7 Ways Squirrels Can Damage Your House (With Prevention Tips)


Squirrels look like cute little furballs at first sight, but they are a bigger problem than one would anticipate. The rodents are considered pests because of their habits of chewing and are infamous for causing plenty of damage to houses. Luckily for us, they aren’t impossible to get rid of.

So how can these critters cause damage on your property? Here are seven ways squirrels can damage your house:

  1. Chewing on nearby power lines.
  2. Chewing through your rooftop wiring.
  3. Causing nearby powerlines to droop.
  4. Chewing a hole into your attic, decreasing insulation.
  5. Nesting in your attic.
  6. Increased Power Bill. 
  7. Digging holes by your garden or farm.

Diagnosing a squirrel problem and getting rid of them is a long and complicated process, which we’ll discuss in detail later on. But first, let’s elaborate on why you’re finding squirrels on your property in the first place.

Why Are Squirrels In My Backyard?

If you see squirrels in your backyard, there are a couple of reasons why the little furballs are there. Squirrels live in large trees as they find plenty of shelter from them. If you’ve got these trees in your backyard, they’re likely to stay. Bird feeders are also known to attract squirrels. 

If you’ve planted some crops and fruits in your garden, it gives squirrels even more reason to stick around as they feed on and store berries, nuts, fruits, fungi, bulbs, corn, and birdseed. Remember, squirrels adapt easily to suburban and urban areas, as predators avoid this area, and it offers them a good supply of food and shelter.

How Can A Squirrel Cause Damage?

Squirrels might look very cute, but these little furry rodents can wreak havoc on the wiring and insulation of your house. Squirrels can be a huge headache to deal with, whether they live outside on a tree or inside your attic.

It’s important to get them out as they can not only cause damage to your home, but to things around your home (like stripping the bark on trees) 1.Let’s find out what type of damage this bushy-tailed creature can create!

1. Chewed Up Power Lines

Squirrels live in large nests they build in the junctures or nodes of tree branches. They also live in holes in tree trunks. Trees usually provide a surface where electrical wires are bounded. Trees might even encapsulate the wires. Squirrels living on these trees might place way too much weight on a utility or power line.

It’s not as common considering the power lines run below the branches and squirrels live higher up, but there is a possibility nonetheless. Plus, if squirrels do have a litter of kits, they might start teething on the outer core or covering of the wires. Constant chewing can tear the lines open and will cost you a good sum on the repairing job.z

2. Damage Rooftop Wiring

Consider your roof a large playground of sorts for the squirrels. It’s high up in the air, gives a quick route, and easier access to other trees and covers much ground without interruption from humans or dogs. Roofs aren’t good for hiding nuts, but they’re great for running across. Squirrels also use roofs to chase away enemies that want to claim their territory.

This scampering becomes a nightmare when the squirrels get on top of your cable service or electric wires and loosen them. They can pull the wires away from your home, depriving you of a necessity.

3. Damaging and Drooping Power and Communication Lines

Just like your roof was a playground for the squirrels, think of the communication and electrical wires as a sort of highway. Squirrels don’t usually take these routes, but to travel between yards, they might use the wires. This fast pacing back and forth loosens the fasteners that hold these wires in one place. Once that happens, the wires begin to sag, come loose from utility poles, and fall to the ground.

4. Creating Holes in Your Attic and Walls

Squirrels are rather curious creatures. If they live on a tree in your backyard or are abundant in the neighborhood, they are very likely to want to explore your house, particularly the easily accessible and empty area like the attic. To do so, they’ll chew a hole in the wall. They might want to build a nest there, but oftentimes they are there for a casual visit. 

While making a hole, they might chew on a wire. While this brings an unfortunate end for the squirrel as it’s going to get a lethal shock of electricity, it will cost you plenty in repairs as wires behind the wall are harder to mend. All of this would also create foul smells in your home.

5. Nesting in The Attic

The most common area in your house for rodent activity is inside the attic. Once a squirrel gains access to the attic (which is often through the roof), they can build a nest in the fiberglass insulation or just use the attic to store their food and rest. It doesn’t matter how they choose to use your attic. It’s very unhygienic and unhealthy. Your average squirrel is quite far from house-friendly.

