ABC Blog

How To Identify a Rat’s Nest

Three dark-colored immature rats sleeping in a nest made of torn paper and other materials

Spotting a rat’s nest might be the first sign of an infestation in your home. But how do you know if what you’re seeing is the home of one of these hard-to-spot rodents, particularly if you don’t observe the rat itself? Rodents tend to nest in more protected areas that homeowners don’t usually frequent. In addition, different species of rats build nests that typically vary in appearance and can be found in different spots on your property. Generally speaking, a rat’s nest looks like a ball that is 4 to 6 inches in diameter that is loosely woven.

Norway rats, also called sewer rats or brown rats, are stocky rodents that often dig burrows in moist areas, such as under woodpiles or trash, along home foundations, fields or in gardens. They line these nests with fibrous materials, such as cloth or shredded paper. If these rats come into a building, they … Read Full Post »

How Do Mice Get in My Attic? Rodent Proofing 101

A mouse scurrying around in an attic

If you’ve noticed signs of mice in your attic—such as droppings, piles of shredded paper or insulation, scratching or squeaking noises coming from within the walls or actual mouse sightings—you’re probably wondering how the mice got there.

Mice, rats and other rodent pests normally get into attics, garages and homes through gaps in exterior walls that lead to interior spaces. Even a seemingly tiny gap around a dryer or bathroom vent, for example, can be a good entry point for a mouse, since mice can squeeze through holes as small as the size of a dime. Yes, you read that right! These creatures are incredibly well-adapted to contort their bodies to fit through extremely small holes.

The reason why mice infiltrate people’s homes is the same as that of any animal trying to get inside: They are seeking warm, dry shelter; food and water and a good place to build a nest … Read Full Post »

How Far Should Tree Branches Be From a House?

A house surrounded by oak trees that have been trimmed back

Surrounding your house with trees can lend visual appeal to your entire property. Unfortunately, this gorgeous greenery can spell disaster. When trees are too close to your home, the roots can destroy your foundation, and branches hanging over your roof can cause a whole range of problems.

As a general rule, trees should be at least 10 to 20 feet from your home, but the exact distance depends on the size of the tree, its canopy and its root system. Ideally, no part of a tree should touch your home, and branches that hang over your roofline should be trimmed regularly. These limbs can be responsible for serious damage if they break and fall. Not only can your roof or other property surrounding your house be impacted, but your family or houseguests could be put at risk for injury.

At the very least, any branches that hang over the house should be … Read Full Post »

Do Christmas Lights Use a Lot of Electricity?

A home that has been decorated with multiple strands of lights, which may make the homeowner wonder if Christmas lights use a lot of electricity

Do you dream of creating a holiday wonderland at home at Christmastime, complete with lights galore to capture the warmth of the season? Many of us do, but that heartwarming vision of twinkling lights might immediately be followed up with questions about what your electricity bill will amount to if you go with an extensive festive display. After all, with people coming and going, and running your heater during the wintertime, you may not know exactly how much electricity Christmas lights use.

With the holidays already being an expensive time of year, a high electric bill can certainly dim the festive cheer of an extensive lights display. Fortunately, a home Christmas lights display might be more affordable than you think, and there are several ways to limit your electricity use while still putting on a show the neighbors will remember for years to come.

It’s to be expected that a few weeks’ … Read Full Post »

Why Is My Furnace Blowing Cold Air?

A furnace blowing cold air through open air vents

If you turn on your heater on the first cold night of the season, only to discover that it’s blowing cold air, you have every right to be concerned. It’s even worse if your heating system fails when you have a home full of children, grandchildren or other guests, who might have trouble spending time at your home because it’s so cold.

Thankfully, there are some things you can try to troubleshoot furnace issues. There are also some preventative steps you can take to reduce the chance of your heater malfunctioning at the worst possible time or creating a larger and possibly dangerous issue.

