Rodent Bait & Pet Safety

Every year, thousands of local pets, and other non-target species are poisoned with rodent bait. Most of the damage is caused by home owners and renters who toss rodent control packets around the exterior of their homes, in flower beds and other areas where rats have been seen, only to have their dogs, or neighbor dogs get into the bait. These are the steps, we as professionals follow to keep pets safe.

Bait station standards.

The primary goal in all bait station placements is child and pet safety, and the protection of non-target species. The secondary goal is the control of commensal rodents (mice and rats).

Bait placements in any area where pets or children could be present must occur in Level 1. Tamper resistant bait stations.

Station attachment:
All bait stations must be secured. Properly secured bait stations will either be attached to an exterior concrete pier pad (picture 1) or will contain a concrete pier pad (picture 2). Alternative attachments can be made either with an approved industrial strength adhesive to concrete walls (picture 3), landscape boulders, or with wood screws onto solid railroad ties, deck beams, or fence posts.

Commercial Grade Adhesive to Pier Pad

Commercial Grade Adhesive to Pier Pad

Included Pier Pad

Included Pier Pad

Commercial Grade Adhesive to Concrete

Commercial Grade Adhesive to Concrete

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Bait security:
All bait in every station must be placed on a bait holder rod. If the interior plastic bait tray has been damaged and bait security could be compromised, the plastic insert tray must be replaced. If it cannot be replaced at the time of service, the station must be left empty and we will make every effort to return within a week to provide a new insert tray, and supply bait to the station

Bait station security:
All bait stations must be locked. If a lock is damaged or lost, or a lid is not fully functional, the bait station must be left empty and we will make every effort to return within a week to provide a new lock or lid, and supply bait to the station.

Station labeling:
All stations must be labeled. While the label must be present on the exterior of the station, and accessible on site, it can be placed in areas that are less conspicuous than the top cover.  Labels contain the name of the active ingredient and emergency contact numbers.

Bait preservation:
To maintain bait freshness and attractiveness, and therefore its effective life in the station, bait must be placed in a plastic baggy (sandwich bag). Plastic baggies do not inhibit rodent feeding behavior.

Protection of non-target species:
Safeguard is moving toward installing copper slug repellent tape on all bait stations to reduce the amount of bait lost to slugs and to better monitor bait consumption, to protect non-target species. In the event that the plastic bags holding the bait appear shredded, or the bait in a station is always consumed, the station should be fitted with a baffle to prevent access by non-target species.

Bait station interiors and exteriors should be kept clean.

Bait Station Removal
Bait Stations and devices will be removed promptly when requested and when our regular service with a property is curtailed.

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Spring Bird Control, Part 2: Woodpecker Control

Hairy Woodpecker

Hairy Woodpecker

Even casual bird lovers love woodpeckers. There are five common woodpecker species in our area: Red Bellied Sapsucker, Northern Flicker, Downey Woodpecker, Pileated Woodpecker, and Hairy Woodpecker. Of these, we get the fewest requests about the Sapsucker which rarely attacks homes. (Sapsuckers create a series of small holes in bands around trees. These small holes fill with sap, and with insects attracted to the sap.)

Woodpecker calls are distinctive and the sound of their drilling is attention grabbing. A hike in the forest quickly becomes a birdwatching event. A morning cup of coffee in your kitchen becomes a moment of sheer panic.

Woodpeckers, like many birds, are attracted to openings into wood, so the small round eave vents we use to ventilate our attics are quite attractive. Beyond that, woodpeckers commonly create or enlarge holes in the dead wood of trees, especially in areas where the wood is hollow. Our homes are made of dead wood, with often thin strips of wooden siding over wall voids, that even with plenty of insulation, sound pretty hollow when you hit him with a determined beak.

In most residential areas we pull down the dead trees woodpeckers would prefer, leaving our homes as the highest wooden structures in any given area. A few sample drills here or there, and these guys can quickly make your home – their home.

Many of the requests we get for woodpecker control are more about noise than damage. Male woodpeckers will drill on metal objects to advertise for mates and to establish territory. In addition to installing deterrents to save your home from damage, we can install bird spikes and protective screens to keep them from using your home as a big metal drum.

Spikes on metal flue caps will stop woodpecker noise.

