Have you seen squirrels jumping on your roof or heard them scurrying around up there? If so, then you might be wondering how they got up there. Well, it turns out that…
Squirrels can climb up a house or run along cables to get to a roof, but they usually jump onto a roof from a tree or overhanging branches. The average tree squirrel can jump 4 feet (1.2 m) from a tree to a roof. Flying squirrels, a type of tree squirrel, can glide up to 150 feet (46 m) across.
Most squirrels that get onto your roof will simply move on and continue to live in tree nests, as nature intended. But some squirrels need to find a safe place to build a nest, which could be because their tree nest got cut down or because there’s too much competition for trees in the area. Others are looking for a warm place to sleep and raise babies.
Squirrels that want to build a nest in your roof will quickly find any small gap or hole in your roof to enter, or they’ll make a new hole in whatever they can chew through. Let’s take a look at all the ways squirrels can get into your roof, so you know what areas to inspect if you are looking for signs of squirrels.
How squirrels get into your roof
Squirrels use two tactics to get into your roof: their teeth and their brains.
Squirrels are rodents, which means their strong front teeth never stop growing. Squirrels need to chew on things throughout their life to keep their front teeth short, otherwise their teeth get too long for them to eat and they starve to death. Squirrels use their teeth to gnaw through soft concrete, plastic, wood, aluminum, soft metals, and many other materials on your roof to gain access.
Squirrels are very clever little animals, and they are good at solving puzzles and finding ways to get what they want. If there is a tiny hole in a hidden part of your roof that no one knows about, a squirrel will find it and squeeze through it – if it wants to.
If you’re inspecting your roof to find out how squirrels are getting in and out, be sure to check the following areas where squirrels have been known to enter or make holes…
Many squirrels who access houses get in through the chimney.
An open, uncovered chimney is an easy entry point for these rodents. Even if there is a cover, a squirrel will chew a hole in it if the material is soft enough.
If the chimney is lined with bricks, squirrels find it easy to climb up and down the chimney. But if the chimney is lined with steel or clay, the animal might slide, fall down, and get stuck inside your fireplace or your house.
Your roof needs to be waterproof so that water doesn’t run inside every time it rains. Many builders and roof repair companies use flashing to seal small holes in your roof, for example where the chimney meets the roof.
Flashing can be made from rubber or metal. If the flashing is made from a soft metal, like aluminum or copper, then squirrels are able to bite holes through it. Stronger metals like stainless or galvanized steel will keep squirrels out.
Rubber flashing hardly gives any protection against squirrels and their tough teeth.
Plumbing vent mats
Some houses have a plumbing vent. A plumbing vent is a pipe that starts with a connection to your internal plumbing pipes and runs up and out of your roof. The vent lets fresh air in and bad sewage smells out.
A hole needs to be cut in the roof to pass the plumbing vent through. The gap between the vent and the shingles (roof tiles) is usually sealed with a rubber mat. As we know, it’s very easy for squirrels to bite through rubber and so the plumbing vent mat may be a squirrel’s point of entry to your roof.
Roof edge and fascia
The roof edge is the border of the roof, where the gutters are placed. Water, melting snow, and dirt should be able to run off the roof’s edge with ease. Fascia is the board that lies along the roof edge, closing any gaps between the shingles and soffit (see below).
If water and rotting plant material get stuck or sit in the gutter and along the roof edge for a long time, the roof edge and fascia can become soft and weak. When this happens, squirrels find it easy to gnaw a hole in there and access your house.
A roof vent is any opening in a roof that’s designed to let fresh air into the house and hot, stale, humid air out. When squirrels feel warm air coming out of a roof vent, they know it’s warm inside your house and they may be tempted to build their nest in there for winter.
There are many types of air vents depending on where they are placed and how they move, such as turbine vents, hood vents, and ridge vents.
Squirrels can chew right through a roof vent’s covering to gain access to your roof, if the covering is old and worn out or made from a material that squirrels can chew through. If squirrels are in your roof, check to see if they aren’t getting in and out through these vents.
Shingles are the tiles or covering on top of the roof, protecting the roof and making it waterproof. Shingles are laid in rows, with each row overlapping the row below it.
If squirrels want to get inside a house, they might search for loose shingles and move them to make an opening in the roof. There have been reports of squirrels doing this even with heavy shingles made from slate and terracotta.
Once squirrels move shingles out of the way, they chew through the roof decking and climb inside.
A soffit is the board that joins or closes the gap under the roof edge between the fascia and the wall. If you stand outside a house and look up, you will see the soffit as the “ceiling” part under the roof.
If you have two levels or a step in your roof, you also have soffit points. These are the points where the two levels meet.
