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March 10, 2010

Protecting Vents from Animal Intruders

Learn how to build your own vent covers

  • This attic side vent is protected with 16-gauge 1-inch square wire mesh to keep out squirrels, raccoons, and birds. John Griffin/The HSUS

  • Hardware cloth slipped in behind the louvers in this bathroom exhaust vent is an easy solution. John Griffin/The HSUS

Vents help keep all of the different systems in your house functioning properly. They rid the air of things such as smoke from a wood-burning fireplace, heat from a clothes dryer or an attic, humidity from the bathroom, heat and smells from the kitchen, and combustion by-products from gas heating appliances.

They can also serve as a welcome mat for wild animals, many of whom can work their way into spaces as small as a dime to gain entry to the attic, walls, and other parts of your home.

You can help prevent these intrusions by creating custom covers from common materials found at your local hardware store. Before you begin, study the location and function of your house vents, and determine how you will access them safely. Also, to ensure you do not inadvertently trap animals who are already inside, look for evidence of current occupation.

Follow these steps for covering side attic vents, oven vents, and bathroom vents:

1) 16-gauge wire mesh with 1-inch square openings is most effective for keeping raccoons and squirrels out of larger side vents such as attic gable vents. If you can’t find it, look for the more commonly sold 18-22 gauge hardware cloth. This material is also the most effective for protecting bathroom and oven vents; it typically has ½-inch square openings, a good size for keeping out bats and birds.

2) Check the sturdiness of the vent frame itself; if it is sturdy, cut the hardware cloth to fit the frame. If the frame is made of thin metal or deteriorating wood, you may have to cut it a little bit bigger so you can instead fasten the hardware cloth to the surrounding siding or structure.

3) To fasten the hardware cloth, use screws for a tighter fit and longer life. Depending on the size of the screw head and the wire mesh opening, you may need a washer.

Learn more about covering dryer and bathroom vents using commercial protective covers by reading our tip sheet on preventing bird intrusions.
 

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