Moreover, they can damage the wiring in your attic. Since it’s usually exposed, they might chew on it or run across it, stomping on a wrong spot. Their paws can pull the wires and make them loose, creating dead circuits. They also increase the chances of a potential fire hazard, thanks to the chewed live wires they leave behind.

6. Increased Power Bills

Like we’ve mentioned earlier, squirrels and little rodents love to chew holes. They’ll tear your wiring and make holes in the roofline. In the case of the latter, however, they are not likely to stop chewing. They’ll make the hole larger. This will further decrease the heat insulation of your house, and the damage will surely cause your power and other utility bills to rise.

7. Digging Holes

Squirrels love to dig holes in your lawn when exploring and searching for objects like leaves, bark, shoots, roots, stems, nuts, fruits, and flowers. Digging is especially more common in the early fall season, as squirrels will bury seeds and nuts around the tree they live in. Storing food helps them get by during winters while they hibernate.

The holes, while beneficial to the animal, make your garden look like a mess and can possibly hit some underground wiring by your house.

How Do I Prevent Squirrels From Causing Damage?

Luckily, there’s more than a few ways you can help to prevent and stop squirrels from doing a whole bunch of damage to your home and property.

1. Use A Squirrel Baffle

Okay, this is one of the coolest things ever that If you didn’t know existed, you will now!

One of the MAIN things you need to do to stop squirrels from doing damage to your property is to keep them off your property. One of the things that keeps squirrels on your property is bird feeders and birdseed. Yes, both of these things keep squirrels coming back because it’s a free meal.

One of the simplest and most effective things you can do is put what’s called a “baffle” around your bird feeder! It’s essentially just a thick cone that you put around the pole of your standing bird feeder and it doesn’t allow squirrels to climb up it.

This one, right here, the Woodlink NABAF18 Audubon Wrap Around Squirrel Baffle. Give it a looksie and see for yourself.

I’m going to go more in-depth with that at the end of this article, but in case you don’t read that far, I wanted to make sure you knew about it.

2. Trim Those Trees!

Housing a large tree in your garden or backyard is a major reason why you’re finding squirrels in your house, especially if the trees are left to grow by themselves. Trimming the branches is very important to keep squirrels at bay. Remember the distance between the exterior portion of your house and the tree branch should be no less than 8-9 inches (20-23 centimeters). No tree branch should loom directly over your roof. 

You also have to trim the branches reaching out towards neighborhood trees that may house a squirrel nest. That distance should also be 8-9 inches (20-23 centimeters).

3. Blocking Access to Upper Branches

Squirrels usually build their nests in the nodes of branches. If you block the passage and prevent them from climbing, they’ll leave your yard alone. Sheath loosely fitted metal collars/rings with springs on the tree trunks. You can do the same trick on poles that accommodate the wires.

4. Find and Fix Any Holes in Your Home

Squirrels don’t resort to chewing on plaster straight away. Like other animals, they find a hole to enter your home first. To stop these unwelcome guests from breaking in and taking shelter, close the holes with either a tile, plaster, wire mesh or duct tape.

Make sure you give your house a good search. Start with the outside siding of you house and scan from bottom to top in search of small holes. Most likely, many of the holes will be near your attic by a place that squirrels may have jumped onto it from.

5. Protect the Pipes and Chimney

You can prevent drooping of pipes by stopping squirrels from running across them. Contact your utility company and ask them to place a PVC pipe over the utility lines. You can mention that you have a squirrel problem. The pipe will rotate by the weight of the squirrel and stop them in their tracks. Don’t try placing the pipe yourself, get a professional to do it. 

You should also cover any vents and chimneys with a mesh screen that denies squirrels and other animals access to your house.

6. Get A Sculpture of a Predator (hit or miss)

This is an option for people who are into sculpting or collecting for a hobby, oh no. This essentially goes along the same methodology of how a scarecrow works. Get a sculpture of an animal that squirrels want to avoid and it could reward you.

However, I’ve found these to be hit or miss. Most of my problems have been with Geese and it’s difficult to tell how effective they are.

