hits. Making sure everyone feels prepared will keep panic at a minimum.

Winterize your car.

You may need to move locations during a winter storm, or you may be in transit when it hits. This is why it’s important to make sure that your car is up to the job. At the start of the season, visit your mechanic and have them top off all fluids and inspect areas like the battery and windshield wipers for wear and tear. It’s also crucial that your tire treads are capable of handling snow and ice. In some areas, chains or snow tires may be appropriate.

You’ll also want to stock your car with a few supplies:

• A windshield scraper
• A small bag of sand or non-clumping kitty litter
• Emergency blankets and warm clothing
• Flashlights
• A red cloth to tie to the antenna

You should also keep a mostly full tank of gas at all times.

Gather household supplies.

When gathering supplies, be sure to stock up well in advance. Stores can run out of items like bottled water quickly in the event of an impending storm. Here are some basics to have on hand:

• Flashlights for each member of the family
• Plenty of batteries in a variety of sizes
• A three-day supply of nonperishable food and bottled water for each family member
• Battery-powered radio
• Cell phone charger that operates on batteries, solar power or some other non-electric source
• Wipes, hand sanitizer and paper products
• Extra blankets and warm clothing
• Firewood and matches (if you have a fireplace or wood-burning stove)
• Rock salt, ice-melt or similar

Protect your home.

Some of the most expensive damage to your home occurs during instances of extreme cold. One of the most important things you can do for your home when the power goes out is to keep your pipes warm. This helps prevent burst pipes and extensive repairs. At the start of winter storm season, take the time to wrap pipes in insulation. You can also open cabinet doors to let warm air circulate and turn on all faucets so that they drip and water can keep flowing.

A healthy roof is crucial year-round, but it becomes especially important in the winter. In the fall, we recommend hiring an NPI inspector to help identify any weak areas and suggest repairs. They can also inspect your attic’s structure and insulation to make sure that warm air won’t escape and create ice dams.

You also might consider purchasing a generator to help with long-term storm prep. A generator can keep your heat and power running, and it can even be programmed to kick on as soon as a power outage occurs. Available in a wide variety of sizes and prices, generators are recognized as a smart investment that can sometimes earn you a break on home insurance costs.

Make room for pets.

If you have pets, you’ll want to keep extra supplies on hand. Make sure they have plenty of food, water and blankets. You should also have puppy pads, cat litter and cleaning supplies on hand for any bathroom accidents if your pets are used to being let outside frequently.

Hiring a National Property Inspections inspector can help you prepare your home for a winter storm. Look for an inspector in your area today to protect your biggest investment—your home.

5 Ways to Know if You Need a Gutter Replacement

1. You can see visible damage.

The quickest way to know if you need a gutter replacement is to examine your gutters up close. If your gutters are damaged, you may be able to see visible cracks, rust and holes, especially along the bottom. If the wear and tear is minor, you should be able to make repairs yourself with a little sealant. But before you make a decision about how to proceed with a potential DIY project, it’s important to look for the following signs. If you see any of these, chances are you’ll need a full-blown gutter replacement.

2. There’s water damage on your home’s siding.

The state of your home’s siding can give you great insight into many other aspects of the house’s condition, including its gutters. Another sign you may have a gutter replacement on your horizon is the presence of discolored water marks right below the gutters on your home’s siding. Water marks can indicate that gutters are leaking or overflowing. If your home is made of brick or another material, you’ll need to take a look at the fascia and soffit for water damage.

3. Your gutters pull away from the house.

Sagging gutters that pull away from the house indicate major drainage problems. If gutters get weighed down with water, they can sometimes drop or fall off the home altogether. Sometimes, sagging gutters are unavoidable due to heavy rainfall or freezing snow, but often, they can be prevented by cleaning out the dirt and debris that might be blocking water flow. Just be careful not to cause additional damage to gutters when leaning your body weight or a ladder against your home.

4. Your basement is flooding.

They say that if your basement is flooding, you should start at the top of your home and work your way down to diagnose the issue. This is where gutters come into play. You might experience basement flooding from time to time when your gutters can’t carry water away from your home fast enough. If water isn’t carried away, it can end up right below your eaves as it slides off your roof, seeping into your basement and causing water damage that ranges from wet patches on the ground to inches of standing water. Sometimes, basement flooding is unavoidable, especially in areas of heavy rainfall where gutters overflow often. Often, though, it means your gutters are significantly damaged.

5. You can spot mildew on your foundation.

If your home is experiencing foundation issues, the gutters may be your last area of concern. But they can actually play a big role in the health of your home’s structure. This is because the primary job of gutters is to carry water away from the home. If you can see water pooling around the foundation and signs of mildew, you could be dealing with a major gutter issue. Sometimes, simply cleaning your gutters will help get rid of any plugs, but you could also need a replacement.

If you need help determining the condition of all aspects of your home, NPI can help. Whether you’re buying, selling or just looking for a three to five year checkup, you can find a highly trained and qualified inspector near you.

