May 25, 2018
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Sometimes you have to seal entrances to keep undesirable neighbors outside

By Tom Gocze, BDN Staff

Most of us pay for the place we live. And almost all of us have freeloaders who don’t pay. I do not mean children who have landed home after college since you can usually get rid of them easily. (Putting on Lawrence Welk or a TV preacher helps here.)

I am referring to varmints. They get into a lot of places that seem impenetrable. The bigger the building is, the harder it can be to keep rats and mice out.

The simple solution is to put out a trap. That works well. It also means that you must dispose of a dead rodent whenever the trap works. A dead, sometimes bloody rodent.

There are also sticky traps. These are strips of highly sticky adhesive that the rodent gets stuck to and cannot escape. That doesn’t seem very humane and seems like a slow death for an undesirable creature that at very least deserves a quick demise.

Yet another popular way of disposing of rodents is poison. Poison works well. It usually sends the rodent out of the building in search of water, where it dies.

But sometimes it does not make it out of the building. That is when it dies in the walls or ceilings or basement. Then the smell of death occurs in your building.

That’s fun!

I usually try poison and then remember why I shouldn’t use it once the smell starts.

The real solution is to try to find the access points and seal them up. Sometimes it is rotted areas, but it is usually cracks in sills and walls that are the entry points.

Varmints are amazingly agile in squeezing through these openings. A mouse can gain entry into your home through a quarter-inch crack.

This all seems like another good reason for a blower door energy audit.

There also are nonmammalian critters that like our homes. I have gotten more phone calls than I would like to think about from people who have snakes in their basements.

This is like a B-grade horror movie. When the snakes show up in my basement is when I go running upstairs.

The good news is that we have no poisonous snakes in Maine. The bad news is that this is something that freaks me out. I can deal with all kinds of bugs, backed-up sewers, filth from people who should know better. That all washes off.

But you all know snakes are reptiles and reptiles are evil.

The concept of having them intruding into the basement is a tough one.

Now to save some of my male ego, I would don a pair of heavy gloves and put on some boots and get them out of the basement. But I would not like it.

The last nasty that I have dealt with is bats, yet another of God’s creatures that I admire, but from afar. And I do not want to live with them either.

We lived in two different homes in Bangor. And both of these houses had bats.

Granted, the first house had turrets and that draws bats. We never got rid of them.

Our second home in Bangor was a regal lumber baron’s home. It had bats everywhere. They were crawling in the walls. There were bat skeletons in the attic. And every so often they came into the den to say “HOWDY” on a Saturday night.

I would yell upstairs to my wife and the kids, “Close the doors, there’s a bat!”

Then the fun would ensue.

My usual routine was to catch the bat with a five-gallon bucket and a piece of foam insulation for a cover. I was very adept at catching them. They would then be taken for a ride in the country.

The most exciting night with my bat friends was the night I thought I should chase them out of the house rather than risk harming them by capturing them. And I thought it would be easier.

I took the one-square-foot foam cover and shooed the bat from the den through the dining room into the kitchen.

Once we got in the kitchen, I closed the dining room door and opened the kitchen door to the outside.

We then spent 10 minutes chasing each other around the kitchen. At two different times, the bat flew in between my legs.

I eventually got it outside. Then I found out that bats go back into the house through the holes in the eaves that they usually come in through.

Five years and a lot of cans of foam, fiberglass and caulk later, I conquered the bats by sealing every hole that they could enter.

And that is the secret.

Questions for Tom Gocze should be mailed to The Home Page, Bangor Daily News, P.O. Box 1329, Bangor 04402-1329. A library of reference material and a home-project blog are at

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