Wildlife Control

Mouse caught in a humane moustrap

How Do You Keep Pests Out of Your Home?

Most of us have been in this situation: some kind of pest — whether it’s a bug, a four-legged animal, or a bird — gets into your living space. You want it out of there as quickly as possible. An unwelcome spider, squirrel, or robin raises some uneasy questions, too — “How did it get in? Will more get in while I’m sleeping? Are there other critters hiding somewhere in my home right now?”

One of the best ways to avoid this mess is to prevent it from happening in the first place. At HY-C, we manufacture a line of guards and screens to do just that: keep animals and insects out before they can even get in. We’ve learned a lot about pest control while developing those products, and we want to share what we’ve learned with you.

By the time you’re done with this guide, you’ll have a grasp on some tried-and-true preventative methods of keeping pests of all shapes and sizes out of your home. And if by the end you’re interested in installing some preventative wildlife control devices on your home, we’ll show you where you can get started.

Exclude Pests with Pest Barriers

Man installing a HY-GUARD EXCLUSION foundation screen with a yellow drill

Pests get into your home the same way you do: they walk (or crawl or fly) through an opening. They like to get in for the same reasons as you, too — your house is warm, quiet, and offers protection from the outside world. If you want to keep the animals and insects out, you have to close (and lock) the door.

But not just the front door (although that helps). Most homes have some common openings on them that critters like to get into. These openings are necessary because they help to keep your home properly ventilated, but they are also the most likely source of a pest invasion. That’s why we created HY-GUARD EXCLUSION — to allow these openings to vent properly while keeping pests out at the same time.

Here are some of the most common home vents vulnerable to penetration from pests:

  • Chimneys
  • Roof vents
  • Soffit vents
  • Wall vents
  • Foundations

With pest barriers, you can cover these vents while maintaining their proper function. As long as the barriers you install are made from solid materials (like stainless or galvanized steel), they should hold up well in the long term.

Exclude Pests with Proper Home Maintenance

Caulk being applied between drywall and wall tile

From ants to bears, pests of any size have one thing in common: they find ways to get in. They’re crafty and determined, and unless you keep your home in tip-top shape, you’re always vulnerable to their presence.

Thankfully, though, pest entry points as a result of home damage are relatively well-known and consistent in their location, and we cover them below. All you need to do is check your house for holes and cracks, and repair them if you happen to find any.

Make Sure Pest Barriers Aren’t Damaged

If you decide to install pest exclusion screens and guards on your house, be sure to check them for damage every now and again. These products are usually made of metal and bolted onto your house with screws, acting as a strong deterrent to most curious critters.

Still, if they become damaged in any way (maybe by a strong storm or a particularly persistent animal), even the smallest opening can lead to a pest getting in. This will wear down an even larger opening, allowing bigger and bigger critters to invade over time. Stop this cycle in advance by ensuring your pest barriers remain tightly secure and damage-free.

Keep Siding, Masonry, and Windowsills in Good Shape

How often do you inspect your home’s siding? How often do you check for cracks in your brick? Do you spend much time looking at your window sills? Because these areas of a home tend to receive little to no attention, they’re prime spots for unnoticed deterioration.

Again, critters are crafty. They’ll discover these openings and set up camp in your house, potentially without you even noticing. Repair these areas before they become a problem. Make sure your siding is secure. Fill in any cracks in your brick (or hire a professional if you can’t do it yourself). Use sealant to close any gaps in your window sill. Make it impossible for animals or bugs to get in in the first place.

Inspect for Pest-Created Entry Points

Brick, siding, and windowsills tend to develop wear and tear over time. Pests discover these entry points on their own and just climb on through. In other instances, though, a determined pest will create their own entry point by clawing or chewing their way through your walls.

These entry points are easy to spot. The hole will look uneven and hastily made, as the critter is much more concerned with gaining entry than the aesthetics of the entryway itself. There may be animal droppings nearby or, if the hole is new enough, you may find dust or chunks of drywall, wood, or siding on the ground.

