Squirrels get into the attic from the exterior of the house either through an existing hole or by chewing through rotting wood and flimsy soffits. The animals usually break into the attic to breed. These spaces are isolated, safe and warm making them very attractive to wildlife if they can find a way in. Unfortunately, squirrels in Canada cause extensive damage, especially for their size.
Chew Wood: squirrels need to keep their teeth sharp. They also have to trim them occasionally to prevent them from growing too long. Chewing wood offers a solution to both problems and this may include your wood roof slats, wood trim and support beams. A large squirrel infestation can compromise the integrity of your home given sufficient time.
Expose Electrical Wires: just like chewing on wood, these critters seem to like the texture of electrical wires. This is an obvious safety concern and can lead to power outages, short circuits and even house fires.
Debris: squirrels make their nests using all kinds of material. Most of these include leaves and other organic debris. The animals also use man-made materials such as pieces of paper, clothes and insulation. A lot of this nesting material is flammable and combine this with the exposed wires and it is a fire waiting to happen.
Feces and Urine: it is only natural that the animals have to pass urine and feces and these can add up over time. This pile can result in an overwhelming odour spread around the house via the HVAC system.
Destroy Piping: it is not uncommon for squirrels to chew through PVC pipes. The moisture will eventually destroy the wood structure. Pools of water and exposed wires are also not a good combination to have in the attic.
Diseases: this isn’t exactly attic damage but is worth taking seriously. Squirrels spread all kinds of diseases including tularemia, leptospirosis, salmonellosis, rabies, fleas, ticks and mites.
If you have seen or heard the signs of squirrels in your attic then you can be sure that they are running amok and causing damage in there. Squirrels won’t just nest quietly in a warm dark corner of the attic but will chew, scratch and contaminate incessantly until you evict the critters.
Some of the signs of squirrels in your attic include;
- Chewing, rustling and scratching sounds in the attic usually in the early morning or late evening
- Encountering droppings or the odour of wildlife droppings
- Partially eaten plants, uprooted bulbs, holes in the yard and destroyed bird feeder
- Damage on the vents, soffits, siding and other damage to the exterior of the home especially near the attic
You need to remove the squirrels as soon as you are aware of their presence. This damage can become serious and potentially hazardous if left unchecked.
Why Do Squirrels Chew on Wood?
Squirrels will chew on anything they can get their teeth on— acorns, metal soffits, even wood structures and roof vents. The fact of the matter is, as long as squirrels exist, they will be constantly chewing on something. And that includes wood.
Squirrels’ teeth constantly grow
In fact, if left to grow without proper trimming, squirrels’ teeth can overgrow, causing death. Naturally, their teeth grow upwards forming a curl. Once this happens, it is often too late as a squirrel won’t be able to chew anymore due to the deformed shape.
So while a squirrel can chew through many materials, it will often pick materials that are easy to chew, while still offering enough resistance to trim their teeth. And wood is a perfect material for their teeth, since it is abundant in many households in Ontario.
Squirrels also chew on wood to build nests. They will take this chewed wood, along with other materials along your house, to provide warmth and comfort for their babies. The other problem besides obvious wood damage this can cause is if a squirrel builds a nest inside your home.
In order to prevent this, it is important to take action immediately to limit costs of repair and further possible damage from squirrel infestation.
Wood is an obstacle
They will also chew on wood in order to get to a desired location, like your attic. Since attics provide warmth and comfort from the harsh elements, they will often use wood as a means of entry inside your home.
Many squirrels invade homes by chewing through wood, so it is important to reinforce your wood or check for vulnerabilities in the wood’s structure to prevent squirrel infestation from happening.
