Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Don't let a mouse live in your house

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A lot of homeowners might be starting to notice some unwanted guests. No, not the in-laws. I'm talking about pests, and mice in particular.

Cold weather drives most animals and insects to find warmth, which could lead them straight to your house. And if they find a food source, they're moving in.

What are the signs you have mice? Mouse droppings. Little bits of chewed-up food packages. You might also be able to hear them in your walls or ceiling. They lurk in the cellar, the garage, pantry, kitchen -- and even bedrooms.

It takes just one mouse to make most people feel uncomfortable in their homes. And I don't blame them.

Mice are known to carry diseases, bacteria, viruses and parasites. Breathing in small particles from their droppings, urine, saliva or nesting materials can make you sick. The particles can get into the air when you sweep or vacuum so spray any area where mice have been with a disinfectant, before you sweep or vacuum, to help keep the particles from flying around. Remember to wear a disposable mask and gloves.

Mice can also contaminate surfaces in your home with their saliva or urine, which is almost impossible to detect. Next thing you know you could be drinking from a pop can that has mouse urine on the lid.

Some people might think that a couple of mice isn't a big deal. But two mice in your home can do a lot of damage. In just six months, two mice can eat four pounds of food and leave 18,000 droppings. Plus, mice multiply fast. One female can have five-to-10 litters of about five or six mice a year. Then those mice can start reproducing after only 30 days. Within three months six mice can multiply into 60. So if you've found one, there are probably more.

The worst part is the risk of contamination. Mice contaminate about 10 times more food than they eat.

These rodents are also destructive. They can chew through electrical wires and cause an electrical fire. They've been known to destroy rigid foam and fiberglass batt insulation. They can also gnaw through any wood in your home, including furniture, trim, cabinets, doors and even your home's structure. Repairing all the damage they cause can be very expensive. And if you're thinking of selling your home, a pest problem is usually a deal breaker.

So how do you get rid of them?

I've heard of people using electrical devices that emit sound to get rid of mice. They usually don't work. At first such a device might have an effect, but eventually mice get used to it.

Poisons aren't always effective either. Plus, it's a risk if you have pets; they could eat the poison or a poisoned dead mouse. When mice are poisoned they usually die somewhere inaccessible, like in a wall. It won't be long before you start to notice a foul smell. And then you have a new problem -- how are you going to get a dead mouse out of your wall?

If you're serious about getting rid of these critters for good, you need to call a professional. You don't want to risk an infestation.

An experienced pest control professional can find where the mice are coming in. They'll check for cracks and spaces around vents, wires, pipes, windows and doors. Then they'll block their entry with mesh wiring, wood or spray foam insulation, or both.

Next, clean your house -- including the garage and basement. Get rid of any clutter and trash. Mice love messy places, which make it easy for them to hide and nest. Store all food sources in sealed containers, including pet food.

To help stop mice from coming in, place weatherstripping around your doors; as a bonus, this will also increase energy efficiency. If your house has a chimney, get a chimney cap installed. Keep compost far from your home. Also move any firewood or mulch from around your home's exterior. These are excellent places for mice to hide in.

All mice need is a little crack in a wall or foundation to get in. A sealed home is the only way to stop the problem. It's also the most effective and humane. So check your home annually for cracks where mice can sneak in.

Catch Mike Holmes in his new series, Holmes Makes It Right, Tuesdays at 9 p.m. on HGTV. For more information, visit hgtv.ca. For more information on home renovations, visit makeitright.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition January 12, 2013 F17

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