Being on many surveys myself I have found that establishing the facts is critical to the providing the correct course of treatment. Here is a quick guide to help in your fact finding mission:
Outside Area Of Buildings – Making Your Survey
Ask the owner/occupier if they are aware of any entry points used by squirrels and investigate any positive reply. Using the diagram to the left inspect for any obvious entry points such as uplifted slates, ridge tiles or holes gnawed in rafter ridge or soffits, uplifted flashing or dislodged gutters. Some builders leave open spaces under each tile above soffits, this provides easy access to any creature.
All gaps must be filled, shaped substances may be purchased from a builders merchant. Look for overhanging branches or creepers that squirrels may use, though the removing or lopping will not deny squirrels entry, it may discourage an otherwise easy entry. Scratch marks on roofs, downpipes or chimneys may also be an indicator, the latter is sometimes used. A dray is built approximately one third down the inside of chimney breast and is often used for breeding.
Now look at the bottom of the building for broken air vents, gaps leading to cellars, (has the local tradesman fitted some new appliance. These routes may be used to access the attic via the cavity walls.
Inside Area Of Building – Making Your Survey
Try not let to let your client influence you that the infestation is in fact squirrels or that there is only one, there may in fact be many more. If a loft ladder is not fitted make sure you have your own small ladder or steps, do not use clients furniture, backs of chairs etc. “they may break”, also creating an immediate hazard and claim on public liability. On entering the attic do not turn on light in summer months, there may be a wasp nest above your head or elsewhere. Use your torch and never take matches or candles into roof. Ensure unless close boarded you walk on ceiling joists and not on central heating pipes which may be attached to joists. Look for bat droppings, similar to mice but usually in piles or on chimney breast. If they are present, do no more apart from notifying client and English Nature, Scottish or Welsh Office, Department of Environment for Northern Ireland, inform them of and your intention, await their permission or other instructions. You may however check water tanks to ensure they are covered, if not advise client that this should be carried out to meet statutory regulations.
If no bats are apparent or permission has been granted, look for shafts or chinks of light, which may be possible entry holes for squirrels or other creatures. Having now made your Risk Assessment you may wish to turn on light, look for damage to electric wiring, water pipes, lagging or items stored in roof. Lagging in a round ball indicates a dray, which is obvious evidence of squirrels. Other evidence includes droppings, which are similar to “a currant” not oval, you will also need to inspect eaves using your torch.
If signs of birds and/or their nests are visible identify the species and advise the client. It may not be possible to disturb these and it may be necessary to wait for any fledgling to leave the nest before proceeding, ask if in doubt. These points need to be proofed, nests removed and areas sprayed to kill off bird mites and a host of other potentially damaging insects that are probably living in nests. House Sparrows Passer domesticus have been known to take discarded cigarette ends into their nests and these could still be smouldering! If mouse infestation is apparent, deal with using approved CSS Pest Services techniques, if rats are apparent it will probably be necessary to inspect drains and rodding eyes. If in main sewage system the Local Environmental Health should be notified. Do not attempt to carry out any proofing until all squirrels in roof have been humanely eliminated and area is clear for at least one week. Live squirrels living in buildings have the ability to immediately dislodge slates or gnaw holes in even new soffits or rafter ridge boarding within thirty minutes of job completion.