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How to Reduce the Risk of Damage from Vermin

The wooden floors in your dining room seem to be buckling, and the room smells a little like mold. Just some minor water damage, right? No big deal. You can call an expert next week, after that big conference is over.

Well, sure, that could be the case, but buckling floors and the smell of mold are also signs of a full-blown termite infestation, which are often not detected until the house’s structural stability is compromised. So you’ll have to move out and sink serious money into repair costs. While your home insurance policy may cover damage that vermin indirectly caused—like a kitchen fire started because mice chewed through some wiring—it won’t cover extermination or damage the pests directly caused. That’s because home insurance is meant to respond to sudden and accidental situations, like fire or theft, and not perils that can be prevented with home maintenance.

Termites are drawn to humid places, such as air conditioning units, leaky pipes and broken roof tiles. To make sure they don’t use these places as entryways into your home, repair any damage as soon as you notice it, and dehumidify damp areas. For the air conditioning unit, make sure the moisture release is directed away from the foundations of your home. Direct sprinklers away from the foundation as well, and ensure downspouts point away from the house.

Attics are another favourite hangout for termites, especially if there are plenty of unfinished wooden beams they can snack on. To minimize risk there, use plastic bins instead of cardboard boxes for storage, and regularly check for signs of termite damage in the wood. You can do this by pressing a finger against the beams, and if they feel spongy, call an exterminator right away.

Of course, termites aren’t the only pests out there. Rodents can carry diseases, and can also damage a houses’ structural integrity. To reduce the risk that mice and rats will make your home their home, the Centers for Disease Control recommend you seal up any holes around the house (around pipes, fireplaces and ventilation systems, for example) with steel wool and caulking, or sheet metal.

You should also trap rodents with snap traps: if you use glue traps, they may become frightened and urinate all over the floor, which increases the risk you’ll be exposed to disease.

It’s also important to properly store your food—and garbage—so it doesn’t attract rodents. Use thick plastic or metal containers with fitted lids, keep cooking areas clean, frequently wash garbage cans with soap and water, and don’t leave pet food out overnight.

Blocking entry points to your house and cleaning up after each meal also reduces the risk ants, cockroaches and other pests will invade. Also ensure your carefully inspect new objects your bring into the house, such as clothing, furniture and packaging, to make sure they’re pest-free. Keep an eye out for chewing and grazing, don’t forget to check seams, pockets and drawers.

To estimate your insurance costs, get a home insurance quote

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Flickr: Vlastimil Koutecky