Spikes on metal flue caps will stop woodpecker noise.

We practice woodpecker control not extermination. Woodpeckers are protected species, that is you can deter them, and chase them away, but you can’t harm the birds. Smaller but determined bird species can sometimes harass woodpeckers into leaving a nest. Professional woodpecker control methods work much the same way.

Really tall ladders

Really tall ladders

We have been providing the best Seattle woodpecker control for over 30 years. We have found that movement, noise, and reflection are pretty effective in scaring away woodpeckers. Good woodpecker control often involves an understanding of airflow around a building (and really tall ladders).  Woodpeckers, like most bird species, have to worry about raptor birds. Continuous noise, movement and reflection, make it difficult for woodpeckers to relax and feel safe in an area.

Some woodpeckers are harder to scare away than others but our methods work about 95% of the time. Our page WoodpeckerControl.html has all the details on our woodpecker control solutions.

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Is Your Garden Making Your Home Unhealthy?

Gardening can be relaxing and it can be healthy. For you. It can be a disaster for your home. Anything that raises the moisture level of your home – invites rot, mold, and damaging insect infestations. There is nothing green about having to replace your walls, windows, siding or substructure.

Gardens need plenty of water, even here in the Great Dampwest. If your garden is planted against your home, chances are, you will be watering your home, every time you water your garden.

Mold and rot growth begin when wood reaches a moisture level of 25%. Your walls may already be at 18%, or more, depending on how much sun they receive, how much air circulates around your home, how rainy it has been, and how the wall is constructed. (Heavy vegetation? More. Aluminum windows or Tyvek wrap? More. Sunroom? More.)

Most homes in our area have eaves which are designed to keep the water off of your window frames and siding. Stand outside in the rain and you will notice that most homes are dry at the base, all the way around. This is what you want.

Many people who plant gardens, or make improvements to their exterior landscaping, raise the level of the exterior soil. This can be very bad for your home in two very different ways.

1. Earth to wood contact.
Dirt, mulch, beauty bark, woodchips, leaf debris, sand, gravel, rocks, and concrete products – all hold and retain water. Your exterior siding should always be at least 3 or 4 inches above the exterior level of the abutting soil, landscaping material, or ground cover. Even if you have stucco, brick, concrete, or vinyl siding.

While this type of contact will quickly rot out wooden siding, it also raises the moisture level inside the wall – behind all types of exterior siding, leading to hidden rot, and wood destroying insect infestations. Problems that make take many years to show up.

Metal flashing, plastic liners, or other moisture barrier products, installed between the siding and any of these products may slow the rot process, but will not prevent it. There must be 3 or 4 inches of clear room and good air flow to prevent rot.

2. Negative drainage.
The ground around your home should be designed to carry rain water away from your home and your foundation. This is why most yards slope away from homes. Changing exterior slopes and / or drainage flow may divert water to your home causing flooding of both the interior and sub areas of your home.

Many homeowners change their exterior grade using railroad tie or concrete block walls, planting areas, and embankments. These landscaping features will rot out your home if they contact your home, unless that contact occurs below siding levels.
I would be remiss if I didn’t include the fact that vegetable and herb gardens should NEVER be made from railroad ties or pressure treated wood. They contain lots of VERY BAD chemicals that you really don’t want to end up eating.
On the subject of chemicals, if your garden is planted against your home you have created an area that should not, according to most product labels, be sprayed with a pesticide. So if you have a pest problem, you may need to pull out part of your garden, settle for an incomplete service, or switch to natural pesticides.

A hidden chemical danger many people miss, is lead. If your home is older, make sure and have your soil tested for lead, which could have been shed from old exterior paint before planting a garden nearby.

Raised beds are an awesome way to garden and it is a subject I am avidly pursuing. Currently, I am researching super heated clay pipe products. These clay pipes pieces are heated to over 2000 degrees. They never rot and seem an ideal way to build a terraced or raised garden. Email me for my findings as my research progresses.

Happy gardening!

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What you need to know about Odorous House Ants

What you see.

What you see.

Every little black ant you see represents thousands  – to tens of thousands of larvae, workers, and reproductives, that you don’t.

Odorous house ants can have hundreds of thousands to millions in each nest. There can be multiple nests in a house and multiple related nests outside.

What you dont.

What you dont.