Types of Damage Squirrels Cause in the Attic
Squirrels are indiscriminate and won’t just rip or destroy what they want to use. They will easily rip, scratch, gnaw and tear apart things that have no practical value to them such as nesting material. Some of the damage that you can expect in the attic in the event of a squirrel invasion includes;
Chewed Electrical Wires
This is some of the more serious and potentially hazardous damage. Squirrels need to chew constantly to keep their teeth from growing too long and to sharpen them. Rodent teeth continue to grow lengthwise for their entire lifespan. Squirrels seem to like to chew on electrical wires which may have something to do with the texture. Exposed live wires in your attic are a serious risk especially considering that there is flammable material up there like insulation. The squirrels can also easily cause short-circuits and power interruptions.
Again, squirrels will gnaw on wood to keep their teeth in check but some of this gnawing has practical utility. Wood damage caused by squirrels typically starts from the outside-in. The rodents will chew on wood trim or wood roof slats to create their entrance into the attic. Once inside they will begin to chew on the wood beams and any other such surfaces that they find. Although rare, a serious and prolonged squirrel infestation can cause structural issues.
Although some squirrels will bring nesting materials from outside including twigs, leaves and moss, others will make use of what is available in the immediate vicinity. This means pieces of cloth, cardboard, newspapers and of course your insulation. The squirrels will continue to tear out large chunks of your insulation to build their nests.
The damaged insulation comes with energy efficiency issues. You may need to replace the insulation once the animals have been evicted.
Squirrels tend to designate an area where they pee and poop and this waste accumulates over time. There is a strong odour that comes with this but there is a more serious problem. Squirrel waste is hazardous and contains parasites, bacteria and viruses some of which can be inhaled.
The HVAC system can spread these pathogens all around the house. Squirrels spread a variety of diseases including plague, Lyme disease, Salmonellosis, tularemia and rabies among others.
How Do You Get Rid of a Squirrel Infestation?
If a squirrel has invaded your home, it may not be too late. The first thing that you may want to consider using is a squirrel trap. Since there are laws protecting squirrels in Toronto, you need to make sure the trap you select is humane. You can also try a repellant as a second option.dwss
You should use a live bait trap, placing seeds or peanut butter as a lure. Place the trap near the infestation site inside or outside your home. If the squirrel invaded your home through a hole, place it about one metre from the hole.
Don’t use your hands, as getting into contact with squirrels can be deadly and you may get hurt. Check the live trap at least once a day, making sure that it’s still in operation and the food source is intact.
If you do catch a squirrel, remember that it is illegal to transport trapped squirrels for more than one kilometre. You can release the squirrel outside near the location where you trapped it. Or, if you want to take the safest option, call a wildlife professional to take care of the squirrel for you.
Another alternative is to buy or make your own repellant. You can make your own hot pepper repellant or buy a chemical repellant that mimics the predator’s urine. Spray the area of infestation if you are able to access it.
This can remove squirrels, however if a squirrel has already made a nest it can be difficult to remove it from its home. Also, if a squirrel has invaded your home in a hard-to-reach area, applying the spray can be an impossible task.
Hire a Professional to Repair Attic Damage
You should only repair attic damage once the squirrels have been evicted successfully. Only a squirrel removal expert in Toronto can guarantee that the squirrels are removed safely and permanently. The expert is also responsible for disinfecting after the eviction and for the attic repairs that may be required.
The main reason why you should hire an expert to repair attic damage caused by squirrels is for your own safety. Being in the enclosed and poorly ventilated space in close proximity to pathogens and bacteria is a recipe for contracting serious and even fatal diseases and ailments. There is also the risk of falling through especially if the attic floor isn’t properly reinforced.
It is not always necessary to replace the insulation. This is, however, a judgment best left to an expert. It may be possible to replace the insulation partially or simply repair the existing insulation.
Finally, there is little chance that you will be able to seal all the holes that squirrels and other wildlife may use to get in the attic in future. These critters can fit through a gap 1 ½ inches wide. Only an expert’s keen and experienced eye will be able to spot all the potential entry points. Insist on a warranty for the service before signing the contract.
Article Updated: May 6, 2020