If you discover one of these animal-made holes in your house, you’ll have to contact a pest control professional to remove the critter and maybe even a contractor to repair the damage (though many wildlife and pest control professionals offer both removal and repair as part of their service packages).

Exclude Pests by Creating a Buffer Zone

A two-story house with a tall layer of shrubs around the perimeter

Whether you know it or not, oftentimes, when pests get onto your property or into your home, it’s because you’ve made it attractive for them to be there. Obviously this is most often done unintentionally. But either way, it’s vital to understand what attracts pests to your yard and home so you can start doing the exact opposite of those things.

Keep Vegetation Maintained

Pests love vegetation. From insects to animals, trees, bushes, and plants offer a source of protection and, in some cases, food. People like vegetation, too. We like trees in our yards, plants and bushes in our landscaping, and flowers in our houses and on our porches. Sometimes our shared love of foliage brings people and animals together in exactly the spots we don’t want.

Does that mean that you shouldn’t have nice landscaping if you want to avoid pests? No, of course not. But it does mean that you should keep your vegetation trimmed and, if possible, a good distance from your house. Don’t let critters use your hedges as a stepping stone to your front door.

Keep Your Lawn Maintained

Vegetation isn’t the only thing critters like to eat. Opossums, swallows, bats, and spiders all love to feast on bugs. And a lawn that isn’t properly maintained can create a breeding ground for a diverse number of insects. These bugs will bring bigger critters right to your yard to start feasting, creating a robust (and invasive) ecosystem.

The best way to prevent this food chain from developing is to get rid of the bugs through proper lawn maintenance. This includes planting grass that is native to your local area, mowing every seven to ten days, and aerating your lawn at least once a year. If you eliminate (or at least deter) insects, the larger critters will find your lawn less appealing.

Properly Dispose of Trash

We’ve all heard stories or seen pictures of raccoons rollicking in a trash can. They’re attracted to the smell of garbage, and they enjoy the easily accessible free food. And they’re not the only trash-loving animals out there; skunks, rats, squirrels, and opossums love digging through waste bins, too. Your week-old leftovers are their feast.

This problem is pretty easy to solve. Be sure all of your trash is in a tightly sealed bag to prevent the smell from wafting around. Make sure all the trash actually ends up in the trash can. That seems intuitive, but one misplaced apple core can lead critters to discovering the rest of your trash bin (and they’ll be sure to come back for seconds). If things get really bad, you can always install a lock on your trash can’s lid.

How Do You Secure Your Home Against Pests?

The thought of an unwelcome pest in the home can be scary. They can get in at any time if your home isn’t protected. By now, you should have a good understanding of what it takes to keep critters out of the house. Creating a buffer zone against pests and keeping your home properly maintained are relatively easy and effective if done consistently.

One of the best ways to keep pests out, though, is turning your home into a fortress. Pest barriers, when installed correctly, help you cover all your bases (quite literally), deterring animals in the least, and outright foiling their efforts to gain entry at best.

If you want to learn more about exclusion caps, screens, and guards, HY-GUARD EXCLUSION is an excellent place to start. These HY-C-created barriers cover the most common pest entry points, excluding pests from homes — top to bottom. They’re one of the many strong tools in your wildlife control toolbox that will help keep your home secure and pest-free.

A wildlife control professional installing a HY-GUARD EXCLUSION code-compliant dryer vent guard

What Kind of Wildlife Does (and Doesn’t) HY-GUARD EXCLUSION Exclude?

When you’re a homeowner, there’s no shortage of problems and maintenance issues to keep up with. One week, your faucet starts leaking and you need to call a plumber. The next week, you discover mold in the basement carpet and have to call a cleaning service. The freedom of homeownership means your house is yours — but the downside is that the upkeep and repairs are yours, too.

One home ownership problem we’re acutely aware of at HY-C is that of invasive wildlife. Raccoons, squirrels, bugs, you name it — depending on where you live, the threats are varied and vast. Our line of HY-GUARD EXCLUSION screens, caps, and guards are designed to mitigate and even eliminate the threats of local wildlife getting into your home.