Whether a furnace issue is something you can fix on your own depends on the root cause. Many complex heating matters, such as problems with the burner, flame sensor, oil tank, thermocouple, gas valve, ignition, oil filter, duct or computerized controls, require the help of a professional.

However, homeowners … Read Full Post »

How to Hang Christmas Lights from Gutters

Christmas lights attached to gutters with plastic clips

The holiday season brings lots of fun, but it also takes quite a bit of planning. You have to make time for family, friends, holiday parties, shopping and much more. Decorating your property so that it looks beautiful and festive for the season takes some forethought, as hanging Christmas lights incorrectly can cause damage to your home and the lights, and even harm a visitor. A popular and attractive method to hang lights is to string them across the top of your garage. This is why it’s important to learn how to hang Christmas lights from your gutters correctly.

The first step to decorating with Christmas lights the right way is to gather your tools and get prepared before you get started. Every homeowner can decide among different types and brands of lights and fasteners. By getting everything ready before you start, you’re less likely to have to run to the … Read Full Post »

Texas Evergreen Shrubs: Which Are Best?

A Japanese boxwood shrub which is considered a Texas evergreen shrub

Homeowners often choose to add bushes to their front yards to add height and texture, enhance security and improve the aesthetic appeal of a landscape. If you are considering making this investment and you live in the Lone Star State, you probably want to learn more about Texas evergreen shrubs, particularly since you want to make sure your new plants survive in our hot and dry climate. Usually, your best bet is to consult with a landscaping professional to recommend which species would work best in your yard, given not only our climate, but also your soil type, sun exposure and watering preferences. If you’d prefer to go the DIY route, however, we have a few suggestions for you.

Yaupon Holly

Whether you’re looking for an evergreen hedge or a topiary plant, yaupon holly is a popular choice in residential areas, and for good reason. This evergreen shrub is easy to trim … Read Full Post »

What Size Water Softener Do I Need for My Home?

There are many benefits to having a water softener, but going through the process of purchasing one for your home can be confusing. What size do you need? What are grains? What type of water softener is best for what you need?

If you live in an area with hard water, you’re probably already aware that a water softener can help get your dishes cleaner, leave your skin and hair feeling softer and extend the life of your appliances. The first question you probably have after deciding to buy one of these appliances: “What size water softener do I need for my home?” The first thing you should know is that the square footage of your home isn’t necessarily the biggest consideration when looking at water softener size. Instead, you should consider how many water outlets there are in your home. The more water your home can potentially be using at … Read Full Post »

Compost vs. Mulch: What’s Best for My Yard?

A homeowner holding a handful of compost

Many homeowners don’t understand the differences between compost and mulch, which makes it hard to know which would be more beneficial for their yards. It can be tricky to determine which one you should use, not to mention where and when, especially since both compost and mulch play important roles in helping grass and plants become part of a flourishing landscape. People also sometimes use the terms compost and mulch interchangeably, although these are actually two very different things with distinct benefits and potential applications in your yard. By taking a deeper look to learn more about what each one is and what it’s best used for, you’ll better understand what to use for your particular situation.

Let’s start with compost. This is the stuff that starts out looking something like food waste and winds up looking a lot like dirt, once nature has taken its course and the compost has … Read Full Post »

How to Trim Large Trees and When To Hire a Pro

The underside of an oak tree on a sunny day

Trees can add great beauty, curb appeal and value to a home, but when their branches grow so long that they begin to scrape against the house or become a falling hazard during a storm, many homeowners want to know how to trim their large trees. There are many benefits of pruning a mature tree, including removing dead or diseased branches, increasing light and airflow to the tree’s inner canopy and reducing the risk of a branch falling and potentially causing harm. Trimming large trees involves working with specialized tools and demanding physical labor, which is why many homeowners have their trees professionally trimmed regularly. If you want to know the steps involved or think you might be up for the job, you’ll want to do your homework.

Here are the basics of how to trim large trees:

  • Once you’ve identified a limb that needs to be cut, you would need to … Read Full Post »