The space underneath your deck often makes the ideal home for many of nature’s small critters.
If your deck is low to the grade, say 2 feet or less, keeping these animals and rodents out can become a real hassle. We’ve spoken with many homeowners who share these common concerns:
- A skunk getting underneath their deck and spraying
- An animal getting stuck and unfortunately dying, producing a foul smell during decomposition
- Mice moving in under the deck and finding their way into the home
- Animals burrowing underground and creating empty cavities of space
If any of these concerns have crossed your mind, you’re in the right place. We’re going to answer the common question: how to keep animals out from under your deck?
First, How Big of a Concern Is It?
Some of you may be wondering if it’s really a problem at all. Well, the concern isn’t always great, but we definitely think it’s worth trying to prevent.
Over the years, we’ve found quite an interesting array of items when we’re demoing older, low-to-the-ground decks. And sadly, sometimes we do find animal bones.
If a small rodent, like a mouse, gets under your deck and can’t find its way out, it will eventually die. Considering rodents are so small, the likelihood of smelling one decomposing isn’t high. But no one wants an animal to suffer, so you likely want to do what you can to stop that from happening.
What About Patios?
This problem isn’t unique to just decks. Even a patio (concrete or pavers) is susceptible to rodents and other critters burrowing or tunneling underneath it. And it may even be a larger concern for patios. These tunnels can weaken the ground underneath, which could cause the patio to fall or crack because it no longer has the proper support.
Before You Take Action
Before you start blocking all access underneath your deck, you want to be sure nothing is currently living underneath it. Here are a couple of ways you can do this:
- Keep a watchful eye for animals routinely entering and exiting under your deck, especially at night.
- Set up a motion-sensor trail camera.
- Look for damage around your deck like wood that’s been chewed, burrow holes, etc.
- Check for physical nests and animal droppings.
- Spread a light layer of flour around your deck at night and check for animal prints in the morning.
Even after you’ve blocked all the openings, you should monitor the area for a few days to ensure you haven’t accidentally trapped any animal inside.
Is There an Animal Already Living Under Your Deck?
If you discover that a critter has made their home underneath your deck, you have a few options to try and “evict” them:
- Loud Noise: Try leaving music playing on your deck for a few days. Animals prefer the quiet, so it may be enough to make them search for a more peaceful home.
- Flashing Lights: Along with peace and quiet, many animals also prefer their homes to be dark. If you install bright, flashing lights, it can dissuade them from getting too comfortable under your deck.
- Call the Experts: Sometimes, it’s best to call in the experts, especially if you aren’t sure what kind or how many animals live under your deck. A pest control professional will safely and humanely remove them.
How to Prevent Animals From Moving In
Now that we have all of that covered, the best method of prevention will depend on the scenario. You may be more worried about rodents if you live near the woods. Or, if you live in the city or suburbs, your concern may be larger animals such as skunks or raccoons.
Regardless of your situation, we have four recommendations for keeping animals out from under your deck.
We install commercial weed barrier, and pea gravel on all of our deck builds and recommend you do the same. Animals don’t particularly like burrowing or making their nests on stones. So it makes the space under your deck much less appealing and will prevent many of them from calling underneath your deck their home.
If you’re concerned about larger animals, installing deck skirting will often do the trick. These are regular deck boards installed vertically from your deck to the ground, creating a “skirt” around your entire deck.
Note: A lattice skirt is also common, but we wouldn’t recommend it if your goal is to to keep small animals or rodents out. Animals like squirrels and rabbits can usually jump between the lattice openings. If you’re set on lattice, look for a PVC lattice design with smaller openings.
While deck skirting may be the perfect solution for large animals, smaller critters can easily dig underneath it, leading us to our next solution.
One of the best solutions for smaller animals is to install a rat wall. A barrier that prevents animals (any animal, not just rodents) from burrowing underneath your deck, patio, or porch.
Rat walls are usually constructed using a metal mesh, also called hardware cloth. Essentially, you attach the barrier to your structure and bury it at least 1 foot in the ground to prevent animals from burrowing. The process requires digging a trench and using lathe screws to attach the mesh to your deck. You can find more information on building a rat wall from this post by Creature Control.
You can also use other materials to create rat walls like pressure-treated lumber, concrete, etc. Personally, we’ve had success using pressure-treated lumber (typically 2 inches x 12 inches).
Our last suggestion is more of a temporary one than a long-term solution. But if you need to get something in place right away, you can use chicken wire to create a barrier. Similar to rat walls, you can dig a trench and bury the chicken wire to prevent smaller rodents from burrowing underneath.
Keeping animals out from under your deck or persuading them to move on can be a nuisance. But with a bit of patience, proper knowledge, and some creativity, there can be a happy ending for both you and the critters looking for a place to call home.
Are you thinking about building or rebuilding your deck? Let’s have a chat!
At Custom Deck Creations, we build decks for clients across Southeast Michigan. We’ll work with you on designing the perfect outdoor space that meets your vision and budget, with a rat wall included! Feel free to look at some of our most recent builds, and when you’re ready, get in touch for a free, over-the-phone estimate.
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