But what kinds of critters can these exclusion products keep out? And, more importantly, what kinds of critters can’t they keep out? In this guide, we’ll cover exactly that. By the time you’re done, you’ll know the vulnerable entry points where animals and insects can get into a home, which HY-GUARD products will keep them out, and the limitations of those products. You’ll be ready to utilize exclusion products to keep the common local wildlife out of your home.

What Kind of Wildlife Gets in Your Chimney?

Starting at the very top of the house, the most vulnerable entry point for wildlife is the chimney flue. By far, the most common chimney invaders are raccoons. Raccoons are great climbers; so great, in fact, that they’re one of the only animals that can climb up and down a chimney flue. It’s not uncommon for a female raccoon to set up shop on a chimney’s smoke shelf and create a nest for her young.

The other critter most likely to invade a chimney is a chimney swift. These birds are different from other birds in that they hardly need any horizontal momentum to start flying. They can essentially take off from a standing start and, as a result, they tend to use the limited confines of a chimney as a safe spot to build their nests (hence their name).

Less common candidates to get into a chimney include bats, mice, and squirrels. Contrary to popular belief, bats don’t tend to make homes in chimneys; unlike chimney swifts, they can’t fly straight up, so if they wind up in a chimney, they’ll likely become trapped there. Same goes for squirrels and mice — neither can climb back up the chimney flue, so unless the flue tile itself is cracked (providing a spot to come and go), mice and squirrels will get stuck in a chimney.

The Solution: A Chimney Cap

Roofer installing a stainless steel HY-C single-flue bolt-on chimney cap onto a chimney flue

A chimney cap, with its solid top and diamond mesh sides, will keep raccoons, chimney swifts, and other birds from accessing your chimney flue while still providing enough ventilation for smoke from the fireplace to dissipate. Our Draft King and Shelter brand chimney caps are made from stainless steel and most of them are bolted onto the flue, meaning curious animals won’t be able to remove or damage them to gain access.

Critters That May Still Gain Access

Most chimney caps are made with a ¾” diamond mesh pattern that’s small enough to exclude most animals, especially bigger, roof-loving animals like squirrels and raccoons. This mesh is still wide enough (in theory) to let in a small bat or a baby mouse, though.

Despite the protection a chimney cap offers, the mesh openings are still vulnerable to insects, too, most commonly stink bugs, bees, and wasps.

What Kind of Wildlife Gets in Your Roof Vents?

Roof vents are vital for maintaining air circulation, which is pivotal for regulating temperature, preventing mold and particulate buildup, and promoting healthy breathing. These vents allow air in and out of your attic. They may also be connected to appliances in the home, like bathroom vent fans or stoves.

While the vents themselves are typically designed with animal exclusion in mind, that doesn’t stop certain critters from getting in — especially over time. Raccoons are strong and dextrous enough to peel vents open so they can slip through. Squirrels have strong enough teeth to chew through vents made of weaker metals (especially aluminum). Also, weather damage may create a hole or crease in a vent, providing just enough space for either animal to squeeze in.

The Solution: Roof Vent Guards

Roofing professional installing a HY-GUARD EXCLUSION roof vent guard on a roof with gray shingles

The vent itself is often not a good enough guard to keep animals out, so our HY-GUARD EXCLUSION line includes a variety of roof vent guards. These guards are made from stainless steel mesh and are installed over the vent as an added layer of protection. When installed and secured properly, they’ll keep out the raccoons and squirrels while still allowing your vents to function properly.

Critters That May Still Gain Access

Like chimney caps, HY-GUARD EXCLUSION roof vent guards are made with a few different mesh sizes: ⅝” at the largest and ¼” at the smallest. These sizes will keep out virtually any animal with four legs or wings, but you may still be vulnerable to wasps, bees, yellow jackets, stink bugs, or spiders (depending on which mesh size you choose).

There is a solution, though: simply add some bug screen mesh inside the vent itself before installing a roof vent guard. Many roof vents come with bug mesh pre-installed, but if yours doesn’t have it, adding it can go a long way towards keeping out insects.