7. Get a Motion Activated Water Sprinkler!

In my opinion, motion-activated lights can work to scare away squirrels but again, its hit or miss. The animals can get used to the lights after a while and it won’t even phase them. You can still use the lights, but you need something stronger to enforce the effectiveness of the light… Something like…

A motion activated water sprinkler

The Orbit 62100 Yard Enforcer Motion Activated Sprinkler is a device that, when an animal goes in front of it, will blast them with a stream of water physically deter them (and give them a bath) away from an area you’re trying to protect. I haven’t used this sprinkler because I haven’t had a tremendous need for it but boy, it’s the one I’ll get when I do.

8. Hire a Professional to Handle The Issue

You should resort to this method only when your yard is densely overpopulated by squirrels and kits. Yes, you have the option to get traps and handle the issue yourself but I wouldn’t recommend doing this.

It may be against your local ordinance for you to relocate squirrels in your state and even trap them in the first place. Plus, you aren’t experienced (do you really want to touch a squirrel?). Instead, you should get in touch with your states Wildlife Department or a local Pest Control service to help get the job done.

9. Use Your Pets!

Well, this one is completely up to the behavior of your pet. Some cats and dogs love to chase squirrels away every time the furry creatures visit. Others might put in little to no effort, as they don’t show interest in keeping squirrels away. Of course, you can train them to chase the squirrels away (dogs tend to be better in this aspect). 

You can give your pet a treat every time they chase the animals away as this will positively reinforce their behavior and make them more likely to do it in the first place.

Dogs loudly barking can also scare the squirrels away. Cats are more agile and can climb on trees and branches, where the squirrel’s nest is likely to be.

10. Put Your Crops in Cages

Yes, squirrels can do some damage to crops when given the chance 2. This one is more about protecting your garden than house. However if you keep your garden squirrel free then their should be less squirrels overall to get into your house.

Squirrels love vegetables, especially corn. They also love to chomp down on various seeds like sunflower seeds. If you can’t seem to keep the pests away from your veggie garden, cages might be the only option. Find cages with very small holes and place them above the vegetable and half a foot below the soil.

11. Remove Attractions and Clean Up Your Yard

It’s easy to unknowingly attract one animal when attempting to bring other wildlife to your house. The seeds you leave for birds in the feeder are a favorite of squirrels. Clean up any seeds that collect around the feeder, and place the bird feeders away from the veggie garden. 

The smell of fallen fruits from trees is also an attraction. Clean them up often. Make sure to close the trash cans properly. Buy heavy metal ones with fitting lids. Remove every possible attraction when trying to keep the squirrels away!

Squirrels usually build their nests in the nodes of branches. If you block the passage and prevent them from climbing, they’ll leave your yard alone. Sheath loosely fitted metal collars/rings with springs on the tree trunks. You can do the same trick on poles that accommodate the wires.

12. Install Some Fencing

A good option to keep squirrels out of your garden near your house is fencing. Squirrels dislike climbing plastic garden netting. A fence made of this material should suffice as long as it’s at least 5 feet tall. You also need to bury a couple of inches of this netting beneath the ground to prevent access by digging.

Another, better option is to install some mesh wire fencing (similar to putting your crops in cages) that’s preferably 6 feet tall (squirrels can jump up to this high). To further increase protection, you can extend the fencing by penetrating 6 – 10 inches deep in the ground and then pointing it another 6-8 inches outward, give or take.

This prevents burrowing and allowing squirrels to dig underneath the fence. The exact lengths won’t matter as much, just as long as you do it.

13. Give Them an Alternate Food Option

Now, now, we get it. To keep squirrels away, you have to deprive them of food on your property. But here, we’re suggesting you actually give them the food option. Sounds like an oxymoron, right?

Well, if nothing else works, this is the last hope. You’d have to spend some money getting some nuts and corn from the grocery store. 

Once you do that, set up a feeding station for the squirrels far away from your vegetable garden and attic. Also, remember to keep water in the feeder. Make sure to add tempting treats like corn and grains 3. Position it well enough that it acts as a distraction, not an attraction.

Of course, this is more of a last resort as you want to keep them quite a ways away from your property, but it’s better keeping an eye on the enemy rather than letting them do as they please.

Here’s a cool Squirrel Jar Feeder from Birds Choice to help keep them full.

