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5 Tips For Winterizing Your Home Against Pests — and What’s Your Favorite Pest Story?

I love nearly everything about autumn. But what I don’t enjoy is what the colder weather can bring into my house: critters and pests. Over the years I’ve fought all kinds, at least the kinds we get in the western US. Nothing particularly exotic, but still annoying: mice, spiders, ants, and hornets. Like in our (still underway) 1905 house renovation — where it’s full of great places for spiders to live, like this:

I’ve had fewer problems in recent years, however, now that we’ve learned how to prep the house better — and when we should call a professional. And with my latest renovation project — a 1905 house — I got extra smart and did some more in-depth preparation. I’ll tell you what I did, what I called the pros for — and I’ll share five tips for winterizing your home against pests — and show you a great resource (pestworld.org) for learning more about preventing pests in your home — after the break!

During my 1905 house renovation, I found a lot of issues I couldn’t see until I had the walls off (yes, we stripped the walls to the plaster and brick). And here’s my story for this renovation: luckily it’s not too disgusting! We found mud and paper wasps‘ nests in nearly every nook and cranny — in the laundry room, in the back room walls, and throughout the attic. I mean, along the back wall there were old wasps; nests about every 8 inches. And the attic rafters probably held about 50 old nests as well. When my husband was doing the wiring, he kept bumping into them — and finally knocked them down into the loose insulation. We went through a LOT of cans of expanding foam (even along the eaves from the attic). The house was built in at least three phases — so there were a lot of cracks to be filled!

So here’s just an example of what we did:

Tip #1: Fill in all the tiny cracks in your home — no matter how small

It’s not just wasps in the warm months looking for cracks in the house. We could tell by the mouse traps (although luckily no damage) in this house renovation that they’d had to fight some field mice infestations as well. We live in a neighborhood where there is some open space … and when the weather turns cold, the little furry folks like to go where it’s warm. You wouldn’t believe the small cracks and spaces that mice can get in through!

We had to replace the sewer and water lines into this house, and while we were digging a new hole through the granite foundation, we sealed all open spots in the foundation — and then poured quickset concrete around where we had run the new sewer pipe into the foundation to make sure they couldn’t burrow in.

In our house, we found the mice tried to get in through bathroom and dryer vents, so we bought a screen like these or these to put over our vents — I can’t recommend them enough. I’ve had friends who have had problems with birds trying to get in the vents no matter how far above ground they are — so these may be wise for you regardless. Therefore,

Tip #2: Make sure all vents are covered with screens to keep the smaller critters out

The other important thing we learned — and we took advantage of with this renovation — is to call the professionals and have them come regularly. Spiderwebs coated the corners throughout the cellar of this 1905 house, and we knew we couldn’t get them all. So the first thing we did once we got all of the demolition done is to call our pest control company — they spray the exterior of our house regularly — and have them spray the house heavily while there was easy access to the inside and outside.

I mean, look at these crevices in the cellar — just calling out for spiders to live there!

Tip #3: Don’t be afraid to call the pros – and get references and referrals!

We found that we have only the occasional spider in our house — and nowhere near the massive swarms of summer ants we used to get — once we have our pest control company spray regularly. (And yes, we believe it’s important to get a qualified company with a good environmental reputation, and we keep kids and pets away.)

It’s also important to remember that the things you do for keeping the winter weather out are important for keeping unwanted visitors out as well. We annually inspect the weatherstripping around our doors to see if any needs replacing. Strangely, most don’t, but the one back door to the garage seems to need annual replacement. It’s inexpensive and easy to replace — just visit your local hardware store.

Tip #4: Don’t forget to check door and window weatherstripping

If you are cleaning up around your yard, too, don’t forget to check for damp areas, clogged drains and so forth. We’ve cleaned both our yard and the yard in the renovation house to avoid clogged drains — mulchy areas, food, and storage containers can harbor insects — most of which you won’t want in your house!

I mean, look at all of the spider nests we found on the porch of this renovation house when we removed the siding. That’s why it’s important to seal things!