What Kind of Wildlife Gets in Your Soffits?

Like roof vents, soffit vents exist to promote airflow (mostly to and from the home’s attic). While they’re usually made with small enough entry points to keep animals out, the problem with these vents lies with their materials. Many soffit vents are made from relatively weak materials like aluminum or plastic which tend to wear down or crack over time.

Raccoons love making homes inside of soffits. The area offers protection from the weather and predators, and it provides a great spot to raise offspring. Squirrels can get access to a damaged soffit vent too, usually by way of a nearby corner or windowsill. Even a mouse or a rat may find its way up into a soffit.

The Solution: Soffit Vent Screens

HY-GUARD EXCLUSION soffit guards installed over soffit vent openings on a home

HY-GUARD EXCLUSION soffit vent screens are made from stainless steel (like most products we offer). They’re also drilled directly into the soffit through pre-cut holes. This combination means that curious critters can’t bite through them or rip them off of the house, ensuring your soffit and attic stay raccoon- and squirrel-free.

Critters That May Still Gain Access

Despite the sturdy materials and construction style, HY-GUARD EXCLUSION soffit vent screens are made exclusively with ⅜” mesh. While this will keep out raccoons, mice, rats, squirrels, and birds, the soffit is still vulnerable to wasps, bees, yellow jackets, stink bugs, and spiders.

Even still, similarly to the roof vent guards, the threat from insects can be mitigated with a bit of bug screen. Luckily, bug screens are easy to cut through. Just cut out a few pieces that are the same size as the soffit vent cover and screw them both into the soffit.

What Kind of Wildlife Gets in Your Dryer Vents?

The most common type of wall vent on a home is a dryer vent. Dryers work by moving lots of hot air through the tumbler, and that air needs somewhere to go. A hose on the back of the dryer connects to a wall vent, allowing gasses to exit out of the side of the house.

A lot of dryer vents feature hanging louvers on them — a clever design that allows the vent to open up as air rushes out, but keeps it closed off to bugs and critters when the dryer isn’t running. Unfortunately, though, those louvers are made of plastic and can be easily broken by animals.

Birds are far and away the most likely critter to invade a dryer vent — specifically, European starlings. This invasive species of birds love to get into places where they don’t belong, and they often make nests in dryer vents. Even if they leave your vent alone after a while, it will still be damaged after their occupation, leaving it open to mice, squirrels, and other common animals.

The Solution: Dryer Vent Guards

A white universal code-compliant dryer vent guard installed on a house with stone siding

A European starling may be able to chip away at the plastic louvers of a dryer vent, but they won’t be able to get past a stainless steel dryer vent guard. Bolted directly onto the side of the house, these guards will not just keep out birds, but also squirrels, mice, rats, or other small animals common in your area.

Critters That May Still Gain Access

HY-GUARD EXCLUSION’s dryer vent guards come in two styles: one with ⅜” mesh, and another with vertical bars. The diamond mesh style will essentially exclude everything except for bees, wasps, stink bugs, and yellow jackets, but the louvers on the vent itself (provided they’re not damaged) should keep those out just fine.

The style with the vertical bars excludes birds, but it only acts as a deterrent to everything else, meaning bats, squirrels, mice, and rats can still break through its defenses if they’re determined enough. It’s also important to note that some of these vertical bar-style vents are made from plastic, a relatively vulnerable material that some pests might be able to break through.

What Kind of Wildlife Gets in Your Foundation Vents?

Roof vents provide ventilation to a home’s attic. Foundation vents provide ventilation to a basement or crawl space, and ventilation in these spaces is equally important. Due to their low location, though, foundation vents are perhaps some of the most vulnerable points of entry on a house. Any ground animal that gets curious enough can find its way in.

Foundation vents typically make homes for the usual suspects (i.e., squirrels, skunks, raccoons, opossums, etc.). Depending on the size of the vent and the strength of its material, though, animals of all sizes may get in. It’s rare, but there are documented incidents of full-sized bears invading crawl spaces and hibernating there during the winter.