Entire neighborhoods can be plagued with super colonies. All related, all connected by ‘scent trails’. Tens of millions of ants.

Common household treatment options make things worse.

They kill a few visible ants, they make you see fewer ants, but they do nothing to eliminate the thousands upon thousands you don’t see.

Essential oils and household chemicals repel, but do not eliminate these ants.

Essential oils and household chemicals repel, but do not eliminate these ants.

Over the counter pesticide sprays are REPELLENT, but so are lots of household chemicals, Windex, Lysol, alcohol, bleach, ANY essential oil, including citrus and mint oils, even lemon juice can keep you from seeing ants.

So you weren’t seeing 99.9% of the ants in your home… and now you see none.

Baits are a tool we use, but they only address a very small percentage of the ants.

Baits are a tool we use, but they only address a very small percentage of the ants.

Unlike many other types of ants, OHAs will feed on honey, syrup, and other liquids containing sugar.

Over the counter baits will kill a small percentage of the .01% of the ants you see. However, if ants start dying, in large numbers, the colony will stop feeding on the bait.

So all, baits, even the much more effective, professional quality baits, will only kill a few of the ants in your home.

 

Ants are in a home for 3 – 5 years before being noticed.
Noticed – when a tiny percentage of them invade your space.
How long will they be back before you notice them again?

For info on our Enhanced House Ant Treatment Approach

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Safety.

A lot of people want to know if pest control materials are safe. Safety means something different to everyone. This is what safety means to me:

About twice a week I shampoo my hair with a mix that contains about a dozen organic extracts and only one of those hard to pronounce long technical sounding chemical names – a chemical derived from coconut oil. Every other day, I use a little fresh squeezed lemon juice as my deodorant.

I buy organic fruits and vegetables from local farmers whenever I can, and I do love me some pasture raised organic, eggs, chicken, and beef.

I keep the exterior my home free of vegetation and excess moisture (http://safeguardpestcontrol.biz/GoingGreen.html). My garden is edged with copper foil tape to prevent slugs and it is free of treated wood products.

I have spent hundreds of hours in seminars and in reading on toxicology and chemicals. I understand that 99.9% of my exposure to cancer causing materials is through the mostly organic foods I eat. Organic fruits and vegetables contain natural carcinogens, they also contain natural pesticides to ward of slug, wildlife, and insect predation. So I am careful about the additional chemicals I use which add to the burden my body already deals with.

My home is already free of conducive conditions. So I am far less likely to have a pest problem. If I have one, it will be fairly easy to take care of. I inspect my home once a month from spring through fall.

One of the basic rules of chemistry is that ALL chemicals are toxins, the deciding factor is your route of  – and amount of – exposure.

Everyone is going to have a different comfort level when it comes to pesticides. This is what I have learned: ‘Essential oils’ are used in pesticide formulations. These oils come from the natural, organic pesticides that occur in flowers, and in the foods we eat. To work, they must be toxic to insects.

A lot of their effectiveness comes from VOCs – Volatile Organic Compounds. That orange or mint oil that kills insects? The nice strong odor you smell? That’s what is bad for the insect. It’s also bad for you. The most toxic material we use to control pests is a type of cedar oil. It kills bed bugs on contact. VOCs. No synthetic material kills them within 4 hours. If cedar oil had any type of residual, we wouldn’t need synthetics at all.

Essential oils are in many of the materials we use. The most effective are cedar oil, rosemary oil, pyrethrin (chrysanthemum oil), geraniol, and linalool. We have green pest control programs were we use ‘all natural’ plant derived control products, and fresh water diatomaceous earth.

As used by homeowners, essential oils often mask the presence and true scope of pest activity. These materials are all highly repellent, and they tend to chase away pests more than actually kill them. Also, few homeowners understand that the pest activity they see is only a very small portion of the pest activity going on in their home. Multiply those 20 tiny ants you see, by a factor of a thousand (or more) to get a truer answer. As little as .01% of a house ant colony will ever forage inside.

Essential oils and natural pesticides are also more acutely toxic than most synthetic pest pesticides. So are your spices. And your vitamins. And the caffeine in your coffee is 50 times more toxic than the most common synthetic material we spray around houses. Most synthetic pesticides in use today are synthetic forms of nicotine and chrysanthemum oils. They are not carcinogenic, mutagenic, or teratogenic. They do not change your cells and they do not accumulate in your system.