Tip #5: Check the outside of your home including storage areas and drainage areas

I found some great resources for this from not only my own experience but from this article at pestworld.org.

What’s YOUR best — or worst — household pest story?
Let me know in the comments – I would love to hear YOUR story!


PS — It’s Friday! My favorite day of the week.

I love seeing your ideas and featuring YOU!!

I hope you can stop by for the fun.

The party starts at 6 pm MST :)

Pestworld.org sponsored this post, it’s a great place for information onย  understanding, avoiding and preventing household pests (the non-human kind).


  1. We have had problems with wasp nests too. All around the outside of our home and one in our attic. We have had a lot less issues with them now after having sealed off many areas where they were getting in cracks…much like in your home renovation! Can’t wait to see it :)

  2. I was laying in bed one night and I could hear this tick sound. Like when you try to open something with your fingernail… Anyway I woke up my husband and he went to the bathroom to investigate and found nothing. 2 minutes later it was right above our head ticking, so we flipped on the light and we could see a little mouse claw gabbing at the vent trying to get in!!! I had to sleep on the couch the rest of the night. Luckily he captured it the next day.
    I am also a huge arachnophobe and one night I pulled my covers up and thought I saw a spider, but it was my imagination (so I thought) the next thing I knew, I was seeing a huge spider running on the top edge of my covers!

  3. my most horrific pest story…. one morning i was laying in bed thinking about getting up when i heard the oddest tinkling noise, like china being moved gently .. i looked around couldn’t figure it out, i heard it again and to my HORROR about 3 feet from my head a Fat mouse was hanging upside down from my necklaces that were hanging on 4 hooks on the wall EEEKKK!!

  4. i was sleeping and felt something land on my head- i thought it was my husband’s hand so i reached up to push it off and it did NOT feel like his hand! i swatted it off and turned the light on cause i just KNEW it was a frog! my husband told me i was crazy and I never found it so we went back to sleep. the next evening, i found the frog in our bathtub! how it got into the house we have no idea.

  5. We’ve had a skunk and 2 possums forcibly removed from underneath our bay windows. A skunk sprayed under one of them and since the house is 55+ years old, it was not sealed. The spray got into our storage room and main air intake for the furnace. It was winter, so when the heater kicked on, it was indescribably horrific. We lived in a hotel for a month! It took a few years for the smell to go away. I still don’t like to go to the storage room on a hot humid day.

    A few months later (still winter), we discovered that a possum had burrowed a hole through the other bay window and was living in between our living room floor and basement ceiling! After that was sealed up and ensuring no animals were still in there, we installed chicken wire and fencing around those windows. It’s anchored in a concrete trench, too. Overkill? Maybe, but I’m not risking another skunk incident!!!

  6. In college, my apartment was infested with roaches. I would walk in after a night out, flip on the light, and dozens of roaches would run for their hiding spots. I kept my dishes in zip-lock bags to keep them clean. One night, I woke up and went to the bathroom, as I was unrolling some toilet paper, roaches flew out of the cardboard tube and landed right next to my feet. It was absolutely horrible. I slept with the lights on after that and moved out as soon as my lease was up.

  7. My daughter and her family rented a house a couple of years ago and when she got up in the middle of the night with the new baby she could hear the pitter patter of critters inside the walls…they seemed to be everywhere! The pest control couldn’t seem to eradicate them?!? My daughter (and son-in-law) could barely sleep, thinking about rats and their new baby. Of course they moved:)

  8. Ummm……that is so not awesome! One time when my brother was cutting out a hole in my Mom’s ceiling to re-vent it….a dead mouse fell on his head. I mean…..dude….he screamed like a little GIRL!!!! I kind of love it. We all thought it was hysterical. Him…not so much! Have a great party this weekend. Can’t wait for that house!

  9. I can’t even begin to tell you how important it is to seal off the dryer vent. HUGELY important. It’s not just small creepy pests…stray cats may also seek warmth in the dryer vent. It wont’ end well. … *shudder*

  10. wow, great info Jen. I think I need to check a few things around here.