The Solution: Foundation Vent Screens

HY-GUARD EXCLUSION foundation vent guard installed on the side of a brick house by an installer using a yellow drill

Like the soffit screens mentioned earlier, foundation screens are bolted on over foundation vents. They allow air to continue to circulate in the basement or crawl space while preventing small and large animals alike from getting in.

HY-GUARD EXCLUSION’s selection of foundation vent screens come standard with ⅜” diamond mesh and a stainless steel construction. They’ll keep out anything from squirrels to skunks and opossums to raccoons — even bears.

Critters That May Still Gain Access

It should be clear by now that diamond mesh is great at keeping animals out, but it has a bit more trouble keeping insects out. Bees, wasps, yellow jackets, and stink bugs can still get through our foundation screens and into a basement or crawl space. Since foundation vents are near to the ground, you should also be mindful of smaller insects like ants and spiders.

However, similarly to the soffit vents and roof vents, all you need is a little bug screen. Just cut it to fit and attach it along with the foundation vent guard during installation.

Is HY-GUARD EXCLUSION the Right Fit for Your Home?

Keeping your home under control is a war with a lot of battles, and keeping critters out is one of the toughest battles of all. There are so many points of entry for a diverse list of wildlife to make their way through, and accounting for all of them can be overwhelming.

Thankfully, at this point, you should have a good understanding of those entry points and how to barricade them. From here, the best thing for you to do is determine what your house has:

  • A chimney
  • Roof vents
  • Soffit vents
  • Wall (dryer) vents
  • Foundation vents

It’s also a good idea to take an inventory of the local wildlife. Do you have squirrels in your area? Lots of raccoons? Stink bugs? Or different animals and insects altogether?

Once you know your home’s vulnerable spots and are aware of the common types of invasive species in your area, it’s up to you to decide which points of entry you’d like to guard against which species. Finally, take that information to a wildlife control professional in your area. They’re trained in exclusion products, and they’ll be able to install all the screens and guards you need to keep your home pest-free.

Rocky Raccoon

How to Keep Wildlife out of Your Chimney

Raccoons, squirrels, birds, bats — at some point or another, you may encounter any one of these critters in your chimney. Their presence can disturb your living space, cause costly damage to your chimney or fireplace, and at worst, curious or frightened wildlife may find its way into the rest of your home.

HY-C’s HY-Guard exclusion products have been protecting homes from nuisance wildlife for decades, and our chimney caps have been on top of flues for over 75 years. In the category of keeping animals out of chimneys, there’s nothing we haven’t seen.

In this guide, we’ll outline how a chimney works, which animals get into them, and how they manage to sneak in. We’ll also explain how a good chimney cap can go a long way towards keeping critters out of your chimney to help you keep your chimney — and your home — protected.

Parts of a Chimney

It’s important to visualize the components that make up your chimney so you can see both where critters get in and where they set up camp. A traditional fireplace is made up of several components, including the firebox, a damper, a smoke shelf, a smoke chamber, the masonry, and a flue. A standard chimney typically looks something like this:


The firebox is what you see when you look into a fireplace from inside your home. Lined with firebrick, it’s where you burn the wood in your fireplace. The damper is an adjustable steel or cast iron plate at the top of the firebox, and its job is to regulate airflow through the firebox, into the smoke chamber, and up through the chimney. Behind the damper sits the smoke shelf — a flat area at the base of the smoke chamber designed to prevent reverse airflow (i.e., backdrafts) into the firebox. The smoke shelf also helps to protect the firebox from water, debris, or wildlife that makes its way down the chimney.

Atop the smoke chamber, the flue is the exit from which smoke and hot gas escape the chimney. It’s supported by the masonry of the chimney and it extends upward through the building, through the roofline, and ends at some level above the shingles.