Of course, toxicity numbers come from chemical manufacturers. So I don’t trust them. At all. I know that pesticide formulations contain unlisted ‘proprietary materials’ that are designed to make the active listed ingredients more effective.

The best information I can find is that the commercial formulations, as manufactured, are just about as acutely toxic as the caffeine I mentioned earlier. Of course, the sprays we use, only contain about ¾ of an ounce of formulation in each finished gallon of spray, and we typically use less than 2 gallons to perform a super through exterior spider spray, 1 gallon or less for ant control.

That is why we are careful to wear safety gear when applying, while we only apply to the exterior 3 or 4 times a year on regular accounts, and why we discourage spray application to the interior, unless there is heavy pest activity. It’s why stress pest prevention and non-chemical control options.

Acute toxicity of some common chemicals:

Toxicity:  – the higher the mg/kg number the LOWER the toxicity:

Nicotine:        50mg/kg
Caffeine:        192mg/kg
Bleach:           192mg/kg
Pyrethrins:     200—2000mg/kg (Natural chrysanthemum extract)
Lysol:              430mg/kg
Vitamin D3:   619mg/kg Vitamin
Dish Soap:      1330mg/kg
Cinnamon:     2,000mg/kg Spice
Pine-sol:         2,000mg/kg
Termidor:       2,000mg/kg (Synthetic nicotine formulation)
Table salt:       3,000mg/kg Spice
Vitamin C:      3,367mg/kg Vitamin
Vitamin E:      4,000mg/kg Vitamin
Premise 2:      4,870mg/kg (Synthetic nicotine formulation)
Windex:          5,000mg/kg
Diatomaceous Earth: 5,000mg/kg (Nat. pesticide dust -fresh water diatoms)
Suspend SC:   10,000mg/kg (Synthetic chrysanthemum formulation)

Gary Clark, co-owner of Safeguard Pest Control, is a previous President and Vice President of the Washington State Pest Control Associations and his efforts were instrumental in starting the environmental movement in pest control in Washington State and the establishment of an Environmental Awareness Committee.

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A thousand reasons to read this post.

A nice imported wool rug can cost thousands. A collection of nice wool jackets, skirts, sweaters, or slacks adds up quick. A single fur can cost as much as a car. That antique couch stuffed with horse hair cost you bank, and how much did it cost in time and money to hang that 4 point buck on the wall of your den?

Every year at this time we start getting calls about tiny little beetles, about a third the size  of a lady bug showing up in peoples windows, and tiny little caterpillars climbing on their walls.

Both of these sightings equal holes in your clothing, furniture,  wool carpets, and wool blankets.

Carpet beetles

Carpet Beetle Adult (left)
and Larva

The beetles and caterpillars are two sides of the same insect – the Carpet Beetle.

A few Carpet Beetles are common in every home and are generally no cause for undue alarm. If you see just a few – check your woolens and such and if you see no caterpillars and no damage – you’re probably OK.

A large number of beetles is a sure sign of an infestation, and if the numbers are really high, it may mean you have more than one pest problem – as they will infest dead birds, insect nests, and rodents.

Carpet beetle adults are pollinators and do no damage, but the caterpillars live on high protein fibers such as wool, feathers, and dead skin (think leather). They can sometimes infest grains or spices but they prefer to live off of animal protein. They are huge pests of museums, wool rug businesses, furriers, and taxidermists.

If you have holes in wool items, or if you have items made of, or containing wool, horse hair, or other animal products, you should read more about Carpet Beetles.

Safeguard gets rid of carpet beetles. Through inspections, through treatments with ultra safe control products, and great customer care.

 

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Flying Ants

Carpenter ants

Carpenter ants reproductives (with wings) and workers (no wings).

Trees are starting to bud, the earliest plants are already in bloom. Spring, and the outside pest activity it brings – is just around the corner. I just put a new load of enriched soil on my blueberry bushes.

Last year we saw exterior Carpenter ant foraging start by the second week of February. This year we are already getting calls about flying ants inside homes.

Every spring, winger carpenter ants swarm. Usually worker ants, who are tired of feeding the reproductives all winter,  start pushing them outside on our first sunny days. These males are supposed to test the air for the right temperature and moisture level, and release a pheromone that tells the reproductive females – it’s time to fly – and mate.