  11. Great tips, Jen. We had our first mouse in ten years just last week. We used the expanding foam around the back porch. Haven’t seen one since *fingers crossed.*

  12. One time my grandmother opened up a can of frozen grape juice to find a mouse frozen inside! YUCK!

    Also, we just moved into a house that had big black rats in the yard and garage. My husband and I stood in our front doorway and actually watched them playing in a bush directly beside our front door. We bought snap-traps and they seem to have taken care of the problem.

  13. We have had bad luck with roaches. In our old apartment, we had roaches for 2 years. It was disgusting. I can’t tell you how many times I had to rewash dishes because of them. The apartment complex only sprayed our apartment and not the others which meant they were still around. In our house now we have had roaches, but mostly ants and spiders. I just cleared out our garage so we can have it sprayed. A few other tips for bugs: make sure your food is well sealed. If possible, remove any bushes and plants that are growing right next to your house. They make a great home for pests. Make sure your doorways are well sealed. Have someone shine a flashlight through the crack of the door. You shouldn’t be able to see it. Don’t throw food away in the trash can without putting it in a bag. Rinse out inside trash cans every few months with water and a bleach solution. If you have a roach problem, don’t leave bulky plugs plugged in. They WILL hide between the plug and wall because it’s warm. It’s incredibly gross! If you see one ant, it’s time to spray your area. They leave a trail for other ants to follow.

    • Wow!! Those are great tips. You know what you are talking about, Nessa! Thanks for sharing those with us!!


  14. Hi :) When I was a kid we lived by a corn field and my room was in the basement….In the basement I had a window well and a sump pump where things would come in. There were always creepy centipedes and daddy long legs that would wander into my Barbie house when I was playing. So gross… Once I had a big bull frog jump on my foot in the dark while I was trying to find a light–that was horrifying as a kid! Also, an angry field gopher ate through my window screen and got behind my dresser. My dad hit it with a shovel…

    • Oh my gosh- that made me laugh. But I bet it wasn’t so funny when the gopher was hiding in you room. Yikes!


  15. We just moved to Salt Lake City and are renting a house until we find a place to buy. When we moved in we put down spider traps (they’re like a glue board that you put along the baseboards so that when bugs run along the walls they get stuck). We also put down some mouse traps for good measure. One morning I got up and there was a mouse caught in a glue board. I hate the idea of critters in the house so I asked my husband to put a glue board in every room.

    Then, months later, I got up in the middle of the night to go to the bathroom and there was a snake in the glue board!

    • Oh wow Christine!! That is so scary to catch a snake. Make you wonder what is slithering around when we aren’t looking.


  16. Oh my gosh pests are disgusting. The worse we have had is mice but i remember w had a raccoon in our attic growing up. That was quite a situation.

  17. We rented a house for a couple of years. In the very first few days of living there we heard purring and scratching in our ceiling. After doing some research we figured out it was not a cat, but a raccoon. Not just one raccoon, but a mother with her babies! So, we lived with raccoons in our ceiling for a couple of weeks while we tried to fight with the property management company to do something about it. Finally one night they left on their own, but they made a terrible racket! At around 1 or 2 am we heard the mother raccoon outside calling for her babies to come out. The babies were squirming around and screaming/crying to find their way out. It was the craziest thing I’ve ever heard. About an hour-hour and a half later they were gone. We got the hole boarded up and they never came back. Thank goodness!

    • Oh – I am so glad to hear that you got the raccoon and babies out. It would have been so sad if they had died up there.


  18. One of my best friends is a real old style country cookin kind of girl and she lives in a small town. We were on the phone chatting one day and she was getting ready to make fried chicken for dinner. Now, she keeps an oil can and a fat can just like Grandma use to keep. As we were talking, she reached under the sink to get her can, I hear her set it on the counter, and then I heard the most blood-curdling scream I’ve ever heard in my life, thank God! She had opened the can to find a live mouse still swimming in the grease!! Me, being the horrible friend I am, burst out laughing (as soon as my heart stopped pounding)! LOL

    Kristy @ Shona Skye Creations

    • Hi Kristy!!
      Wow- that is gross! I think I would have laughed too, but I can’t imagine how scary that must have been!!