How To Get Squirrels Out Of Your House

Has a squirrel broken into your home? Don’t panic! The squirrel is probably startled and panicking as well, and chasing it around the house just results in more chaos. The best way is to stay cool and collected and provide the squirrel an exit. Take these steps to drive the squirrel out of your house:

  1. Call your local pest control expert / Department of Wildlife.
  2. Open a window or door that leads to the outside.
  3. Shut any door that leads to another room.
  4. Now locate where it came from. If you left a window open, close it. If you left a door open, shut it as well. If there’s a hole somewhere, seal it.
  5. Stay back from the squirrel and wait for pest control to arrive.

How To Get Squirrels Out Of Your Fireplace

  1. Pick up the phone – Call your local pest control or trapping expert / Department of Wildlife.
  2. Close the damper – If you spot the squirrel in your fireplace, immediately close the damper.
  3. Shut the doors – Don’t let the squirrel run to other rooms. 
  4. Be patient – Let the squirrel climb out while STAYING AWAY, don’t make contact with the animal.
  5. Cover up the entry point – Once it has vacated (with the help of an expert, most likely), cover the chimney with a screen to prevent this from happening again.

*Note, if the squirrel is stuck in your chimney flue, you’ll definitely want to discuss options with your local pest control or trapping expert. They’ll more than likely have to get on your roof and work to get the squirrel(s) out from there.

How To Get Squirrels Out Of Your Attic

Leading squirrels out of the attic is a bit of a tricky task, especially during the breeding season, as the squirrel may have delivered a litter. If you find squirrels with a litter, make sure your absolute next step is to call your local pest control expert so you can make sure you’re following all of your state’s local ordinances and executing things as best as possible.

Likely, there may be a nest in your attic if you’re hearing the noise between late fall and early spring. If you find a litter of baby squirrels, the mother is probably very protective of her newborn young – which is all the more reason to admit that you need to call in the heavies.

The reason I’m suggesting to go ahead and contact a local expert is that you really don’t want to be going into your attic untrained, with a wild animal near her nest. That’s just spelling for trouble.

So, my advice for this one? Yes, call in the heavies (local pest control / trapping expert or Department of Wildlife).

How To Keep Squirrels Away From Bird Feeders

Protecting the bird feeders from squirrels takes a lot of wits, and the squirrels are likely to win. The process is more of an experiment with a lot of trial and error. But to help you out, here are my tw favorite things you can do:

  1. Use a Squirrel Baffle! Use custom baffles on the bird feeders’ pole, so that the squirrels cannot reach it (this is my favorite to stop them)
  2. Look for a squirrel-resistant feeder – These rotate when a squirrel weighs them down, disturbing the balance. A good one to start with is the Brome Squirrel Buster.

Basically, if you use a squirrel baffle the animals wont be able to get up the pole. If you want to get an entirely new bird feeder, these squirrel resistant ones are also a thing of beauty. They suspend, rotate, and make it very difficult squirrels to get proper footing.

If you’ve got a quest for knowledge, we wrote an article about keeping raccoons off of your bird feeders that could offer some knowledge to your situation. You can find that article here.

Protecting Plants From Squirrels

Plants are another common target of squirrels. To protect them, you can use the following tips:

  • Protect plants with metal caging – protect roots and other vegetables, install a metal cage preferably 6 feet high with strong mesh wiring that is penetrated into the soil at least 8 inches deep that covers the plants from all sides.
  • Keeping tree branches trimmed – Make sure no tree branches that hover over the fence or else squirrels can just hop inside it! Even if the branches or close, squirrels will still be able to leap from quite a good distance away to get into the plant.

In a Nutshell…

Squirrels love to damage your home, and they can lead to major home repair costs if you aren’t diligent in implementing prevention strategies. 

While they’re fun to look at and entertain, it won’t be fun for you to look at an increased electricity bill and holes in your home if they make it inside.

If you follow the advice contained within this guide, you should be able to mitigate both the time and monetary investment that come with repairing squirrel-related damage. 

References

  1. Rayden, T. J., & Savill, P. S. (2004). Damage to beech woodlands in the Chilterns by the grey squirrel. Forestry77(3), 249-253.
  2. Hadidian, J., Manski, D., Flyger, V., Cox, C., & Hodge, G. (1987). Urban gray squirrel damage and population management: a case history
  3. Hisaw, F. L., & Emery, F. E. (1927).Food selection of ground squirrels, Citellus tridecemlineatus. Journal of Mammalogy8(1), 41-44.

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