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Keep historic and older homes safe from rodents

Historic and older homes certainly have charming qualities. However, oftentimes the architectural elements that make these homes so unique, are also the most expensive to restore and maintain. This is an important factor to consider when it comes to preventing rodents and other pests from invading and potentially damaging your home.

Postponing needed repairs or renovations can sometimes result in unforeseen pest issues. Ensuring your home is sealed up tight and well-maintained will help you avoid damage caused by rodents and other pests and allow you to enjoy its historic charm for years to come.

Grand and elegant yellow entrance to a home with wood floors and a staircase to the right of the wooden front door.

Why rodents keep coming back

Any structure can become a home to a rodent; however, when it comes to older homes, history repeats itself. Neighborhoods with older homes tend to have generations of thriving rodent colonies that continue to populate and infest the same neighborhoods. These rodents know where to hide, which routes to take, and how to successfully avoid traps and baits. They have learned from their parents, making it extremely difficult to eradicate an infestation using DIY methods. Unless the entire colony is removed, the problem will persist.

Day-to-day prevention efforts such as inspecting the exterior of your home for signs of rodent activity and addressing any new gaps, holes, or cracks, can make a big difference in keeping rodent populations in check. You may also consider getting the opinion of a professional pest control provider who understands the changing behaviors of rodents.

Rat looking down while on top of wooden plank.

Why don’t rodents stay outside?

When outside temperatures begin to drop, and food and water sources become more scarce, rodents will seek shelter inside structures and sometimes vehicles. However, if your home is not located in an area that has cold winters, you may be dealing with other factors that drive rodents inside, such as natural disasters, drought, pandemics, and housing or business developments.

According to the U.S. Drought Monitor, 49.59% of the U.S. and 59.3% of the lower 48 states are in a drought, impacting water supplies, agricultural crops, and vegetation. As a result, rodents will seek resources elsewhere.

Even with little vegetation for harborage, mice can live in leaf piles, compost bins, junk piles, etc. Roof rats can nest in untrimmed trees, especially palm trees. Reducing clutter in the yard and maintaining the landscape are key for preventing rodents from living on your property.

If you’ve done all you can to remove easy access to water and food, but you still see signs of rodent activity, they may be getting it elsewhere. Rats will travel over 100 feet and mice up to 30 feet from their shelter to find water and food. Check out the surrounding areas and be aware that water sources may not be obvious. Citrus trees, condensation from air conditioners, and leaking sprinkler systems can provide rodents with the water they need.

Rat eating bread out of a plate

Rodents are natural contortionists

Historic homes can be kept safe from rodents with prevention. Prevent rodents from getting in under doorways by installing rodent-proof door sweeps. And, when sealing up holes, cracks or gaps, use a rodent-proof material and waterproof sealant or caulking for additional protection. Make sure the repaired surface is smooth to deter rodents from gnawing on it.

Mice can easily wiggle their way through a hole the size of a dime and a gap ¼-inch tall. Rats can squeeze through a hole the size of a quarter and a gap ½-inch tall.

EXPERT TIP: Extensive gnawing around the exterior of your attic in the fall may indicate that you have squirrels. Contact a pest professional or wildlife expert for help.

3 rodent control strategies that to keep historic homes safe from rodents

  1. Inspect areas around your home to see where rodents may be traveling. Whether you're dealing with mice or rats, the rodents you’re trying to exterminate have likely lived in the structure or connecting underground sewers for generations. They have the place mapped out and are on high alert. The minute a trap is added to their dwelling, they’ll become suspicious and avoid the area.

  2. Be strategic when placing traps. Avoid placing set traps around a room’s perimeter. Instead, place pre-baited, unset traps near areas where you see signs of activity: greasy rub marks from their fur, urine from territorial marking, and locations that are consistently in the dark. By placing unset traps near high-traffic routes for a minimum of 3 days, rodents will become familiar with them and trust that they are harmless.

  3. Rodent control is not a one-size-fits-all solution. Trying out different bait types, sizes, and textures can prove to be an effective strategy as well as incorporating multiple types of traps (plastic and wood).

Pest Technician wearing uniform and blue gloves places a rodent trap outside of a white brick home.

Risks associated with rodents

There are significant health risks that come with rodent infestations. Through direct contact (bite, urine, dropping, carcass) and indirect contact (cross-contamination of food and surfaces, airborne bacteria and viruses, secondary pests), mice and rats are known to spread over 35 diseases, including hantavirus, lymphocytic choriomeningitis, murine typhus, plague, Leptospirosis, salmonellosis, and rat bite fever.

Besides causing serious risks to your health, rodents can also significantly damage your home. Born with a natural instinct to gnaw on things, rodents will gnaw through electrical wiring – a potential fire hazard. Another damaging behavior is when they burrow under walkways, concrete parking slabs, patios, or porches, resulting in cracking, erosion, and possible collapse.

When to call an expert

Rodent activity extends beyond structural damage and the threat of disease. Living with rodents can cause lasting emotional damage: fear, anxiety, and loss of sleep.

One of the most effective ways to prevent rodents from entering a building is exclusion – essentially sealing it up on the outside. Keeping historic homes safe from rodents can be problematic, especially if cracks, gaps, and holes are ongoing issues. 

That’s when calling in an expert can help. Ehrlich’s rodent control technicians can quickly and effectively take care of your immediate rodent control needs and offer solutions for preventive efforts. Contact us today for more information and a free quote.


As a technical service manager for Rentokil since 2016, Emory currently supports rodents for the US and Canada. Using his knowledge and over 20 years of industry experience, he performs quality assessments, pest identification, data analysis, product evaluations, training, and troubleshooting. He is a regular contributor and subject matter expert for multiple publications. Emory is also a Board Certified Entomologist and holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Biology from Hamline University (St. Paul MN) and his Master of Science in Entomology from University of Minnesota. He is an active member of the Entomological Society of America and the Texas Pest Control Association.

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