[practical] Rats, keeping them at bay…

If you’re living in the big city, there’s a good chance you’ve seen rats running around, and there are good ways to keep these pests, mice and other insects out of your home and yard…

Number 1) lets start with that desirable kitchen sink accessory, the garbage disposal appliance.  My neighbor tells me that after using it on their newly renovated home for a couple of months they had a rat appear in their toilet, which was removed with a flush.  Yikes!  You’d never guess this might be an issue but the flushing of food products that enters the sewer system is an invite to a free meal from an unwanted guest.  I’m surprised I didn’t hear their screams and squeals after that event, and wouldn’t be surprised if they started using a different toilet for a period after seeing those peering eyes looking up at them.

2) If you have a basement or cellar, you probably already have a ‘rat slab.’  I’m referring to that thin layer of concrete, usually about 1 inch thick, on top of dirt that is there solely to keep rats from entering your home.  These rat slabs typically crack over time and are not considered actual floor slabs, although most think it’s a perfectly good cellar floor.  Floor slabs are thicker, at least 3 and more typically 4 inches thick, have a wire mesh reinforcing and can endure actual use from people.  A lot of people think their rat slab can sustain use, which is obviously not the case when you see cracks showing up everywhere, but it still is effective at keeping rats out.  If you have a crawl space, be sure you have a rat slab installed. In crawl spaces I use 2 inches understand that no one will be walking around, and for all other areas I specify a 4 inch reinforced slab on a vapor barrier and rigid insulation along with some form of drainage whether a floor drain or an ‘under the slab’ perimeter drainage system.  Rat slabs as a walking surface is just a waste of money.

This rat is moving in. Into your home? Your city?

This rat is moving in. Is he coming to your city, neighborhood, or perhaps into your home?


3) If you’re renovating an old townhouse, be sure to put spray foam at each and every joist end.  This will prevent cooking smells from wafting into neighboring townhouses and therefore not act as a conduit for uninvited vernon including roaches, ants or spiders.  There’s nothing worst than laying down to rest, only to hear mice scurrying around above your head…. that’s not a good way to fall asleep.  Those tiny gaps between the wood joist and the masonry is just enough space for mice and insects to find their way into your kitchen.

4) Another more obvious thing one can do is secure the top of your trash can, this will prevent raccoons, cats, dogs, and other animals from tipping over your trash, and not make your home a stopping off location.  By secure, I mean to purchase a container that has a physical locking device that holds the lid down even if the can is blown over by high wind.  Any other type of loose fitting lids are a waste of money and should be banned in the city.

5) Outdoor food left after a backyard gathering might turn into the party invitation for a rat, cat or mouse, so remove those invitations  by always keeping trash and food away from accessible locations and in the trash can.  On one construction site, the workers after eating lunch would throw their garbage in the construction debris outdoor. The next morning we discovered rat footprints in our new concrete slab.  We were able to resolve this issue by disposing of the food waste in a more appropriate way.  Be sure to add a lined trash can on the job site for this very purpose if you’re doing a renovation.

There are certainly other things one can do, but the above is preventative so you don’t have to lay down traps, or coexist with an uninvited guest who thinks they’ve found the luxury restaurant of a life time.

From my point of view as a New York Architect, rats and other vernon are attracted towards the smell of food, so you can simply block this with the appropriate ‘during construction’ effort, and block their access points with the proper steps, to protect your home and yard from an unwanted invasion.

One more little story to share, there is a wealthy couple who purchased a townhouse in Washington, DC, and after their renovation moved into their new home and started raising a family. Unfortunately their Architect and Contractor did not fill in cracks on their shared party wall, resulting in cigarette smoke entering their home from a retired ‘only occasionally’ smoker.  Unfortunately for the smoker who lived in his home his whole life, the lawyers took him to court and got a restraining order preventing him from smoking in his own home.  While it is my opinion this is completely unfair, as the law is clear in cases like this where an established resident gets preference to anyone who just moves in, and that obvious that it is inside his own home, his lack of legal experience cost him the freedom we all assume we have.  But more to the point, is this wealthy couple should of fixed their parti-wall when they had the chance to prevent issues like this in the future.  You get what you make, so don’t blame others for your poor decision, especially if you hire someone who purports to be an expert but doesn’t take the basic steps to protect your home.

As an Architect, I already have notes ready to include on every set that takes care of the issues listed here including providing a lined trash can on site during construction.  Only the inexperienced, negligent or incompetent would not include such clauses in their construction documents.

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