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A lagre rat approaching a miniature house, the house is wrapped in a scarf

Winter Rat Infestations: How to Keep Your Home Rodent-Free

Winter is a time when rats seek shelter from the cold weather, making homes and businesses vulnerable to infestations. Here are a few tips and methods to protect your home from rat infestations during the colder months.

Understanding the Risks

During the winter season, the risk of rat infestations in homes and businesses increases significantly. Rats seek shelter from the cold weather and are attracted to the warmth and abundance of food found inside houses. Rats and mice can not only cause damage to your property, but also pose health risks due to their droppings and the diseases they carry.

Rat infestations can lead to contaminated food, damaged electrical wiring or water pipes, and structural issues in your home. This is why it’s crucial to understand the risks associated with rodent infestations, and then take proactive measures to stop rats from cozying up in your home in the winter!


Identifying Common Entry Points for Rats

To effectively prevent winter rat infestations, it’s important to identify the common entry points that rats use to gain access to your home or business premises. Adult rats can squeeze through just a 1.5cm gap, and juvenile rats even smaller, so it’s essential to thoroughly inspect your property for any cracks, gaps, or holes. Common entry points include gaps around pipes, vents, and utility lines, as well as damaged doors and windows. By spotting these entry points early, you can take the necessary steps to seal them off and prevent rats from entering your home.

Case Study: Rat Tape in Pest Proofing

Sealing Cracks and Gaps to Prevent Rat Intrusions

So what’s the best way of sealing cracks and gaps in your home against rat intrusions? Use caulk or weatherstripping to seal gaps around doors and windows. If you haven’t already got a sweep or brush strip for your door, now’s a good time to install them as they’ll not only block off any small gaps but also save money on your heating bills!

Additionally, you should seal any holes or cracks in the walls, floors, and foundation using materials like steel wool, mastic or wire mesh. Metex Rat Tape is especially handy for proofing gaps and cracks, as it has a stainless steel mesh core between two layers of sticky butyl tape and will stick to most clean & dry materials including wood, brick, concrete or metal. During cold weather, gently heating the rat proofing tape with e.g. a hair dryer will help make it more flexible and stick better. Pay special attention to areas where pipes and cables enter your home, as rats can easily squeeze through these spaces. Here’s a example of a proofing job using Rat Tape to proof gaps around pipes!

glass food storage jars on a shelf

Food Storage and Waste Management

Rats are attracted to food sources, so paying attention to proper food storage and waste management is important in preventing infestations. Store food in airtight containers made of metal or glass, as rats can easily chew through plastic or cardboard. Keep your kitchen clean and free of crumbs, and avoid leaving pet food out overnight.

Dispose of household waste properly by keeping it in sealed bins and regularly emptying them. Avoid leaving bags of rubbish outside for extended periods, as they can attract rats to your property! And if you have a compost heap, avoid leaving food waste in it as it can attract rats to your home.


Protecting the Drains

Proofing the drains is another crucial but often missed step in preventing rats from entering your home. They may not seem like it, but rats are excellent swimmers, can hold their breath for 3 minutes and tread water for 3 days! They can also easily navigate through the sewer system and find their way into your house through the drains – often by climbing out of the toilet or chewing their way through the flexible toilet pan connector.

To prevent this, it’s important to install a rat blocker (aka a rat flap) into your main drainage inspection chamber to protect all branches upstream. (If you live in terraced housing, install the rat valve into the outlet leading into your home so as not to affect neighbours.) A rat blocker is a one-way valve which allows waste to flow through, while preventing rats from climbing upstream. Please note that a non-return valve designed for flood prevention will not protect sufficiently against rats, as they are often made of plastic and rats can easily chew their way through them! Our Ratwall and Nordisk rat blockers are made of acid-resistant stainless steel and are both solid choices for rat-proofing your drains. The Metex Nordisk rat blockers are also the only rat blockers to achieve Water Research Centre (WRc) Approval in the UK and stringent VA Approval issued by the Danish certification body, ETA-Denmark, and inspected by the Danish Technological Institute. This guide will help you find the right rat blocker for proofing your drains against rats.

Nordisk rat blocker installation user images

Additionally, you should regularly inspect and clean your drains to ensure there are no blockages or debris that can attract rats. By taking these precautions, you can effectively proof your drains and minimize the risk of rats invading your home in the winter months. Remember, it’s always better to be proactive and prevent infestations rather than dealing with the (often expensive) consequences later on. So remember to include drain proofing in your winter rat prevention plans!

Don’t Forget the Garden

You’ve proofed your home, but don’t forget about your garden! Garden waste, weeds and bushes can provide rats hiding places and nesting sites. Overhanging branches or vines also offer a convenient route for rats to climb into your home and access your loft space. To proof your garden against rats in the winter, remember to clear away weeds and trim bushes and branches away from the walls. Rats also need a consistent water source as they need to drink water every day, so tidy away any hoses, plant pots or watering cans sitting outside, and deal with any dripping outdoor taps.

garden hose winter

Bird feeders can be a food source for rats, so make sure they’re well above ground level. Ideally you should use rat-proof bird feeders, and clear away any spillage and debris from the ground under them before dusk. Pet food also attracts rats and mice, so if you keep pet food outside, make sure it’s in airtight containers above the ground.

Stacks of firewood are also tempting hiding places for rodents. If you’re storing firewood outside, make sure it’s kept away from your house and elevated off the ground.

Knowing when to Call the Pros

These DIY rodent proofing measures will help you protect your home against a rat infestation in the winter, but if you’re unsure or suspect you already have an infestation, it’s best to contact a professional pest controller for assistance. If you notice signs like droppings, urine stains or smell of urine, gnawing marks, or scratching noises in the walls, attic or loft, it’s best to let a professional pest controller handle it.