How to Avoid a Chimney Fire This Winter

While curling up by the fire is always great when the weather gets cold, there are a few things you should do first to make sure your fireplace is safe to use. Chimney fires occur more often than you’d think and can cause real damage to your home, but they’re easily preventable with some simple maintenance.

What is a chimney fire?

Chimney fires occur when your fireplace ignites a buildup of flammable material in your chimney. The most common culprit is a substance called creosote, which is really a residue of smoke and vapor from burning wood. This residue accumulates in your chimney as you use your fireplace, and if it isn’t cleaned regularly, it can build up in layers to form an incredibly flammable glaze.

What’s worse is that you may not even know you’re having chimney fires until you’ve had several of them. Chimney fires usually burn themselves out before they become noticeable, but they can burn at temperatures of up to 2000 degrees Fahrenheit, which is hot enough to crack mortar and affect the structural integrity of your chimney. If a fire starts in an already-damaged chimney flue, that fire can spread to the home’s wooden structures and cause catastrophic damage.

What causes chimney fires?

Simply put, chimney fires are caused by a lack of proper maintenance. If you don’t have your fireplace and chimney inspected and cleaned regularly, you’re giving soot and creosote the chance to build up. The more flammable creosote buildup you have in your chimney, the higher the chance of combustion when you use your fireplace.

There are a few things you can do to slow the buildup of creosote in your chimney. First, burn only seasoned wood in your fireplace. Seasoned wood has been left to dry and age outside for at least six months to a year. Using “green,” or unseasoned, wood in your fireplace leads to more water vapor, inefficient burning and higher levels of creosote.

You can also lessen creosote buildup by ensuring proper air flow through your chimney. This means keeping the glass doors on your fireplace open, and making sure that the damper is all the way open before starting your fire.

How can you prevent chimney fires?

Regular inspections are the only way to be sure that your fireplace and chimney are in proper working order. An inspector can determine whether your chimney has suffered any structural damage from past fires and knows the signs of dangerous creosote buildup.

Even if you don’t use your fireplace very often, having it inspected regularly is important because creosote isn’t the only flammable substance in your chimney you have to worry about. Branches, bird nests and other debris can become lodged in your chimney (we’ve found even weirder things like footballs and raccoons, too—yeah, it happens). These can either obstruct air flow, causing an accumulation of carbon monoxide, or they can combust. Neither option is good news.

Call Your Local NPI Inspector for a Safe Chimney

National Property Inspections has the tools and expertise you need to keep your fireplace safe for your family this winter. Find your local NPI inspector today and schedule an appointment.

6 Ways to Prevent a Christmas Tree Fire

Christmas tree fire

With the holidays just around the corner, we’re guessing things are hectic around your home. You’re getting ready for company and putting the finishing touches on your decorations. Without adding undue stress, we’re here to give you tips on something that may have fallen to the back of your mind: Christmas tree fire safety. Here are some ways to stop a burning Christmas tree from ruining your holiday.

1. Pick a tree that’s green.

Fresh Christmas trees are much less likely to catch on fire than those that are already starting to dry out. Dry trees can ignite in a second and become a raging fire in less than a minute. When picking out your tree, pay attention to how the needles look and feel. If they look brown, come off the branches easily and snap between your fingers, the tree is too dry. Instead, look for vibrant green needles that look waxy and don’t break easily.

2. Place your tree strategically.

Being aware of heat sources in your home is the next step in preventing a Christmas tree fire. You should always maintain a distance of at least three feet between your tree and any sources of heat. This includes fireplaces, candles, space heaters and radiators. Remember, it only takes one spark on a dry tree to create an out-of-control flame.

3. Keep your tree watered.

How much should you water your Christmas tree? If you said a gallon a day, you’re right! Trees need even more water the first few days and may need more in general depending on their size, so make sure not to skimp. Once you notice needles beginning to fall, your tree is a fire hazard and should be removed from your home.

4. Use appropriate types of lights.

Only use UL-listed Christmas lights for your tree (check the manufacturer’s directions) and be sure you’re not overloading your outlets by connecting too many light strings together. We recommend connecting a maximum of three traditional light strings together. You can also switch to energy-efficient LED lights instead, which produce much less heat, and flameless candles, which can look and feel like the real thing without the danger of an open flame.

5. Turn off the lights when you leave.

Any time you leave the room, you should turn off your Christmas lights and extinguish any candles or other sources of heat, like fireplaces. This is especially important when you’re leaving the house or going to bed. Enjoy the cozy firelight when you’re relaxing at home with your family, but when you go to bed, make sure it’s lights out.

6. Know when to take down your tree.

We know it’s hard to say goodbye, but listen to this—half of all Christmas tree fires occur in the 20 days AFTER the holiday, according to the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA). Even a well-watered tree begins to show signs of drying out after four weeks. That means if you put your tree up around Thanksgiving, you should take it down right after Christmas.

Have a Safe Holiday with National Property Inspections

National Property Inspections is your partner for a safe and festive holiday season. Your local NPI inspector provides many services to help you keep your home’s most important components in tip top shape this winter. Locate your nearest inspector and make an appointment today.

