From our perspective air sealing should often be the first step, but when explaining its importance to the home owner they often see the cost and hassle as too much and just want to add more insulation.  But those air passageways between basement and attic (and everything connected inbetween) are often super highways for those unwanted critters that inevitable find their way into our homes. 

So is having a few mice running up and down inside our walls really that bad?  Well, maybe one could close their eyes and ignore it if the little nasty critters didn't like to make those hidden chambers into their private potties, yeach!  The bathroom remodel I'm currently dealing with had the typical oversized holes for vents and an upstairs bath drain  Those openings bridged two floor cavities and what I found has lead to removing considerable drywall and an extensive cleanup.

I'm sure some of you have run into this, but how you explain it to the home owner I'm not sure.  Pictures just seem too disgusting.  But the ladies of the households where I have seen this (and they saw it also) really flipped out.  Once mice or rats take up living inside a home, they don't bother to go outside to do their duties.  When these situations exist, saving energy becomes the secondary benefit.

Any stories to share or advice on how to break the bad news?


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The only time I was present during dense packing of an attic with cellulose, people who were observing outside the home told me they saw "small rodents" jumping from the attic as we blew.

"How small?" was my response, really hoping I hadn't been up there with rats.

That is also one of my concerns about adding new insulation over old.  On a consultation I did, when I went into the attic it had between 1' and 2' of old wool, depth varied because it had been moved around a lot at some point.  As I looked around it was very obvious that critters (mice in this case) had done a fine job of converting that insulation into their custom multi-unit condo, where the potty was I did not investigate.  Trails and holes and paths were everywhere.  When I went downstairs I got the elderly man of the house aside and explained why I wanted him to go up and see what I saw.  I knew what would happen if the wife got a look (she would move out) and wanted to give him a chance to get a crew in there to clean everything out.  Unfortunately I have no idea as to what the rest of that story turned out to be, but at least my visit didn't end in the wife leaving.


I would love to see such matters discussed on this forum without broadly characterizing women as weak and irrational.

As for the other benefit of air sealing, it is certainly something that home/pest inspectors regularly recommend to limit pest intrusion, though not with energy or IAQ benefits.  Maybe you can reach out to some local inspectors that you have encountered and discuss how they approach the issue from their end. 

Hi Brennan, "weak and irrational" is not at all what I was trying to communicate.  It was a nasty mess where anyone might have felt uncomfortable sleeping underneath.  But since I had to tell someone, I chose hubby (he could also climb the stairs) and left it to him as to how best to proceed.  He may have in fact taken both of them on a surprise vacation after handing the keys to a clean up crew, I have no way of knowing.  My apologies to anyone else who might have taken my description as being demeaning.

As for seeking guidance from a home inspector, good advice.


Thanks Bud. I just feel the need to point out any such issues, because we as a field need to be inclusive of women, both as home performance professionals and as homeowners (and elsewhere). I understand that it was not your intention, I'm certain that I've made similar errors myself; just trying to build awareness. Thanks.

This is info I give to clients that I serve.

People who live in homes that are not energy efficient get a major benefit to their health as a result of making the homes more energy efficient.  Very often homes that are not energy efficient also have problems with mold, mildew, and pests, which can pose significant health hazards to the residents and visitors to the home.

A key part of the home improvements is air sealing.

Occupants of homes are less likely to get sick or die from major health issues if they work to make their home more energy efficient. Greater energy efficiency allows households to afford energy for heating during severe cold or for cooling during intense heat. Being able to afford energy reduces the risk of both death and illness for vulnerable populations.

The estimated health benefits of Home Energy Improvements can be valued at over $2,000 per year for a person with chronic breathing problems such as Asthma.  The health benefits can be valued at over $200 per year for average occupants, as the improvements lead to the improved health of the residents that lead to fewer colds and breathing related illnesses.


Eliminating quarter sized holes can impede rats from entering a building, in areas where rats tend to live:

From my work in NY City many years ago, the critters I saw would never have fit through a quarter size hole, of course if they wanted to pass through they would simply enlarge it.  They were huge and almost indifferent to humans.  People would literally step right over them barely taking notice.  If that is what is walking the streets I can't imagine what is hiding in the buildings. 

Rats and mice are effectively everywhere and the discussion in that article is very important for all homeowners.  I have been in some rather upscale neighborhoods and they have rodent issues just like everyone else.


Why are you there?


We need to make conscious effort to stop quickly jumping to diagnosing problems and offering solutions to problems not clearly articulated.  Why are you there? These can not be YOUR reasons, they must be THEIR reasons.  This needs to not be about what you want to sell, but what they want to solve.

If your questionnaire get's the problems you are there to solve, air sealing goes from being a product choice to part of an integrated solution.  

Stop selling "products" and start solving the problems that got you there.   "Please confirm that I understand what you are hoping to accomplish Mr Smith.  You want to fix x, y, and z.  Do I understand correctly?  These are the things we need to do to solve problems x, y, and z."  Slow down, listen.  Yes, more time upfront, but bigger more effective sales and results.

The patient doesn't tell the Doctor how to do surgery.  Why are you THERE? 


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