  19. I keep my exterminator on speed dial! I don’t do well with bugs- especially the dessert bugs like we have here in AZ.

  20. This is by far my funniest pest story. It involves a skunk! If you read it all the way through, I promise you will get a good laugh in for the day. ๐Ÿ˜‰

    • Oh I am excited to read it Liz! I almost ran over a skunk the other day on the road and the underside of my car still smells gah :)


  21. Living in Arizona our pests are of a different nature. We recently moved and I have done battle with 3 bark scorpions in our home. They are not to be messed with. Pesticide spray does not kill them so we finally called in an exterminator~ a cost that is truly worth it for piece of mind.

  22. Beth McDonald says:

    We’ve lived in our current home for 16yrs. Shortly after moving in, my sleepy husband went to use the downstairs bathroom at 5am and had to do several double takes when he looked down to see a squirrel in the toilet. Fortunately the lid had been closed and the critter wasn’t alive any longer or the situation may not have been so funny. Also had a couple of small frogs in our upstairs bathroom. Those were my “finds” and still give me heebie-jeebies!! Screens are a good thing, just have to keep checking them through the years to make sure they haven’t been pried open.

  23. these are some great tips!

    we have a regular “bug man” come & spray our house once a month. you’re right about older homes – our’s is almost 100 years old & bugs like it here! LOL i guess they feel comfortable.

    when i was single i lived in a great but very old apartment. i’ll never forget falling alseep on the carpet under my Christmas tree & when i woke up there were 2 little mice just looking at me about 2 feet away. i about died! ๐Ÿ˜‰ – they were cute, tho.

    • LOL Kellie!! When we had our mice problem I was sad when we would catch one and it would be dead. They were so cute. But it was so nice to not have them anymore. Gah.

      Have a great day my friend!!


  24. Painted Prairie says:

    I’ve had a mouse steal my toothbrush !! EWWW, GROSS!! It had to take it from the top drawer in the bathroom, up over the side of the drawer and drop it to the bottom of the cabinet and then tried and tried to pull it through the holes in a basket. Didn’t succeed or I never would’ve figured out what happened to it!!

  25. Just this week I went into my garage to grab something and a mouse (rat?) jumped up in our trash can. Blech!! I almost peed my pants. Thanks for sharing this Jen! xo

    • That would have given me a heart attack lol. I remember when we lived in Michigan we had raccoons that liked to hang out in our trash cans there. So funny!!


  26. Thanks for sharing. A few years back we had some mice friends and I was MORTIFIED! We called in the pros to help us too. The key is definitely to be proactive and stay on top of it!

    • I agree!! We tried to get rid of them ourselves and it was just too hard. And when we called in the pros we found out how they were getting in. Otherwise we might be still fighting them. Gah – that’s a scary thought lol.


  27. good post Jen – my hubby has his own pest control biz and the little critters are something no one ever wants to talk about, but we all deal with at one time or another!

  28. About ten years ago I surprised my husband with a weekend away for our anniversary. We had a pet rabbit at the time, that we boarded, so our finished basement was _fortunately_ empty while we were gone. We came back, and I went downstairs to sort our laundry to find a perfectly straight line of winged insects marching across our basement floor, towards the only window. I freaked out and sprayed spray all over them and killed them all. But we called the exterminator anyway, it turns out that a neighbor had termites so badly that they’d swarmed and formed a second queen. Our house had the perfect trifecta of hot water heat/wood frame/wood mulch that screamed “come live here!” to them. So we treated our house, the bunny got an extended vacation, and we never forget the year it was treated because it was a cap to our fifth wedding anniversary weekend. ๐Ÿ˜‰

    • Oh my goodness – you are so lucky you caught that early. I have heard that termites are so hard to get rid of. So glad your bunny was ok too :)