If there’s one room in the house most homeowners give little thought to, it’s probably the attic. When it’s too small to use as a bedroom, it’s used as long-term storage space for seasonal clothes, sports equipment, childhood memorabilia, and other things that often takes us years to throw away like old furniture, toys, and books. Weeks, maybe even months, could go by before someone else visits the attic, which explains why it often becomes a nesting ground for pests — rodents in particular.
Rodents’ Love Affair with Attics
Rodents are America’s biggest home pest concern. A representative from the National Pest Management Association adds that they are very adept at surviving, hence their propensity for entering households and residing in attics where they thrive with little disturbance.
Attics are attractive to mice and rats because they provide shelter and protection from the elements. The insulating material, cords, and pipes that often line an attic further create conducive living conditions for rodents. They can burrow through insulation foam, build nests for their young, gather and stockpile food without being interrupted by preying animals or humans.
Unfortunately, many homeowners don’t realize that they have rodents in the attic until it’s too late. It’s tough dealing with pests when they’ve taken up residence in your home for a long time or already multiplied.
A few crucial facts about rodents:
- Female mice can have 12 litters of three to 12 pups per year.
- Female rats can have eight litters of two to 14 pups per year.
- The gestation period for mice is 18 days; 21 days for rats.
- Rodents’ life span is between nine to 18 months.
Given these, it’s crucial to eliminate rodents from your roof as quickly as possible.
Signs of a Rodent Infestation in the Attic
Rodents are pretty good at staying out of sight, but they leave distinctive trails. Observe your surroundings and watch out for the following:
- Scurrying noises on the roof and inside the walls (especially at night, since rats and mice are nocturnal creatures).
- Inexplicable crumbs and wood chips or stuffing on floor corners and inside pantry cabinets and utility closets.
- Growing holes in the walls, particularly at the corners of the crown and floor moldings.
- Gnaw marks on wood surfaces.
- Gnaw marks on food packs and carton boxes.
- Visible grease marks (house mice have oily fur from burrowing through all kinds of filthy holes and surfaces).
- Expanding gaps between the molding panels and the floor or wall.
- Dark brown or black grains about a quarter to 3/4 of an inch long (mice and rat droppings) litter the exposed upper shelves and utility closets.
- The attic becomes increasingly drafty.
- A musty, pungent smell permeates the entire house.
Ignoring these signs can result in substantial damage to your attic, and probably elsewhere in your home.
Kinds of Damage Caused by Rodents
Rodents’ claws and teeth may be tiny, but they are sharp and strong enough to go through pretty much everything except for glass and metals. They can chew on:
- aluminum siding
- frozen ground
Seeing as these are the very materials houses are made of, it would make sense to say that no home is rodent infestation-proof. These creatures can inflict all kinds of structural damage, but let’s focus first on what they can do to attics.
- Destroy insulation panels – Rodents are notorious for creating nests. Unfortunately for homeowners, loose-fill and batt insulation are perfect nesting materials. They’re often the first casualties in attics with exposed insulation panels, as a result. Rats tear the material apart to assemble nests for their pups. Meanwhile, mice tend to burrow and form tunnels within the insulation panels.
- Gnaw holes in the rafters – The structural damage in attics stems from rodents’ determination to go through the tiniest holes to enter a house. It doesn’t matter if an entrance is too tiny; they will just keep chewing on the wood or plaster until they can fit through the hole. They also do the same to get past the attic and explore other areas of the building to search for food.
- Filthy stains – As mentioned earlier, rats and most species of house mice have furry or hairy underbellies that accumulate grease and filth as they travel. These stains are an eyesore and could be a problem when it’s time to sell the house. These marks are a dead giveaway that the house is prone to rodent infestation — a red flag that savvy house buyers are sure to catch.