How to Remove Salt Stains the Easy Way

Winter brings more into your home than just snow and ice. In addition to slushy footprints, there’s a good chance that you and your family are tracking in salt, sand and ice melt. Avoiding these substances in parking lots and walkways is almost impossible, so what’s a person to do? You might start by thinking of the clean-up process as a little science experiment.

The salt that we scatter on sidewalks in winter is actually made up of calcium chloride pellets. Calcium chloride is an inexpensive substance known for its effective melting properties, with certain solutions having the ability to prevent freezing at as low as – 62 degrees Fahrenheit. It also happens to have a high pH, one greater than 7.

Because calcium chloride is so acidic, it tends to attract water, which means it loves our snowy boots. You may think you’re in the clear once wet footprints have either evaporated or been wiped away, but unsightly white streaks will likely appear in time. And if salt isn’t properly cleaned, it can slowly destroy a floor’s finish or permanently stain carpet.

How to Remove Salt Stains with Vinegar

Your first thought may be to grab a bucket of hot soapy water or scrub hard at the stubborn stains with a brush. But the best way to remove stains is to neutralize the highly acidic calcium chloride with a low-pH cleanser. You can choose a floor neutralizer for this specific purpose, but our favorite solution is one we’ve already discussed at length in a previous entry—vinegar. With its pH of 3, vinegar won’t just remove tough, baked-on stains from your oven. When used the right way, it’s your best bet for keeping floors clean.

Since vinegar itself is fairly acidic, it’s best not to apply it directly to just any surface. Stone, for example, can be eroded by acidic substances and is not ideal for cleaning with vinegar. The key to using vinegar to remove salt stains is to dilute it. To avoid wear and tear on your flooring, try mixing four to five ounces of vinegar with about a gallon of warm water. Use a generous amount of vinegar solution to mop floors or gently scrub carpets. Allow it to rest for three to five minutes, then use clear warm water to mop stains again.

While vinegar is perfect for vinyl or tile flooring, you’ll need to modify the process if you have a hardwood floor. It’s best not to use a mop since excess or standing water can cause damage to wood. Spot-treat hardwood floor stains with a rag soaked in the solution, then use another clean, dry rag to wipe up the stains and any vinegar residue.

You can also use vinegar to clean salt stains off of concrete. Since calcium chloride tends to bond more strongly to concrete than interior flooring materials, you’ll need to create a stronger cleaning solution. Mix one part vinegar with five parts water, put down a generous amount of cleaner, wait three to five minutes and then mop it up with clear water.

More Winter Foot Traffic Tips

A certain amount of moisture and staining is probably unavoidable when it comes to your home and winter foot traffic. You may need to lay down a strict no-shoes-in-the-house rule and put out additional absorbent mats to catch any water and salt. It’s a good idea to place one for wiping outside the door and then one or two more to cover your foyer. You can also try leaning shoes toes-up on the lip of a boot tray so that excess moisture drains off.

Do you have a question about removing stubborn salt stains from your home’s floors? Let us know in the comments below, or contact your local National Property Inspections team.

Christmas Critters: How to Get Rid of Raccoons in Your Attic

As the weather gets colder, you might find yourself with an unwanted houseguest this holiday season. Critters of all stripes look for warm places to burrow in for the winter, and they won’t think twice about making a home in your attic, crawlspace or basement if the conditions are right. Whether you’re dealing with a raccoon, groundhog or even a skunk, we’ll tell you the signs to look for and how to get rid of them so they won’t come back.

Signs of An Animal in Your House

We’ve found a raccoon that had been hiding in a customer’s garage for four days before anyone noticed. It had entered the home through a small opening in the exterior wall and gotten stuck in a rarely opened utility closet. The customer only found out about his visitor because of the faint, musky urine smell and a nice nest of drywall shreds spilling out from under the door.

Why are we telling you this? Simply put, animals can be sneaky. Even if you think there’s no way you wouldn’t notice a wild animal in your house, the fact is that you don’t look for things you’re not expecting. Here are the signs to clue you in:

• Unexplained scratching sounds in the walls
• Lights flickering and electrical systems failing
• Signs of intrusion like holes or shredded drywall
• Visible signs or smell of urine or droppings

In our customer’s case, the solution was simple enough—open the garage door about a foot, open the closet and let the critter waltz out. If only it were this easy all the time. If you think you might have a raccoon or other wild animal in a place that’s hard to access, like your attic or walls, we recommend calling in an animal control specialist to remove it.

Securing Your Home with an NPI Inspector

Raccoons and other animals are generally drawn to your home in search of food, so you should remove their reason for hanging around. Keep your garbage cans secure with locking lids, and if you have other pets, don’t feed them outside. Once you know the animal is gone, it’s time to figure out how it got in. This is harder than it sounds. For example, a raccoon can gain entry to your home through a hole as small as three inches, and these openings are easy to overlook in hard-to-reach areas like a crawlspace.

Rather than spending your holiday season combing your home for entry points, let National Property Inspections take care of it while you knock back some egg nog and trim the tree. Your NPI inspector knows exactly what to look for and will identify the areas you need to repair, like open soffits, vent holes and more. Find your local inspector now to get rid of raccoons and keep them out of your home for good.