Q: We live on a cul-de-sac on a wooded lot with a creek, and love the country living. There are families of deer, coyote, fox, beaver and all sorts of birds. The problem? Squirrels. One year, they ate through the top of a new sofa on our front veranda. They devour fresh pumpkins (so much for fall decorating) and routinely dig up and redistribute my bulbs. Recently, my husband installed new screens and a new ceiling to the screened porch on the back of our house, giving it a finished, beachy, outdoor-family-room feel (an idea we picked up from one of your columns). We discovered this week that a squirrel ripped through one of the screens (again) and clawed or chewed its way into the ceiling. Our son caught it bringing in nesting materials and chased it out, but it keeps returning. What can we do to keep squirrels from tearing our screens and destroying our porch ceiling?
A: The easiest solution is to call a pest-control company to assess the situation and figure out remedies — physical changes to block the squirrels’ entry, not just trapping, which is a temporary fix at best.
Companies that work in Howard County and surrounding areas include Adcock’s Trapping Service (800-486-0341) and Animal Control Solutions (410-567-5440). Adcock’s charges $375 to trap the squirrels and recommend changes. That fee covers however many return visits (usually five to seven) a job requires. The company usually captures squirrels live and releases them in parks at least 10 to 15 miles from the house, said Michele Adcock, part of the family that owns the business. Animal Control Solutions charges $199 and usually uses one-way doors that allow squirrels to leave a house but block them from returning.
You might want to wait for nesting season to conclude, though, to make sure babies aren’t left behind to die and rot, creating a terrible stink that permeates into your house. Sometimes it’s possible to trap a mother and then go into the attic to remove the babies, but if there is no good access, you’re better off waiting. Mike Hurley, owner of Animal Control Solutions, says homeowners can usually tell when the babies are old enough to make foraging trips out during the day because the noise in the attic will pick up. Instead of hearing one squirrel, you’ll hear several. Weather plays a role, but one nesting season usually runs from early February through the middle of March, and a second season goes from mid-August to the end of September.
Both companies recommend steps that should keep squirrels from returning. Frequently, this includes installing aluminum covers over fascia boards (at the base of the roof, behind gutters) and adding hardware cloth, a stiffer type of screening, to vents and ventilation openings where squirrels have chewed through flimsier insect screens. You can do the work yourself or hire someone else. But if you hire the pest-control company for this work, which isn’t included in either company’s base price, you get a guarantee that covers return visits if squirrels return. For Adcock’s, this is good for five years; with Animal Control, it’s one to three years, depending on the work. Both companies said the cost of these repairs usually runs from under $100 to several hundred dollars, depending on the situation.
For your specific situation, Hurley suggests installing plexiglass over the surface where the squirrels are getting to your screens. Plexiglass is tough and slick, and because it is clear, it won’t be very noticeable. “A squirrel has to have framing to run down,” he said. “If you coat the beam they’re running down with plexiglass, it will prevent their claws from digging in.”
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The Checklist Read Jeanne Huber’s roundup of home-improvement tasks you should tackle in February, such as exploring renovation tax credits.