- Damaged soffits and fascia – Apart from the insulation panels, the tiny, cozy space created by the soffit and fascia is also a haven for rodents. In the absence of insulated rafters and floors, rodents might gnaw their way into these spaces to build their nests. Their prolonged presence would inevitably result in debris, feces, and urine residue buildup. Soffits and fascias are made of wood, which can deteriorate rapidly with constant exposure to fecal matter and rodent activity.
- Cut electrical wiring – Rodents chew on wires with just as much gusto as anything else they can sink their teeth into. The damage may not be structural, but it is potentially deadly. Damaged electrical wiring can cause connected appliances to short-circuit or generate heat in areas where thermal energy shouldn’t be. Once rodents start chewing on wires, a house’s fire risk increases substantially.
Any of these can give a homeowner a massive headache. The problems don’t end with these five, however. Each of them can lead to more attic damage and other issues that could put residents’ health at risk.
Imagine how things would be after an attic is overrun by rodents:
The insulation panels would be in shambles. The wooden rafters, soffits, and fascias would be gnawed in many places, their structural integrity getting weaker the bigger and more numerous the holes become. Rubber-coated cables would be chipped in random places, the copper strands exposed if not completely cut.
Homeowners can expect that other structural and health problems will emerge from this scenario:
- Faulty gutters – Gutter systems are often mounted next to the fascias of the roof. Fascia boards weakened by structural damage, and moisture could give way under the weight of PVC pipes, leaf grates, and mounting brackets. Another scenario could be chunks of rotting fascia that would fall in and clog gutter lines. It can happen with exposed, half-round gutters with a drip edge that’s screwed directly onto the fascia board.
- Water damage – Leaky gutters can let water seep into the rafters and eaves, adding water damage to the structural problems of an attic. A host of other issues could follow this:
- Mold and mildew growth
- Discoloration on the interior walls and the ceiling of the floor below
- Compromised roof integrity
- Ineffective home insulation – The R-value of a house’s insulation system deteriorates the moment rodents make themselves at home in an insulated attic. Insulating material must be seamless to be effective. Gaps in blanket insulation or loose-fill insulation become leak points through which hot air can escape. Air leaks can add 10-20% to your annual heating and cooling bills (the US Department of Energy estimates this to be around $83-166).
- More pests – A rodent colony inside a house can attract a specific type of predatory pest: snakes. These slithering creatures have an uncanny knack for tracking rodents’ nests, and they can do it right under people’s noses. In fact, many homeowners report finding snakes curled up in the crevices of heat-generating appliances like old refrigerators, boiler tanks, and spin dryers, oblivious to their surroundings after eating their fill. Snakes might be useful in eliminating rodents, but they’re not the kind of help people should want to get.
Other pests like roaches, woodlice, and termites could also make their way inside a home thanks to the holes and burrows rodents create.
- Poor air quality – The smell of rodent excrement and mold growth are distracting at best and a health risk at worst. Feces and urine can contaminate the air as rodents have no compunction where and when they will defecate. Mold growth, meanwhile, can trigger respiratory illnesses, especially among infants. People who don’t have a family history of asthma, pneumonia, or other respiratory diseases can become vulnerable to them with enough prolonged exposure to poor–quality air.
A PSA for Insulate Kansas City Customers
It’s remarkable how such tiny creatures can cause so much damage to a house and put human lives at risk. We hope to increase people’s awareness about the possible effects of rodent infestation mainly because these pests compromise home insulation — a major concern for us given that we provide and install home insulation materials.
Insulate Kansas City delivers quality products and services, and we want our customers to experience their full benefits. A rodent problem will no doubt get in the way of that. Moreover, the structural damage rodents can do to an attic (and an entire house for that matter) can be extensive and expensive.
Avoid having to spend for premature insulation replacement and structural repairs; bear in mind the signs of a rodent infestation and eliminate the pests before they can do the kinds of damage listed in this article. But, if rodents have gotten into the insulation in your attic, contact Insulate Kansas City. We’ll immediately work on restoring the insulation in your roof.