Norway Rats vs Roof Rats

Pioneer Pest Management provides exception rodent control for Norways rats and roof rats in Portland OR and Vancouver WA.A horrible, terrible thing has happened: you’ve seen a rat! What now?

First, know that you’re not alone. Millions of Americans wake up to rats or rodents in their homes each year. Rat populations have seen a huge resurgence in the last decade, especially in urban areas along the coast, and we’re here to help! The most important step forward is identifying where the problem is coming from, and what species of rat you’re dealing with. Norway rats and roof rats are typical along the Pacific NW coast, but they are very different species of rats. Let’s take a closer look!

Average Size of Norway Rats vs Roof Rats

If you do see a rat inside your home, try to remember what it looked like. Although it may be difficult to successfully identify a rat without the proper training, there’s a general consensus when comparing Norway rats and Roof rats:

  • Norway rats are darker, larger, and heavier than roof rats. They can be up to 11 inches long, not including the tail.
  • Roof rats are lighter in color, and smaller than the Norway rat. They are typically no more than 7 inches in length, not including the tail.

There’s quite a difference in size! If that difference isn’t immediately apparent, we can move on to an identifying trait that is universally useful: habits!

Habits Matter When Comparing Norway Rats and Roof Rats

Here’s the most important thing to remember when dealing with Norway rats and roof rats: location is everything!

  • Norway rats, also known as brown rats, wharf rats, and sewer rats, love being low to the ground. They want to be in sewers, basements, garages, crawlspaces, and any low point in a structure. This is typically how they gain entry to a space–a low, dark hole that humans are a little less likely to notice.
  • Roof rats, also known as black rats or ship rats, have a pretty obvious name: they love roofs! They want to be high, whether that means crawling across tree branches that hover over a roof, or slipping into an attic. Roof rats aren’t afraid of heights–and they’re on the prowl!

How Does This Help When Controlling Rats?

The best kind of pest control takes into account the species and habits of the pest itself. Integrated Pest Management (IPM) is a great method of pest control, using scientific techniques to solve pest problems without overusing chemicals or ineffective control methods. Simply put: IPM identifies the pest, and uses the pest’s habits against them.

If we know that you have roof rats, we know to focus out control treatments in the attic. We’re not going to waste time trapping your basement or checking out your crawl space–we’re going to the source of the problem and solving it.

Effective Pest Control When Dealing with Norway Rats vs Roof Rats

Now that you know the basics, you’re that much closer toward solving your rat infestation. If you want further professional help with your pest control problem–including other common pests!–give Pioneer Pest Management a call. We’re always here for you!

Foundation Vent Covers – Should you use them on your home?

Should you winterize your homes crawlspace for the winter?

foundation vent covers on homeAs the weather starts turning colder, many homeowners will start to look at the exterior of their home to find ways to save on energy usage by weatherizing faucets, windows and crawlspace vents.  Protecting exterior faucets and sealing gaps in windows and doors is a great way to protect your homes plumbing and save on heating costs, but many homeowners have questions on sealing the exterior vents on their homes foundation.

First before making the decision to seal up those vents, it can be helpful to understand why they’re there in the first place.

Foundation vents, what’s their purpose?

Just as their name suggests, foundation vents provide critical venting to your homes crawlspace.  This venting is important as it ensures moisture is not trapped in a homes crawlspace where it can wreak havoc on the underside of the home.  Excessive moisture in a crawlspace needs to be avoided because it can create the following problems:

  • Can introduce moisture to the structural wood under your home, which can cause rot.
  • Creates a moisture rich environment that some wood destroying pests thrive in, such as: Moisture Ants, and Dampwood Termites.
  • Can saturate the insulation under the homes flooring, which then loses its insulating properties rendering it useless.  In addition, if the insulation backing becomes wet, it will need to be replaced.
  • Moisture can create an environment that mold will thrive in. Molds like the dreaded black mold are an expensive problem for any homeowner to fix.
  • Moisture in a crawlspace can create a musty smell that can travel through your homes HVAC ducting into the homes living space.

Your homes crawlspace, when set up correctly with unobstructed vents, and a vapor barrier that’s in good condition provides an air barrier between your homes structure and the ground.  This air barrier and the venting provides air flow that should consistently keep the ambient moisture in the crawlspace relative to the ambient moisture outside the home.

Should foundation vent covers be used during the winter months?

Understanding the function of your homes foundation vents for the health of your homes crawlspace, many people question if foundation vent covers should be used at all.  Foundation vent covers can be helpful in extreme cold situations, where a home’s underside plumbing is at risk, in these situations, foundation vent plugs can keep fast moving cold air out.  In situations where cold weather is of concern, foundation vent covers can be used, but it’s advisable to only use them a few weeks at a time, removing them to move the old air out for a few days or a week, before replacing them.

