Let’s face it – having rodents in your home is a genuine cause for concern. Rodents (mice, rats, squirrels, etc) can cause all sorts of damage to both your home and your family. They can contaminate food, chew through papers and documents, damage electrical wiring putting you at risk for fire, and spread diseases.

While rodents can often slip into your home undetected, it usually doesn’t take very long for them to make their presence known. Telltale signs of rodents in your home include small dark droppings along walls or near food sources; chewed holes in boxes and bags of food; rub marks or gnawed areas along baseboards; small nests of shredded paper or wood under cabinets; and the sound of scratching or scurrying in the walls, especially at night.

Once a rodent infestation is established, they can be very difficult to eliminate. That’s why prevention is key. Here are 8 DIY rodent proofing techniques you can use in your home.

1. Seal entry points

Keeping pests out is the ultimate goal of rodent proofing. Inspect the foundation and walls of your home to identify any cracks or holes that could be potential entry points. Any crack greater than 1/4″ needs to be repaired. This is especially important in the fall months when rodents will seek shelter from the cold to overwinter. Seal your foundation cracks with masonry repair material. Make sure to inspect joints around windows and doors, as well. Check weatherstripping and screens to make sure they are in good repair. Inspect your roof and make sure shingles are secure and undamaged. Cap chimneys to prevent animals from using them for access.

2. Don’t feed the birds

Rodents love the seed and grain that is found in birdseed. This is why you see squirrels helping themselves to food from your bird feeders. Clean up any spilled birdseed from underneath your feeders. Keep feeders as far away from the house as possible. Store birdseed in sealed containers made of either plastic or metal.

3. Store your pet food

Keep cat, dog, and bird food stored in sealed containers versus regular bags or boxes. Keep it stored high above the floor on shelves. Don’t leave pet food and water out overnight.

4. Seal your garbage

Use garbage cans that have tightly sealing lids. Dispose of your garbage regularly. Keep your trash cans cleaned often. Store them as far away from your home as possible.

5. Clean up your landscaping

Shrubs and plants that butt up to your home can provide cover for rodents to hide and to access cracks in your foundation undetected. Keep shrubs planted at least 3 feet away from foundations. Soil levels should also be kept low enough that mice can’t squeeze up behind the siding on your home. Tree branches that hang over or touch your roof or the sides of your home can also provide an avenue of travel for rodents. These should be trimmed back regularly. Keep your grass cut short.

6. Keep dry goods sealed

Rodents can easily chew through bags and containers that are used to hold dry goods like flour, sugar, and others. These foods should be kept in tightly sealed containers made of either plastic or metal and stored high on shelves or in the refrigerator.

7. Keep it clean

Rodents will capitalize on any food source available to them in your home. Clean up spills and crumbs immediately from countertops and floors. Sweep, mop, dust, and vacuum regularly, especially in areas where food is prepared or consumed. Don’t leave dirty dishes out overnight in the sink.

8. Keep doors closed

Rodents will take advantage of any opening to gain entrance to your home. Get in the habit of closing your garage door immediately after entering and exiting the garage. Keep the side doors closed, as well. Keep patio doors and basement windows closed when possible or covered with screens. Don’t leave garage doors open overnight.

Rodents are resilient. Don’t rely on eliminating a rodent infestation once it is there; focus instead on preventing them in the first place. If you suspect you have a rodent problem, contact a professional pest control company who can provide you with a thorough inspection and treatment plan, along with a prevention plan going forward.