If you have winged ants in your home, they moved in last fall at the latest, although probably much earlier. Your home has at least one satellite nest of carpenters ants, some may have 2 or 3. The average home has carpenter ants for 3 to 5 years before it’s owners learn that it’s infested. We recommend exterior inspections for pest activity every 2 or 3 years.

It also means the main nest site is somewhere between 5 to 8 years old. Queens can live over 30 years, so the nest may be older. The main nest site can be 300 yards away.

Winged Ant / Flying Ant

Male Reproductive (swarmer).

Male winged carpenter ants are about an inch long, and have a pointy tip to their Gaster, the female flying ants are an inch and a half long, thicker, wider, and their Gaster – the third and last section of their body, is well rounded.

More info about winged ants, can be found here: Flying Ants

If you haven’t had a pest prevention inspection of your home in the last three years, we highly recommend it. If you live in an area with lot’s of trees, have had carpenter ants before, or live in an area where other people have – you should get your home checked at least every other year.

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The things we see under houses.

Under your floor.

Under your floor.

In pest control, you get to spend a lot of time in places that the average homeowner doesn’t want to be in. Often in the company of critters that the average homeowner doesn’t really want to be with.

A lot of our day to day work occurs in the voids / and unlivable areas of homes, and each year we make a special push to get into attics and sub area crawlspaces of our regular customers during the winter, as these are prime activity areas for many pests.

Usually, when we are down there, we are focused on a target pest, say rodents, ants activity, or some other pest.

While we are down there though, if we have time, we may look around for conducive conditions for these and other pests. We may report these things as a courtesy, or to make our pest control work for you, more effect.

Common conditions that we often note are:

Access areas for rodents.

Homes can be vastly intricate puzzle boxes and rats and mice need very small gaps to squeeze through. Our techs are well trained, and motivated, and they will always do a professional job, but it’s not always possible to find every hidden gap, as gaps as small as a 1/4 inch wide can let in mice, and gaps the size of 1/2 inch will let in rats. If at all possible, all gaps should be sealed with some combination of concrete, flashing, or strong metal mesh. Rodent proofing is always a good idea.

Messes caused by rodents.

We have written about companies that do crawlspace cleanouts and how they take advantage of consumers. We will let you know about what’s going on in your sub area, but if it is messed up, we only recommend a major clean-up, right before you sell your home. Homes aren’t static. They change over time. Vents get damaged, drains and utilities get installed, trees grow and allow rodent access via roof lines, moles tunnel under foundations, water erodes foundation levels, and workman improperly close sub area access doors. We are seeing homes that have had total insulation replacement 2 or 3 times at 5k or more per replacement – and they still have rodents.

Inadequate vapor barriers.

Code calls for 5 mil or better, black plastic vapor barriers, with course overlaps. If your home has clear plastic underneath, or is missing a vapor barrier in some areas, we will let you know. If rodent activity has contaminated your vapor barrier, we will let you know, but see the paragraph above.

Wood left over from the construction process.

Scrap lumber, wooden forms used to pour concrete foundations and slabs, and paper pier forms are breeding grounds for wood destroying pests.

Inadequate sub area or attic ventilation.

Most new homes are required to have sub area vents on every side of every corner and one every 10 lineal feet (approx). Sub area vents should not be louvered, unless the home exceeds the minimum number of vents required, as louvers impede air flow. It may be possible to improve your ventilation by changing the type of vent covers on your home. Inadequate ventilation leads to mold, mildew and wood rot.

Plumbing leaks / disconnected dryer ducts.

It’s not always possible to see these problems, especially if the leak is small or the drier isn’t running, but if we note it – we’ll let you know.

Signs of seasonal standing water.

If there is groundwater in your sub area, or signs that there could be during heavy rains, and we notice it – we’ll note on our service record.

Construction defects.

While we are not engineers, it is interesting to note how often we see things that are really wrong with homes, such as missing supports, sloughing sub area soil, and foundations without supporting grade.

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Over wintering wasps

Yellow Jacket

Yellow Jacket

Every year at this time, we begin to get calls about slow moving wasps or ‘bees’, appearing inside homes.