Home crawlspace inspections

Every homes crawlspace situation is different.  The above is only provided as a guide to your homes crawlspace, for homeowners that have concerns regarding the overall health of their homes crawlspace area, hiring a reputable crawlspace contractor to do an inspection, can save sometimes thousands of dollars in damage in the future.

Home Vapor Barriers – How to tell if it needs to be replaced

How important is it to replace your vapor barrier once it’s been damaged?

Unfortunately it happens, vapor barriers in homes across Portland and Vancouver get damaged from a whole host of reasons. Wildlife infestations, like Raccoons and Opossums, rodent activity like rats and mice, and even flooded crawlspaces can leave a homeowner wondering how important their homes vapor barrier is, and if it needs to be replaced once one of the above has happened.

Your homes vapor barrier

First, understanding what the purpose of your homes vapor barrier is can be helpful. Your homes vapor barrier is generally a thick plastic sheeting that is placed in your homes crawlspace. In Oregon and Washington, in order for this plastic sheeting to be code, it should be black, and no less than 6mm thick. This sheeting is placed initially when the home is constructed, and covers the entire ground from the foundation walls, to the center leaving no exposed ground. Many times in older homes, there is no vapor barrier as it wasn’t required until recent years.

The purpose of your homes vapor barrier

The purpose of a home’s vapor barrier is pretty simple, it controls the humidity in your homes crawlspace by placing a barrier between the ground, and your home. The plastic sheeting acts as a barrier between what could be moist dirt and the air in the crawlspace. Here in the damp Pacific Northwest, vapor barriers will also keep moisture in the air from penetrating the soil as well, again controlling the relative humidity of your homes crawlspace.

In order for a vapor barrier to work properly, all ground must be covered, and it is generally recommended that seams are overlapped and secured together using a construction grade tape, or sealing system. It is also recommended by most crawlspace professionals that the plastic sheeting should be run up the foundation walls to provide additional protection.

Why your homes vapor barrier is important

Vapor barriers are important, especially here in the Pacific Northwest because it’s important to control the relative humidity in your homes crawlspace. A home that has too much humidity in the crawlspace will often develop musty smells coming from the crawlspace, which can be transmitted through the homes heating and cooling system. Too much moisture in the crawlspace can also create structural, insulation, and mold problems.

When it’s time to replace a home’s vapor barrier

Typically a home’s vapor barrier should last for many years, but there are times when circumstances warrant the vapor barrier being replaced. If your home has encountered any of the below issues, it can be wise to have a crawlspace professional inspect your vapor barrier to ensure it’s protecting your home the way it should.

  • You experience a water problem in your crawlspace. Water issues in crawlspaces are pretty normal here in the Portland and Vancouver area. If your crawlspace has water, and/or drainage issues, these need to be fixed as standing water creates a moisture rich environment that can wreak havoc on your home. If you have water issues in your crawlspace, the source of the water must be identified and fixed before the vapor barrier is replaced.
  • Wildlife and/or rodent issues in your homes crawlspace. If you are, or have experienced rodent issues in your homes crawlspace, it’s advisable to have a crawlspace professional inspect your home. Wildlife and rodents will not only tear the underside of your home up, they will also leave droppings and other contaminates behind. Finding and sealing the entrance sources for these critters, as well as ensuring they’ve all been evicted before cleaning up the mess they’ve left behind is important to keeping your crawlspaces air clean, which is where by some estimates 70% of a homes breathable air comes from.
  • Vapor barrier that is beyond repair, or not up to code. This can been seen many times, especially on older homes. Often over the years, with different contractors (cable, alarm systems, etc.) crawling around under your home, vapor barriers can become damaged. There are also times when past wildlife issues, or water issues were taken care of, but fixing the vapor barrier was not. Sometimes these issues can be solved by conducting simple repairs, other times the size and scope of the damage may necessitate the replacement of the entire vapor barrier. An experienced crawlspace contractor can help you determine the best course of action to get your homes crawlspace back in order.

The value of keeping your homes crawlspace healthy

Aside from what we’ve covered above, keeping your crawlspace humidity in relative proportion to outside humidity is important for the overall health of your home for years to come. Crawlspaces that are damp or wet attract all kinds of issues.

  • On the pest side of things, damp and wet crawlspaces are a haven for pests like moisture ants, and dampwood termites.
  • Structurally wet and damp crawlspaces can cause wood to rot, and home insulation to become saturated, which then loses its ability to insulate your home.
  • The health of your family can also be put at risk as damp and wet crawlspaces are a haven for mold spores that are easily transferred throughout your home via the heating and cooling ducting.