The flue is the most common entry point wildlife uses to get inside a chimney, either intentionally to create a nest or by accidentally falling in. Critters may also enter the actual chimney structure through flaws in the masonry, missing mortar joints, or other external damage. Smaller wildlife can get in through openings at the base of the chimney if the flashing is faulty. Decay and extensive weathering on older chimneys may offer still more points of entry for local fauna.

What Kind of Wildlife Gets into a Chimney?

Squirrel on fence

Raccoons are infamous for using the chimney as a maternal den site; a female raccoon can easily climb up and down the inside of a flue. Normally, a mother raccoon births her babies (called “kits”) on the smoke shelf of a fireplace, so that should be the first place you check if you hear critters in your chimney.

Squirrels, bats, and birds can also get into the flue. Unlike raccoons, squirrels can’t climb back up the slick flue tile, and bats and birds have trouble navigating the narrow smoke chamber. Chimney swifts are a notable exception, though. These aptly named birds can fly vertically and have no issues making their home in a chimney. Swifts are protected by the Migratory Bird Treaty Act of 1918 and require special permits for removal.

In some cases, small animals might be able to enter through the cracks and crevices in the masonry or flue tiles. These infestations — usually flying squirrels or bats — are sometimes hard to recognize, but typically easy to exclude with regular maintenance.

What Are the Signs of Wildlife in Your Chimney?

There are two sure signs of wildlife inside a chimney: noises and odors. Noises like scratching, clawing, or just general movement indicate that there may be an animal on top of the damper or the smoke shelf. If the damper was left open, the culprit will likely be staring you in the face from your firebox (or even running around your living room). Chirps or chittering are usually indicative of birds or raccoons.

Odor normally suggests raccoons as well, but most homeowners can pick up the scent of a long-term bird roost and the droppings that come with it. If the odor is particularly foul, the critter may not have survived its time in your chimney. In this case, your priority shifts from animal capture to carcass removal.

How to Inspect Your Chimney for Wildlife

Starting an inspection is easy enough; all you need is a flashlight to peek into the firebox to check for wildlife. Inspecting the smoke shelf is a little more difficult. Visual access to the shelf is difficult, so you’ll need both a light and a camera. From the roof, you can use a strong light source and look down the chimney flue for critters, or you can lower a camera down the flue and play the footage back later. It’s important to note that we do not recommend climbing onto your roof. Leave all roof-level inspections to a professional wildlife control operator.

As the flue is being inspected for wildlife and nesting material, be sure to inspect the chimney itself for any signs of damage, blockage, cracks, weathering, or creosote buildup. Repairing these problems will not only keep future wildlife from getting in, but will also ensure an efficient chimney that functions properly. To really keep wildlife out of your chimney, though, nothing beats a top-of-the-line chimney cap.

How a Chimney Cap Can Keep Wildlife out of Your Chimney

If you don’t have a chimney cap, getting one is an absolute necessity. First and foremost, they keep animals and debris from entering the chimney flue and creating blockages and fire hazards. They also prevent downdrafts and rainwater from getting into the chimney flue.

A chimney cap can also improve the chimney’s draft, helping it to vent smoke and gas more easily. Caps made from galvanized steel, stainless steel, or copper are popular choices because they are aesthetically pleasing, and because nuisance wildlife can’t gnaw through them or rip them off the flue.

It’s important to consider the mesh size of your chimney cap, too. ¾” mesh is common on most caps, but homes in some parts of Oregon and California require ⅝” mesh by law (to stop sparks from escaping and causing forest fires). Mesh size is a balancing act; the mesh needs to be small enough to prevent small animals from accessing the flue, but large enough to allow smoke and gas to escape to stop creosote from building up or ice from forming.

How Do You Keep Pests Out of Your Home CTA

Keep Wildlife out of Your Chimney

The idea of an unwelcome animal making a home in your chimney is unsettling. By now, though, you understand how your chimney works, what kind of animals tend to get into it, how to check for those animals, and how to keep them from accessing your flue in the future.

The best thing to do now is to find the right chimney cap with the best functions and the right aesthetic for your home. Once it’s in place, you won’t have to worry about a family of raccoons living on your smoke shelf anymore.