It’s very difficult to get all these points to meet smoothly so there are often gaps in soffit points, which is where squirrels can get into a house.
A valley is the point where two sloping roofs meet, usually where a roof changes direction. Valleys slope down towards the ground, letting water and dirt run off.
Most roof valleys are sealed with a piece of metal. Over time, with exposure to the elements and corrosive tree sap dripping on it, rust can form and a valley can wear down. If it gets weak enough, a squirrel can pull the metal seal away from the roof or find a way through the valley.
Wall vent coverings
A wall vent is simply a hole in a wall.
Hot air rises, so wall vents that are designed to let hot air out and cool air in are placed high up in a wall, near the roof.
For example, if your roof has two sides that form a peak at the top and make a triangular shape in the front and back, you have a gable roof. Many houses with gable roofs have at least one but usually two gable vents in them, to keep air circulating in the attic and prevent mold.
Another type of wall vent is a vent that’s connected to a dryer fan. A dryer fan lets out steam or humidity from a bathroom or kitchen.
Wall vent coverings are often made of plastic, which is very easy for squirrels to bite through. If you have wall vents, check the covers to see if they are damaged and if squirrels are nesting inside the holes in the wall.
The smallest hole a squirrel can get through
Small-breed and young squirrels can get through smaller holes than older, bigger, and overweight squirrels. The average gray squirrel can squeeze through a hole the size of a US quarter coin. Flying squirrels can push themselves through a nickel-sized hole.
Squirrels need a very small hole to enter your roof the first time, but they won’t struggle like this for long. Squirrels gnaw on a small hole with their front teeth to make the hole wider and easier to get through, making each hole at least the size of a large egg.
In fact, bigger entry and exit holes are one of the signs that you have squirrels and not rats.
What squirrels do inside your roof
Once squirrels have an entry hole to your roof, they build a nest inside as long as the entry hole stays open and you don’t close it. This nest is made of leaves, twigs, bark, feathers, pine needles, and anything else the squirrels find lying around.
Squirrels also make a second hole as an exit hole from your roof. This exit hole is usually on the other side of the roof, and it’s big enough for the squirrels to quickly jump through it if there’s ever any danger or threat.
Squirrels choose a bathroom area in the roof, where you will find all the squirrel droppings.
Over time, the squirrels store food in the roof for winter and have babies in early spring and late summer.
You will hear most squirrels being active during the day, but flying squirrels are nocturnal and are active at night.
How to keep squirrels off your roof
If you want to keep squirrels off your roof altogether, try the following tips and products available on Amazon (just click on the blue links provided):
- Cut down the branches on any trees that are within 10 feet of your house.
- Stop attracting hungry squirrels to your yard: remove bird feeders, secure your garbage bins, and keep your yard clean by picking up fallen fruits and nuts.
- If squirrels are getting onto your roof by running along cables, get these slim PVC pipes (they come in many colors and can easily be cut to the length you need). Cut the pipes along one side and slip them over the cables. When the squirrels try to run along these pipes, the pipes will spin and throw the squirrels off.
- Keep your gutters and roof edge clean so the fascia, soffit and roof don’t rot and become weak. If this happens, they are easy for squirrels to chew through.
- If you know which tree the squirrels are climbing to jump onto your roof, wrap this sheet metal about 6 feet up the tree’s trunk. Make sure to use sheet metal that’s at least 2 feet wide, and keep it in place with springs and wire so the tree can breathe and grow. When squirrels try to run up the tree, they will slip on the metal and won’t be able to get up.
- Put a metal drip edge on your roof. A drip edge is secured under the first row of shingles and hangs over the fascia board. This drip edge stops squirrels from making holes between the shingles and the fascia.
- If squirrels have already moved in, close all the holes in the roof except the biggest one, which is their main hole. Check every area of the roof to make sure you got all the holes. Trap the squirrels and relocate them if state laws allow this. Or use a one-way exclusion door to let the squirrels out of the main hole but not back in (don’t use these methods if there are babies in the nest in early spring or late summer as the mother will chew her way back in to get her young). Wait at least 30 days. When all the squirrels are out, seal up the main hole with steel, so the squirrels can’t chew a hole to get back in.
- Put a good-quality squirrel nest in a nearby tree, to encourage the squirrels to leave your house and move into the tree. Their natural instinct is to live in trees if they are tree squirrels, so they might move out willingly.
- Spray the entry holes and the nesting area in your roof with this all-natural squirrel repellent, to stop the squirrels from coming back and prevent new squirrels from moving in. Or use one of these smells that squirrels hate to try to get them to move on on their own.