Often these wasps are first seen in rooms which get lots of sun. These wasps got into the structure of your home during the fall at the end of the active wasp season. The arrive in your living areas via spaces around lights, vents, fireplace framing, and other cracks and crevices. They fly to the windows because they are attracted to sunlight.

Paper wasps. Which commonly nest in attic voids and in areas between floors, will burrow down into the insulation to keep warm and survive the winter. The insulation near cracks and crevices where heat escapes from your home into your ceiling, floor, or walls is especially attractive.

They’re not alone. The last set of eggs laid every year in a pacific northwest yellow jacket nests, are future queens. These ladies will also look for warm places to get through the winter, in piles of leaf debris, deep inside firewood piles, but also in attic, wall, and other voids.

Inside these void areas, the wasps have been hibernating, their metabolic rate, a bare fraction of normal, which is what makes them so easy to pick up and dispose of, when they slowly crawl out of hiding.

At a normal metabolic rate, if we sprayed the wasps directly or if they had to pass back and forth over a sprayed area a few times, they would die fairly quickly. If they are nesting within a few feet of a crack or crevice we can treat into, and they crawl directly through our treatment material, with their slow metabolic rate—it may not be enough to kill them.

The best time to treat a home, where you are concerned about having a wasp nest, is in March, late February at the earliest—and then only if we are having good weather. A service at that time will last for months and should keep you from having any bees or wasps nesting in or on your building.

Our annual dusting each winter for quarterly service customers will last almost a full year and works very well to help prevent this situation.

If you cannot wait until March, we can try to help—but we cannot guarantee our hard work will keep you wasp free. We do however have some tricks to keep them from crawling out of light fixtures that might work for your home.

 

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Keeping Out Rats – Sub Area Acess Doors

Step 1

Clear it all down to the concrete.

A common way for rodents to access structures is through or around badly fiting, deteriorating, or just plain missing sub area access doors.

This is one common way we fix that problem.

First, we remove any rot damaged framing, cut off any rebar,  and pound down any nails that stick out of the concrete, remove any dirt or debris, and clear everything down to the bare concrete.

We often have to dig down to get to concrete on the bottom.

Step 2

The concrete at the base may need to be leveled.

There may be grooves or gaps in the concrete base that need to be filled with concrete patch, there may be bumps or ridges that need to be knocked down.

In this case I knocked down multiple bumps and ridges. Then I glued and installed ground contact rated 2×6 and screwed in plastic impregnated decking, and more 2×6 (see below).

Step 2, Continued

Leveled, glued, and ready to support.

If possible, the base should be leveled to make placing a door into the opening easier and more effective.

Small gaps around the edges can be filled with concrete patch, later.

The wood directly above the base installed here, is a 2×6 as well. This is known as the mudsill – it will act as the top of the door frame.

Step 3

Install side pieces.

Side pieces should be installed next. Apply subfloor glue to the back sides.

Hopefully both sides should just about be the same size.

They will be screwed into the mudsill at the top and the base installed at the bottom

Step 4

Install backing for the door.

Measuring in two inches from the outside edge, make guide marks on the 2×6 side pieces running from the base to the mudsill.

I used wood screws to attach 2x2s on the 2×6 side pieces already installed. Make sure to  install an additional 2×2 on the mudsill at the top.

This will serve as a a backing for the sub area access door.

Step 4

View from the inside, looking up st mudsill.

Notice that the framing is set back about two inches from the the siding.

All pieces are attached with wood screws.

The backing, if installed poperly, acts in much the same way as a door jam. Giving the sub area access something to close against.

Final steps

Final steps.

Time for the final steps -filling any small holes with concrete patch, and making the door.

The door is also made of 2x2s. The door should be about a half inch smaller the the opening on the top and sides.

This will make the door easier to get in and out. Because there is a 2×2 frame behind it – it will still prevent rodent entry.

I use 1 inch lathe screws, and corner hardware, available at most hardware centers to hold the door together. The door is screened with 1/4 inch wire mesh to keep out mice and rats and still allow ventilation. The screen is attached with staples on the back side of the frame where the corner harware doesn’t prevent it from being tacked down.

Small sub area openings can be tricky and require other procedures. Safeguard can consult with you on how to get your door installed properly, or better yet, install the door for you.

 

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